For some people, milk can have a place in a healthy diet. However, most commercially-bought pasteurized milks come along with a lot of reasons to avoid them, not to mention that many people suffer from either a milk allergy or a lactose intolerance.
If you are not sensitive to milk and have access to organic (or even raw), high-quality milk, that is a different story. If you don’t, coconut milk can be an excellent alternative.
Reasons You Might Need —or Want—To Avoid Milk
Raw milk from a trusted source is a much healthier alternative, but this isn’t readily available for most people. Pasteurized milk allergies are common in children (not as common in adults, but they do occur), and this allergy is to one or both of the proteins present in milk: casein and whey. An allergy to milk protein(s) can cause rashes, swelling, trouble breathing, digestive upset, vomiting and bloody stools.
More common is a lactose sensitivity, which is an intolerance to the milk sugar lactose. Interestingly, raw milk sometimes cures this intolerance, as the enzyme lactase, which allows us to properly digest lactose, is still intact.
Milk consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer in men (although further research is needed), and is well-documented to be a leading cause of acne. If you suffer from acne, cutting out dairy should be top priority.
Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
As long as you have no trouble digesting coconut milk (and most people don’t), this is truly one of the best milk alternatives. Coconut milk has a creamy, slightly sweet and satisfying taste and texture that works well for smoothies, baking or in most other instances that you’d want a milk alternative. Check out some of the top health benefits:
Supports Weight Loss
Some people (falsely) assume that, because coconut is high in saturated fat, it must be a fattening food. This is actually far from the truth, and studies have conversely shown that coconut and its milk can work to boost weight loss. A large percentage of coconut’s fat content comes from lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) that has been shown to decrease appetite and reduce overall calorie intake.
Works as an Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Fungal
Lauric acid also works as a powerful and natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent, meaning it helps to prevent certain bacteria and viruses that could cause infection.
MCTs in coconut and coconut milk have also been shown to fight inflammation, which plays a role in many chronic and degenerative diseases in today’s society.
Which Coconut Milk to Buy
The thing about coconut milk (and most milk substitutes, really) is that there are definitely certain brands and types to avoid, and a lot of variation in your choices. Many store-bought brands are filled with additives and emulsifiers that are questionable to human health—and even more questionable if you’re giving it to your kids.
Ideally, you’ll choose a BPA-free canned brand that contains no unnecessary preservatives, like this one. If going for a carton or boxed brand, make sure to read the ingredient list and choose the brand with the least amount of ingredients. Light coconut milk (canned or carton) is okay, too, except that you will be missing out on some of the benefits offered from the fat content of coconuts.
How to Make Your Own Coconut Milk Recipe
Better yet, make your own coconut milk at home! If you have a high-powered blender, it’s actually quite simple and much more cost-effective, but you can also do it without a fancy blender.
Ingredients (double the recipe if you want to freeze coconut milk for future use):
- 2 cups of fresh coconut meat, shredded
- 3 cups of water
- Place your shredded coconut and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for 1 hour.
- Next, place everything in a blender (high-powered if you have it), and mix together for 1-5 minutes (depending on the blender you are using).
- Strain using a cheese cloth or any other strainer you have that will make sure the meat particles don’t pass through.
- The coconut milk will keep well for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it for months.