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16 Significant Benefits Of Coconut Milk For Skin, Hair, And Health

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Laine Greenawalt, MS, RD, LDN
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16 Significant Benefits Of Coconut Milk For Skin, Hair, And Health Hyderabd040-395603080 August 2, 2019

Grown in abundance in South East Asia, coconuts are well known for their delicious taste and numerous health benefits. Coconut milk is thought to be one of the healthiest foods on earth because of its wide range of health benefits.

Dustin Hoffman, the famous American actor and director, once said, “The two basic items to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.” Keep reading to understand how coconut milk can benefit you.

Table Of Contents

Let’s begin!

What Is Coconut Milk?

There are four edible components to coconut: coconut water, coconut cream, coconut meat, and coconut milk.

Coconut water is the milky water that comes out when you break open a fresh coconut (and is about 94% water).

Coconut milk is not “milk” in the conventional sense. It is the thick liquid that you get when you blend coconut meat with water and then strain it (about 50% water).

One of the best ways to obtain coconut milk is to buy older, mature coconuts. As coconuts age, the water in them gets replaced by the meat, making them better for coconut milk.

In the following section, we will see if coconut milk can be good for you.

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Is Coconut Milk Good For You?

Don’t let the fact that coconuts are high in fat deter you.

Coconut milk, when consumed in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet and beauty routine.

Coconut milk is used in a variety of recipes and skin and hair treatments. It is used as a base ingredient in almost every dish in South East Asia. If you have Thai food regularly, you know what I am talking about. It’s also popular in Hawaii, India, and certain South American and Caribbean countries.

Coconut milk is used in cooking not only because of its taste but also because of the wide range of nutrients it contains.

Let’s look at a rundown of coconut milk’s nutrient profile.

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Coconut Milk Nutrition Facts

Coconut milk is a high calorie food as it is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat.

It is also a good source of vitamins and minerals like manganese and copper.

Check out the nutritional profile* of coconut milk below (serving size: 1 cup, 240 grams).

NutrientsNutrition Value%DV
Calories552 kcals28%
Carbohydrates13 g4%
Protein5.5 g11%
Fat57 g88%
Saturated fat51 g254%
Monounsaturated fat2.4 g
Polyunsaturated fat0.6 g
Dietary fiber5.3 g21%
Sugar8 g
Vitamin C7 mg11%
Folate38 mcg10%
Iron4 mg22%
Magnesium89 mg22%
Phosphorus240 mg24%
Potassium631 mg18%
Copper0.6 mg32%
Manganese2.2 mg110%
Selenium14.9 mcg21%

*values sources from USDA, coconut milk, raw

The trace elements present in coconut milk are responsible for the regulation of electrolytes, nerve control, muscle relaxation, and the production of energy in the body.

Let’s now talk about the possible health benefits of this tasty non-dairy alternative.

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What Are The Health Benefits Of Coconut Milk?

Coconut milk may play a role in maintaining a healthy heart, aids digestion, and strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Keep reading for more details about its benefits.

1. Effects On Heart Health

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Did you ever imagine that consuming something rich in fat can help promote a healthy heart?

Coconut milk contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that might have a positive effect on serum lipid and cholesterol levels in men and women(1).

A study was conducted on 60 healthy people for 8 weeks. For 5 days a week, they were fed coconut milk porridge, and their cholesterol levels were tested. The researchers found that the “bad cholesterol” (LDL) levels of the participants considerably decreased and “good cholesterol” (HDL) levels increased. The study concluded that coconut milk did not have a negative effect on lipid profiles (2).

2. Effect On Weight Loss

Coconuts contain 12% medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and capric and caprylic acid that are less likely to be stored as fat. They also promote the production of ketones, and induce satiety, which prevents overeating. This quality may be beneficial in long-term weight loss.

In a study in 2003, 24 overweight individuals were given diets rich in MCT and long-chain fatty acids (LCT) for 4 weeks. Their body composition was tested at the end of the time frame. It was noticed that consuming MCTs resulted in decreased levels of adipose tissue as compared to LCTs.

The study further stated that MCTs could be considered as agents that help in the prevention of obesity (3). 

