Dear Dietitian - Coconut Milk?

PROMO 660 x 440 Health - Diet Heart Fruit Vegetable Medical - iStock
Published Saturday, March 3, 2018
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

I've been reading a lot about coconut milk on the internet lately.  There are many claims that is good for you and decreases your risk of heart disease. Is this true? --Liz

Dear Liz,

Coconut milk is made from pressing the liquid from the meat of a mature coconut.  It is popular in the Philippines, parts of Asia, Sri Lanka, and wherever coconut trees are prevalent. There have been many health claims made about coconut milk recently, and while it is true that coconut milk is high in nutrients such as magnesium, iron, and potassium, it is also high in saturated fat, which has been shown to increase cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Certain claims tout that the fat in coconut is lauric acid, a saturated medium-chain fatty acid, that does not raise cholesterol levels. This is only half the truth. Lauric acid comprises only about half the fat content of coconut milk. While the people of Sri Lanka have a diet high in lauric acid and have lower rates of heart disease than Americans, their diets are also higher in fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish than most American diets.

Another fact that cannot be overlooked is calories. Coconut milk packs a considerable 225 calories in one cup (diluted 50% with water) compared to 150 calories in one cup of cow's whole milk and 130 calories in a cup of soy milk. Therefore, if coconut milk is one of your favorite drinks, by all means, enjoy, but you would be wise to have it as a treat and not a staple part of your diet.

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over fifteen years of experience. Have a question?  Email Leanne at