Coconuts – including coconut water and coconut milk – have recently risen in popularity due to a variety of health benefits. While coconut’s popularity in the U.S. is fairly new, many island populations around the world have been using the coconut in cooking, skin and hair care, and as a tool for maintaining healthy body weight and immune systems for years. Because research has allowed for a better understanding of the benefits of coconut, many health conscious people are now incorporating it into their diets.
Coconut Milk and Heart Disease
The medium-chain saturated fatty acids found in coconut milk can improve heart health, according to a recent study. The study showed that Polynesian Islanders who consumed more coconut milk, oil and water, had healthier blood lipid profile levels, which is a key indicator of heart disease. The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut milk may also kill the three major types of bacteria that cause plaque in the arteries. While a healthy overall diet is important for heart health, incorporating coconut milk into your diet can also have positive results.
Coconut Milk and Weight Loss
Coconut milk contains MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids), which are different from their long-chain counterparts that are often found in meats and dairy products. The difference between these two fatty acids is that MCFA’s, found in coconut milk, are metabolized by the liver, while the long-chain acids remain in the body as fatty deposits. According to an American Diabetes study published in 2009 incorporating MCFAs into the diet through foods such as coconut milk, can help to fight obesity and prevent insulin resistance. Despite this, it is still important to note that coconut milk is high in fat – meaning it is best used in moderation.
Coconut Milk and Immune Health
Coconut milk contains many beneficial compounds, such as lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid, which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which help fight the viruses and bacteria that cause herpes and influenza.
Coconuts Milk and Healthy Skin and Hair
Coconut milk is highly nutritious when consumed, and can also s improve the condition of your skin and hair when used topically. The fatty acids in coconut milk are a natural antiseptic and may help treat dandruff, skin infections, wounds and dry, itchy skin. Additionally, the high fatty acid content in coconut milk works as a natural moisturizer for healthy skin, and has shown to have anti-aging benefits, too.
Of course, it is important to discuss all dietary changes with your health care provider in advance, to ensure that there will be no negative effects on current medical conditions.
Not convinced coconut milk is right for you? View our milk matchup infographic to get the skinny on other milk options.