No studies have directly examined how coconut milk affects weight and metabolism. Further studies are needed before any claims can be made.

3. Helps Control Diabetes

The virgin coconut oil that is prepared from coconut milk has been shown to affect blood glucose levels positively. It contains antioxidant properties that improve the insulin secretion in the body (4).

Another paper researched in Thailand talked about the benefits of coconut oil for diabetes. It suggested that virgin coconut oil increases the efficiency of cellular response to insulin, reduces blood sugar levels, stimulates metabolism, and decreases the glycemic index of food, thereby helping control diabetes (5).

4. May Help Deal With Alzheimer’s Disease

Coconut milk contains a modest amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

These MCTs are easily absorbed by the liver and get converted to ketones.

Ketones have been identified as an alternative source of energy for the brain and can be beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease or those who are at the risk (5).

5. Has Antibacterial, Antiviral, And Antifungal Properties

Several studies have been conducted on coconut and its various forms to test their abilities on inflammation and microbes.

Virgin coconut oil, the pure form of oil extracted from coconut milk, is rich in MCTs and lauric acid. Due to this, virgin coconut oil has excellent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (6).

Another study performed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, investigated the pharmacological effects of virgin coconut oil. The results suggested that the oil possessed anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic properties (7).

6. May Prevent Ulcers

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If you are suffering from stomach ulcers, drinking coconut milk can help in significantly reducing and preventing ulcers altogether.

Coconut milk contains anti-ulcer and antibacterial properties that fight the bacteria causing the ulcers.

Drinking a glass of coconut milk at least once a week can give positive results in no time.

A study was carried out in Chennai, India, to test the efficacy of a polyherbal cream, containing coconut milk as one of its main ingredients, on diabetic patients with foot ulcers.

The study suggested that due to the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of coconut milk and some other ingredients, this cream was highly effective in healing the ulcers (8).

7. May Promote The Health Of Prostate Glands

Coconut milk is a great source of a lot of vitamins and minerals. Among those nutrients is zinc, an element that helps to maintain the health of the prostate gland and reduce the risk of prostate cancer (9).

The prostate gland already contains a high amount of zinc in its soft tissues, but drinking coconut milk regularly makes sure that the zinc levels in the body are replenished.

These were the health benefits of coconut milk, and now…

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What About The Benefits Of Coconut Milk For Skin?

Coconut milk is extremely healthy for the skin as well. It imparts a nourishing glow to the skin on regular use and also treats several skin conditions.

8. Moisturizes The Skin

People have been indulging in milk baths for centuries. Whether it is for infants or brides, it is a commonly known fact that milk moisturizes our skin and makes it soft and supple.

Maybe it is time to switch to coconut milk now. Applying coconut milk to your skin does more than just moisturizing it. Coconut milk combats dryness, itchiness, swelling, and redness, soothes the skin, and promotes a healthy, glowing skin.

Add 1 cup of coconut milk, ½ cup of rose water, and 1 cup of rose petals to warm water and bathe with it. Do this often, and you will be amazed by the results.

9. Treats Sunburns

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Applying coconut milk on sunburns can effectively heal the skin in no time due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

The fats in this milk reduce pain, redness, and swelling on the skin. You can apply a thin layer of coconut milk on the affected area at night before you go to bed and rinse it in the morning for best results.

10. Prevents Premature Aging

Want to feel and look young? Use coconut milk!

This milk is packed with vitamin C and copper, which help to maintain the elasticity and flexibility of the skin while improving its appearance and health.

Make a paste of a few drops of coconut milk mixed with 6-7 peeled almonds and apply this as a face mask for about 15 minutes. Wash it off with cold water. Doing this 2-3 times a week will improve your skin health and reduce the signs of aging significantly.

11. Treats Skin Ailments

Using coconut milk on the skin can help reduce and prevent acne.

The antimicrobial properties of the milk prevent breakouts, and its fats prevent the skin pores from clogging.

12. Is A Good Makeup Remover

Why use expensive makeup removers on your skin when you can use something so healthy and natural?

