Is Canned Coconut Milk Paleo?

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Coconut milk is an excellent replacement for milk and cream in any meal, snack or beverage. The Paleo diet values fresh, unprocessed foods so where does canned coconut milk fit in? Is canned coconut milk Paleo?

Nutritional Value of Canned Coconut Milk*

Serving Size: 1 cup

  • Calories: 445
  • Total Fat: 48 g
  • Saturated Fat: 43 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: .5 g
  • Trans Fat 0 g
  • Carbohydrate: 6 g
  • Protein: 4.6 g
    Sodium: 29.4 mg
  • Fiber: 0 g

*Values are for full fat coconut milk

Health Benefits of Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk is an excellent source of minerals, namely manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Coconut milk also contains small amounts of some B-vitamins including folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Ninety percent of coconut fat is saturated, the majority of which is in the form of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are associated with many health benefits and have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol and provide an immediate source of energy via the formation of ketones. Furthermore, the MCFAs in coconut, namely, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. In addition to these benefits, phenolic compounds in coconut milk act as antioxidants.

Therapeutically, due to their ability to form ketones, MCFAs have been used to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients as well as uncontrolled seizures in children. For people with limited GI function, MCFAs provide an easily digestible and absorbable form of fat because they do not require the assistance of pancreatic enzymes or bile salts for processing and they transport directly from the intestinal tract to the liver via the portal vein.

A significant downside to canned coconut milk is the presence of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) found in the lining of canned goods. Bisphenol A is an endocrine disrupter that can mimic many of our body’s hormones in potentially harmful ways. The only way to reduce your exposure to BPA is to reduce your consumption of canned foods. Fortunately, there are several brands of canned coconut milk that are BPA-free including Native Forest, Trader Joe’s and Natural Value.

A second potential problem with canned coconut milk is the use of guar gum as a stabilizer and thickener. Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant and can cause digestive distress in some people. Natural Value brand is guar gum free and contains only coconut and water.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the medium chain fatty acids in coconut milk produce ketones, which yeasts have a high affinity for. This could aggravate yeast infections in people prone to them.

Where To Buy Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk can be found in large and small supermarkets and grocery stores. You’re more likely to find organic brands that are BPA and/or guar gum-free in natural foods stores. Canned coconut milk is also available online.

Should I Drink Canned Coconut Milk? Is Canned Coconut Milk Paleo?

A pillar of the Paleo diet is the emphasis placed on fresh, whole foods that remain in their natural state from farm to table. When this is not an option and a food is known to have nutritional benefits, Paleo emphasizes that these foods be as minimally processed as possible and full fat canned coconut milk falls into this category. If you are unable or unwilling to make your own coconut milk, canned is a good Paleo alternative. Keep quality in mind when choosing a brand and make sure your canned coconut milk is free of unwanted ingredients.

How To Make Your Own Coconut Milk

Making your own coconut milk is pretty easy to do and gives you the peace of mind of knowing that all it contains is what you’ve put in. You need twice the amount of water as coconut so feel free to use different amounts than I have listed here.

You’ll need:

Directions:

  1. Heat the water to a simmer.
  2. While water is heating, place unsweetened shredded coconut into a blender and add hot water.
  3. Puree the mixture for a few minutes until thick and creamy.
  4. Strain into a bowl through a mesh colander and then squeeze the remaining coconut through a few layers of cheesecloth or a nut-milk bag making sure to get as much remaining liquid out as possible.
  5. Enjoy your homemade coconut milk!

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator and use within 4-5 days. If your coconut milk separates into water and cream, leave it out for a bit or place the container in warm water to soften and stir the coconut cream back in.

Sally Barden Johnson

Sally Johnson, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian and health coach. She is an avid CrossFitter and enjoys working with clients to find the best nutritional solutions within a Paleo/Primal framework to solve their health issues. She also enjoys spending time with her family. She can be found on Instagram at instagram.com/sallyjohnsonrd.