Is Canned Coconut Cream Paleo?

coconut-cream-web.jpgCoconut cream is a thicker version of coconut milk – it’s comprised of pressed coconut meat with less water. You’ll find coconut cream used in coconut curries and other dishes that are enhanced by its thickening effect. Do not confuse coconut cream with creamed coconut, a semi-solid block of coconut meat without any added water. Should you eat canned coconut cream? Is canned coconut cream Paleo?

Nutritional Value of Canned Coconut Cream*

Serving Size: ½ cup

  • Calories: 225
  • Total Fat: 21g
  • Saturated Fat: 20g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 1g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol:  0mg
  • Sodium: 19mg
  • Carbohydrate: 7g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Fiber: 1g

*The above nutritional values are for Natural Value Coconut Cream.

canned-coconut-cream.jpegHealth Benefits of Canned Coconut Cream

Canned coconut cream has all the nutritional components of coconut meat and therefore, all the health benefits. An excellent source of minerals, namely manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc canned coconut cream also contains 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, provide an immediate source of energy, increase satiety, and increase metabolic rate.   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 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.

Are there any downsides to canned coconut cream? Some people definitely react negatively to coconut products and there are quite a few reasons this might occur.  First, the ability of MCFAs to form ketones might actually be problematic for those sensitive to yeast or prone to yeast infections.  Yeasts have a high affinity for ketones, even higher than for sugar and a high intake of MCFAs may aggravate symptoms.

A second potential problem is the common addition of guar gum, which acts as a thickener and a stabilizer. Guar gum is the seed of the guar plant and is known to cause GI upset.

Third, many people have difficulty fully absorbing fructose and although the amount of fructose in canned coconut cream is very small it may cause symptoms of GI distress in some people especially in those with IBS, IBD, SIBO or FODMAP intolerance.

Forth is the presence of the chemical biphenol A (BPA) found in the linings of cans. 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 or buy cans that are BPA-free.

Where To Buy Canned Coconut Cream

Canned coconut cream can be found in many large and small supermarkets and grocery stores, and you’re very likely to find it in ethnic groceries that cater to Cuban, Jamaican, Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Canned coconut cream is also available on-line.

Is Canned Coconut Cream Paleo?

A pillar of the Paleo diet is the emphasis placed on fresh, whole foods that remain as close to their natural state as possible on their journey from farm to table. When a food is known to have nutritional benefits but some processing is required, Paleo emphasizes that it be minimal.  This means your canned coconut cream should contain only coconut and water and it’s best if it’s BPA-free.  Here’s a list of commonly available brands of canned coconut cream for comparison:

  • Natural Value – guar gum free, BPA-free, not certified organic
  • Aroy-D – guar gum-free, contains BPA, not certified organic
  • Native Forest – contains guar gum, contains BPA, certified organic

How To Make Your Own Coconut Cream

Method 1: This method is so easy it’s not even a recipe.  Simply skim off the cream that rises to the top of a can of organic, BPA-free coconut milk or homemade coconut milk. You can facilitate the separation of cream and water by keeping your coconut milk in the refrigerator for 24 hours or longer. If the cream is too thick, mix with a tablespoon or two of coconut water or filtered tap water until you have a consistency you like.

Method 2: Proceed exactly as your would when making homemade coconut milk except use less water.  For instance, instead of a 2:1 ratio of water to coconut, try a 1:1 ratio.  Here’s how:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat the water to a simmer.
  2. Place the unsweetened shredded coconut into a blender, add the hot water and cover tightly (hot liquids expand when blended.)
  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 cream!

Store in the refrigerator and use within 4-5 days.

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.