Mix 2 measures of olive oil and 1 measure of coconut milk and gently rub on your skin with a cotton ball. This will not only remove your makeup but also deeply nourish your skin.

13. Exfoliates Your Skin

Coconut milk is one of the best and most natural ways to exfoliate your skin.

can make a paste of oatmeal powder with coconut milk and use it on your face as a scrub one to two times a week to achieve the best results.

Now that we learnt about the benefits of coconut milk for the skin, here is the next obvious question…

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Are There Any Benefits Of Coconut Milk For The Hair?

Of course, there are! Coconut milk can be used regularly on the hair to give shiny and smooth tresses. It also provides the following benefits:

14. Promotes Hair Growth

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Coconut milk contains a wide range of essential nutrients that nourish the hair follicles and boost hair growth.

All you need to do is massage coconut milk into your hair and leave it on for about 20 to 30 minutes before shampooing as usual.

15. Restores Dry, Damaged Hair

Just like how coconut milk provides moisture and nourishment to the skin, it works similarly on the hair too.

Coconut milk, when used regularly on dry and damaged hair, helps to restore its shine. It also helps to soothe and treat itchiness and dandruff on the scalp.

Place unsweetened coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight to harden it a little. In the morning, apply the milk from roots of the hair to the tips, section by section. Leave it on for about 20 to 30 minutes and shampoo as you normally would.

Try this treatment once or twice a week, and you will start noticing a change in a month’s time.

16. Is A Hair Detangler And Natural Conditioner

Coconut milk acts as a brilliant hair conditioner to provide softer, thicker, and longer hair. Not only that, it also helps to detangle your hair.

Just apply a little milk to your hair and comb out the tangles in a jiffy. You can also use it as a leave-in conditioner to add volume to your hair.

Now that you have read about all the amazing benefits of coconut, you must be curious to know how you can make this milk at home.

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How To Make Coconut Milk At Home

Making this delicious milk takes just about 10 minutes. It is an inexpensive and healthier substitute for regular milk. The process is as described below.

You Will Need
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut
Method
  1. Heat the water, but make sure it does not boil.
  2. Blend the coconut in a blender.
  3. Add water and blend again for a few minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy.
  4. Strain the mixture through a mesh to obtain the liquid. If needed, you can squeeze the remaining pulp through a muslin cloth or a thin towel to get the remaining liquid.
  5. The collected liquid is the coconut milk.
  6. Drink immediately or store it in the refrigerator for a while.

Let’s now understand how you can use this milk.

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How To Use Coconut Milk

There are plenty of creative ways you can use coconut milk in your daily cooking and beauty regimens. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. You can use coconut milk as an alternative to regular milk in your breakfast porridge.
  2. Toss your cooked pasta or spaghetti in a little coconut milk to make the dish saucier and tastier.
  3. You can use coconut milk or coconut cream in certain puddings to make them creamier.
  4. Use coconut milk in soups to add a rich nutty flavor and a dash of healthy fat to it.
  5. Use it as part of your beauty routine on your body and face to nourish your skin and make it glow.
  6. Use coconut milk on your hair to boost hair health and prevent grays, hair fall, and dandruff.
  7. Drink coconut milk as it is.

Want to know some innovative ways to use this milk in your cooking? Here are some of our favorite recipes, just for you.

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What Are Some Healthy Coconut Milk Recipes?

1. Coconut Shrimp Curry

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You Will Need
For The Marinade
  • ½ kg large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
For The Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger (minced)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 410 grams diced tomatoes
  • 385 ml coconut milk
  • Fresh cilantro for garnishing
Method
  1. In a bowl, mix the shrimp with all the marinade ingredients. Cover the bowl and leave it in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan.
  3. Add the onions to the oil and sauté for a few minutes till they are translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, coriander powder, turmeric, and curry powder. Cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes (with the juice) and the coconut milk. Stir well and bring this to a boil.
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the marinated shrimp (with its juices) to this mixture. Cook for a few minutes till the shrimp is cooked well.
  7. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot with rice.

