By Dianne Lange
Are coconut milk's health benefits the real deal?Coconut milk is the new kid in the dairy case these days, turning up as a vegan alternative to cow's milk, creamer, yogurt, ice cream, even "butter." But is it the new superfood -- "heaven in a glass," as Biggest Loser fitness guru Jillian Michaels claims? Can it prevent everything from Alzheimer's to goiter?
In a coconut shell, the stuff doesn't quite live up to the hype (sorry, Jillian). But we do agree that the blend of coconut cream and water is a tasty alternative to moo juice. (Don't confuse the new-generation coconut milk products in the dairy case with coconut water -- the clear liquid from inside young, green coconuts that was last year's new thing -- or the thick canned milk used in Thai curries.)
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To our taste buds, beverages like Silk Pure Coconut, Coconut Dream, or Soy Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage are more milk-like than watery almond milk, and they don't have the aftertaste of soy milk. Instead, they have a mild coconut flavor and rich, smooth mouth feel.
The only drawback is the saturated fat: a glass of coconut milk has about a third of your daily max. On the upside, depending on the brand, coconut milk can boast as much or more calcium and vitamin D as cow's milk. Here's how an 8-ounce cup of unsweetened coconut milk stacks up to 2% cow's milk:
||Unsweetened Coconut Milk||2% Reduced-Fat Cow's Milk|
|Total Fat||5 g||5 g|
|Saturated Fat||5 g||3 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||20 mg|
|Sodium||15 mg||100 mg|
|Potassium||90 mg||366 mg|
|Sugars||6 g||12 g|
|Protein||1 g||8 g|
*Varies by brand
But it's the saturated fat that will keep you from pouring coconut milk on everything. Saturated fat is the one with the bad rap for clogging arteries, boosting inflammation, even contributing to depression and brain aging. That's why RealAge experts YOU Docs Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and virtually every major health organization harps on about limiting sat fats in your diet.
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That said, the saturated fat content is where those who tout coconut milk's health benefits veer into fuzzy science. They say coconut milk's fat is mostly medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which, according to theory, are quickly used for energy and not stored to clog arteries.
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