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How Does Coconut Milk Differ from Coconut Water?

Updated on September 16, 2016
beverley byer profile image

Beverley has a degree in science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.

Coconut milk is becoming increasingly popular as a non-dairy creamer, especially since recent research seemed to indicate it provides us necessary nutrients despite having a high fat content. Coconut milk is actually the liquid derived from pulverizing the mature seed kernel. This hard white flesh is grated or shredded, infused with preferably warm water, and strained. The thickness of the creamy liquid depends on the amount of water used. Already packaged shredded kernel can be purchased.

Coconut water is the clear, thin liquid found in young green coconuts. Pro and amateur athletes, in particular, often drink it to replace loss electrolytes. The water can be consumed right from the fruit itself. It is most refreshing on a hot tropical day or night. When I lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad some decades ago, my parents would take me and my siblings to the savannah (a large, grassy park) to feast on fresh oysters loaded with hot pepper sauce and fresh coconut water.

coconut milk
coconut milk | Source

Nutritional Value and Benefits of Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is steep in nutritional value. It has high amounts of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins B3 or niacin, C, and E, the minerals potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus along with pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, and the minerals selenium, iron, and sodium. Numerous studies show that the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which make up most of the saturated fat in coconut milk, may cause weight loss as they assist in calorie burn. These fatty acids are known to metabolize quickly in the liver. The dietary fiber also helps with weight control. Other health benefits include the regulation of blood sugar, lowering of blood pressure, soothing sore muscles, and protecting the immune system.

A side note, the aforementioned high fat content may still be an issue for heart disease patients. The sugar in the milk may also pose health problems for some people.

coconut water being drunk from the fruit
coconut water being drunk from the fruit | Source

Nutritional Value and Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconut water is low in calories and sodium and is cholesterol-free. It contains simple sugars, anti-carcinogenic compounds called cytokinins, amino acids, Vitamins B-complex, and C, minerals potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, and zinc, the enzymes catalase, diatase, dehydrogenase, acid phosphatase, peroxidase, and RNA polymerases. The online article which lists the enzymes also mentions that they help digestion and metabolism. The cytokinins, amino acids, and vitamin C fight carcinogens and aging. The sugars and minerals, especially potassium makes coconut water nature’s perfect fluid for electrolyte replacement.

Culinary Uses

Coconut milk can be poured over cereal or used as an ingredient in smoothies, milkshakes, ice cream, other desserts, alcoholic beverages, baked goods, curries, soups-basically any meal requiring cream or dairy. It is almost a staple in Asian cuisine. It comes in shelf or refrigerated cartons and cans. Coconut water can be purchased in cartons, cans or bottles. The nutty flavor of the water is lost if the container is left open after five days, however, and it does contain preservatives. Fresh and mature coconuts are imported to the United States from Thailand and Malaysia.

History of the Coconut Tree

The coconut plant belongs to the family of palm trees, scientifically known as Arecaceae. The plant itself is called Cocos nucifera. Dwarf and tall species grow in tropical climates all over the globe. They usually favor the shoreline of the Caribbean, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The coconut fruit grow in bunches on the slender trees.


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