2. Coconut Milk Chocolate Mousse

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You Will Need
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons sweetener (maple syrup, coconut nectar or honey)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100 grams dark chocolate
Method
  1. Pour the coconut milk into a bowl and whisk it well.
  2. Add the cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract and whisk while adding the sweetener.
  3. Whisk this mixture for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.
  4. Once you get the desired consistency (thick but pourable), pour it into your serving glasses or dish and leave it in the refrigerator to set.
  5. After a few hours, top it with chocolate shavings and serve.

It’s important for you to know how to select and store coconut milk so that your recipes come out well.

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How To Select and Store

Selection

When buying coconut milk from the store, there are a few things you need to look out for:

  1. Avoid Cans: Try not to buy coconut milk that is sold in cans since they are known to contain BPA, a carcinogen.
  1. Avoid Added Sugars: Always buy unsweetened coconut milk that does not have added flavors or sweeteners.
  1. Avoid Carrageenan: This is a common additive in some varieties of plant milk that can be cancerous and cause digestion troubles.
  1. Choose Organic: Always buy organic coconut milk.

The best way is to make your own coconut milk. If you follow the method in the article, you’ll have fresh and healthy coconut milk ready in a few minutes.

Storing

How do you store coconut milk, whether it is homemade or store-bought?

First things first – make sure you use the homemade one more often instead of relying on the store-bought one. Make enough quantity that you will entirely use up at one go.

If you absolutely need to store coconut milk, we recommend that you pour it in a glass jar, cover it tightly and refrigerate it until you use it again. Shake the jar thoroughly before your next use.

You can also freeze a large portion of the milk. This way, it will stay fresher longer.

All good things do come with their share of side effects. Let’s find out if coconut milk has any.

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Are There Any Side Effects Of Coconut Milk?

There can be harmful effects when you consume coconut milk in excess quantities. Some of its side effects are:

1. High Blood Pressure

It can cause high blood pressure. Since coconut milk is high in fats, it can elevate the cholesterol levels in the body, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure. A cup of coconut milk contains about 55 to 60 grams of fat, most of which is saturated.

2. Allergies

It may lead to allergies. If you are allergic tree nuts, experts suggest that you avoid drinking coconut milk since it may lead to a life-threatening situation.

3. Weight Gain

Coconut milk is high in fat, so if you are following a restricted diet and trying to lose weight, it may not be for you.

4. Constipation

Drinking large amounts of coconut milk every day may cause digestion troubles and constipation.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know how amazing coconut milk is and why we can’t stop talking about it, don’t wait any longer. Go to the store today and buy yourself a coconut.

We know that using coconut milk has its ups and downs, but if the ups overshadow the downs, it is definitely worth a try, right?

Comment on the post below and let us know about your experience in making coconut milk and how you used it in your cooking.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can I substitute coconut milk for cow’s milk?

Of course, you can. Coconut milk is a great alternative, especially if you are lactose intolerant.

Why does coconut milk separate?

When coconut milk becomes very cold, its protein and fats may separate from the liquid. You can heat it up a little or whisk it thoroughly in a bowl.

Coconut milk is high in saturated fat. Is it bad for me?

No, it isn’t. Coconut milk has vegetable fat, not animal fat. This means that it melts at room temperature and goes through your system without clogging your arteries.

Can pregnant women drink coconut milk?

Yes, they can! Coconut milk can be very healthy for the development of the fetus due to the wide variety of nutrients it offers. However, it has to be consumed in moderation.

References

  1. Consumption of a solid fat rich in lauric acid results in a more favorable serum lipid profile in healthy men and women than consumption of a solid fat rich in trans-fatty acids” The Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  2. Impact of a traditional dietary supplement with coconut milk and soya milk on the lipid profile in normal free-living subjects” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  3. Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men”Obesity Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  4. Anti-diabetic and antioxidant effects of virgincoconut oil in alloxan induced diabetic maleSprague Dawley rats” Journal of Diabetes Mellitus.
  5. The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential mechanisms of action” The British Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  6. Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo”. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  7. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil”. Pharmaceutical Biology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  8. A pilot study on the effects of a polyherbal formulation cream on diabetic foot ulcers”. Indian Journal of Medical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  9. Zinc and prostatic cancer”. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

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