Coconut Milk as Health Food? You’ve Got to Be Kidding.

Much as has been said recently about the health benefits of coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut milk is a white liquid mixture of water and the white “flesh” of the coconut and is considered a more diluted form of coconut oil a thick clear liquid. Coconut extracts have been used in commercial food products, non-dairy creamers and cooking for many years but lately there has been a burst of publicity for coconut oil and milk as a new form of health-food with beneficial properties including increasing energy, preventing cancer and speeding weight loss.  I have seen it being added to ice cream and even bottled water. I want to sound a note of warning here.


Most physicians and nutritionists will advise against having too much fat in the diet for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, fats have lots of calories. In addition dietary fat can increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) content of the blood leading to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Among the different kinds of fat that raise LDL the worst are the saturated fats. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 120 calories with about 90% of the coconut oil being saturated fat.  In fact the saturated fat, palmitic acid, takes its name from the plant that produces coconuts, the palm tree. Compare this to the fat in dark chocolate which is 30% oleic acid, the healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.


Oils which are far more beneficial for preparing foods are unsaturated fats including the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. I like canola, safflower and olive oil due to their high content of these healthier fats.


Coconut oil has many other applications which are useful outside the body. It can be used as a diesel fuel, deodorant, insect repellent, to make soap, and as a moisturizer for hair and skin.  My advice is to think twice however, before supplementing your diet with it.

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  • Kay Ritson

    Please get your facts straight before pontificating about coconut oils. the natural saurated fat in coconut cannot be compard with butter, mararine or hydrogentated fats. the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are quite different from the long chain fatty acids found in animal fats and hydrogenated fats. In fat coconut oil has been shown to prevent heart disease and balane cholesterol. Below I give 2 of many websites showing the health benefits.

    I am not a doctor but i am a qualified Nutritionist.

    • Gary Pepper M.D.

      Hi Kay

      I understand your concern. Coconut oil is being promoted as healthy because it contains some fats which are not as bad for the blood vessels as saturated fat. These are the medium chain fatty acids you refer to. But don’t forget that coconut oil is 90% saturated fat and a good portion of this is palmitic acid which is the same fat as in beef. Palmitic acid is so abundent in the palm plant its name is derived from it.

      (BTW I never believe websites which are clearly funded by the products they promote)

      For healthy fats I stick with monounsaturated fats such as found in olive oil and canola oil. (Not to say I would turn down a Mounds candy if offered)

      Dr. P

  • Austin

    edit* Excuse me, I meant cooked coconut milk not oil! I would like to know how many grams of saturated fat are in COOKED coconut milk as you know cooking breaks down some of the nutrients in food. Thank you!


  • Stuart Gray

    I read this article and can’t believe that you refer to canola oil as healthy. or Gods sake, do some research before telling people rubbish like this. How much fat is in coconut milk? Coconut oil is stable at high temperatures and is therefore safe to fry food food in, whereas canola oil and olive oil are not. Olive oil is very healthy as a salad dressing as long as it is extra virgin. However, if it is over 6 months from pressing to using, many of the health benefits are lost. Most olive oils do not have a ‘produced on’ date. The high temperature extraction methods used to extract canola oil make this an unhealthy oil from the start.

  • Tanisha

    Westerners only glorify western foods. Anything which does not originate in the west or anything which has a tropical origin somehow shows up in medical studies as not claiming to posses the benefits it posseses.