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Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts, which are the fruit of the coconut tree.
The milk has a thick consistency and a rich, creamy texture. Coconut milk should not be confused with coconut water, which is found naturally in immature green coconuts.
Coconut milk is a high-calorie food.
About 93% of its calories come from fat, including saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
The milk is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals. One cup (240 grams) contains:
- Calories: 552
- Fat: 57 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Carbs: 13 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Folate: 10% of the RDI
- Iron: 22% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 22% of the RDI
- Potassium: 18% of the RDI
- Copper: 32% of the RDI
- Manganese: 110% of the RDI
- Selenium: 21% of the RDI
In addition, some experts believe coconut milk contains unique proteins that may provide health benefits. However, more research is needed
Effects on Weight and Metabolism
There’s some evidence that the MCT fats in coconut milk may benefit weight loss, body composition and metabolism.
Lauric acid makes up about 50% of coconut oil. It can be classified as both a long-chain fatty acid or a medium-chain, as its chain length and metabolic effects are intermediate between the two.
But coconut oil also contains 12% true medium-chain fatty acids — capric acid and caprylic acid.
Unlike longer-chain fats, MCTs go from the digestive tract directly to your liver, where they’re used for energy or ketone production. They are less likely to be stored as fat.
Research also suggests that MCTs may help reduce appetite and decrease calorie intake compared to other fats.
In a small study, overweight men who consumed 20 grams of MCT oil at breakfast ate 272 fewer calories at lunch than those consuming corn oil.
What’s more, MCTs can boost calorie expenditure and fat burning — at least temporarily.
However, the small amounts of MCTs found in coconut milk are unlikely to have any significant effects on body weight or metabolism.
A few controlled studies in obese individuals and people with heart disease suggest that eating coconut oil reduced waist circumference. But coconut oil had no effects on body weight .
No studies have directly examined how coconut milk affects weight and metabolism. Further studies are needed before any claims can be made.
Other Potential Health Benefits
Coconut milk may also:
- Reduce inflammation: Animal studies found that coconut extract and coconut oil reduced inflammation and swelling in injured rats and mice.
- Decrease stomach ulcer size: In one study, coconut milk reduced stomach ulcer size in rats by 54% — a result comparable to the effect of an anti-ulcer drug.
- Fight viruses and bacteria: Test-tube studies suggest that lauric acid may reduce the levels of viruses and bacteria that cause infections. This includes those that reside in your mouth.
Keep in mind that not all studies were on the effects of coconut milk specifically. (Healthline)