Coconut Milk: Production, Health Benefits and Nutritional Content

Coconut milk is a white, milky substance extracted from the flesh of mature coconuts. Coconut milk is a versatile ingredient and an excellent alternative to milk. Like other coconut products, coconut milk offers several health benefits when people consume it in moderation. For example, coconut milk is useful for encouraging weight loss. Various types of coconut milk, in cartons and cans, are available in supermarkets, health food stores and online stores. Thanks to a few tips, people opt for the healthiest version.

  • Coconut milk production
  • Health benefits of milky substance from coconuts
  • Weight loss
  • Skin health
  • Heart health
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Nutritional content
  • Addition to the diet
  • Tips when purchasing coconut milk
  • Risks
  • Allergy
  • Weight gain
  • Digestive problems


Coconut milk production

Coconut water is the liquid inside a coconut, while coconut milk comes from the white flesh of the fruit. Coconut milk has a thick or thin consistency. When making thick milk, manufacturers grate the meat from mature coconuts and then strain it through cheesecloth to extract the liquid. Thick milk retains more fat than thin milk. Thin coconut milk comes from the pressed coconut meat left in the cheesecloth. Manufacturers mix it with warm water and then strain it through cheesecloth a second time. The resulting liquid is much thinner.

Health benefits of milky substance from coconuts

Consuming coconut milk in moderation promotes weight loss / Source: Tobyotter, Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

Weight loss

Coconut milk contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have been linked to weight loss. MCTs stimulate energy through heat production, a specific process. MCTs reduce body weight and waist size. They also balance unstable intestinal microbiomes. A lack of this stability plays a role in the development of obesity. Consuming MCTs with breakfast leads to reduced food intake later in the day. MCTs increase insulin sensitivity and this sensitivity may also promote weight loss. Insulin is an essential hormone that breaks down glucose and regulates blood sugar levels.

Skin health

Coconut milk is extremely moisturizing and is useful for treating dry skin, swollen skin, red skin and itchy skin. The milk also stimulates healthy and radiant skin. Moreover, coconut milk is good for preventing premature aging of the skin. Coconut milk is also an effective and natural way to treat sunburn. The antimicrobial properties of coconut milk help prevent breakouts, while fatty acids from coconut milk prevent clogging of skin pores (acne).

Heart health

Foods rich in saturated fat are more likely to lead to high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease. Coconut milk contains a high fat content, which is why some people consider it unhealthy for the heart. However, different sources of saturated fats can affect the body in different ways. Genetics also plays a role in how a person metabolizes saturated fats and the extent to which these fats affect health.

Strengthening the immune system

Coconuts contain lauric acid, a lipid that can support the immune system. Lauric acid may have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Lauric acid effectively inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus aureus , Streptococcus pneumoniae (streptococcal infection) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis . Lauric acid activates apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells and endometrial cancer cells. This acid probably inhibits the growth of cancer cells by stimulating certain receptor proteins that regulate cell growth.

Nutritional content

Coconut milk contains high levels of saturated fat, making it a very high-calorie food. The milk is also rich in vitamins and minerals, but the nutritional content varies per product. For example, coconut milk drinks have a different nutritional profile than canned coconut milk.The nutritional profile per cup of raw, canned coconut milk is:

  • calcium: 41 milligrams (mg)
  • calories: 445
  • protein: 4.57 g
  • iron: 7.46 mg
  • potassium: 497 mg
  • carbohydrates: 6.35 g
  • magnesium: 104 mg
  • fat: 48.21 g
  • vitamin C: 2.30 mg
  • water: 164.71 g

The nutritional profile per cup of sweetened coconut milk drink is:

  • calcium: 451 mg
  • calories: 74
  • protein: 0.50 g
  • potassium: 46 mg
  • carbohydrates: 7.01 g
  • fat: 4.99 g
  • water: 226.97 g

Manufacturers often fortify these drinks with vitamins A, B12 and D2.

Addition to the diet

There are plenty of options for adding coconut milk to meals and drinks. Coconut milk can go well in:

  • Asian dishes
  • oatmeal
  • chicken curry
  • breakfast cereals
  • smoothies
  • soups


Tips when purchasing coconut milk

There are many types of coconut milk for sale. Some varieties have higher fat and calorie contents than others, depending on how the manufacturer mixed the milk and how much water they added. Canned coconut milk usually has a thick, cream-like consistency. This is high in fat and that is why people usually use it for baking or cooking. Coconut milk drinks are often thin and have a consistency closer to regular cow’s milk. People should keep these drinks in the refrigerator. Some brands also add sugar, so it’s important to check the labels. Coconut milk drinks contain less protein than regular milk. It is therefore recommended to include sufficient proteins from other sources in the diet. Furthermore, people prefer coconut milk products that contain very few ingredients. People should definitely watch out for extra sugars, preservatives and artificial thickeners.



Some proteins in coconuts are similar to those in nuts and therefore sometimes provoke allergic reactions. An allergy to coconut is very rare. All patients who have an allergic reaction to coconuts should not consume coconut milk.The symptoms of a coconut allergy are similar to those of other food allergies:

  • Anaphylaxis: A serious, life-threatening reaction that causes swelling, wheezing, and hives
  • vomit
  • stomach ache
  • diarrhea
  • itching or irritation of the mouth, throat, eyes or skin
  • nausea


Weight gain

In moderation, coconut milk provides health benefits, but consuming too much coconut milk causes problems. Coconut milk contains a lot of calories and fats. Consuming too much of the milk and eating a carbohydrate-rich diet leads to weight gain.

Digestive problems

Coconut milk also contains fermentable carbohydrates. These sometimes cause digestive problems, such as diarrhea or constipation in people with irritable bowel syndrome.