Can I drink coconut milk right out of the can?

Coconut milk has become an increasingly popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. With its creamy texture and natural sweetness, coconut milk can be used in a variety of recipes from curries to smoothies. But can you drink coconut milk straight from the can like you would regular cow’s milk? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of drinking coconut milk directly from the can.

Nutritional Profile

First, let’s examine the nutritional facts of canned coconut milk. Here is a nutritional comparison of 1 cup of canned coconut milk versus 1 cup of 2% cow’s milk:

Nutrient Coconut Milk (1 cup) Cow’s Milk (1 cup)
Calories 552 122
Fat 57g 5g
Protein 5g 8g
Carbs 13g 12g
Sugar 0g 12g
Calcium 22mg 293mg
Vitamin D 0mcg 124IU

As you can see, coconut milk is much higher in calories and fat compared to cow’s milk. Coconut milk has 57g fat per cup, 88% of which comes from saturated fat. It also contains no protein, sugar, calcium or vitamin D, all nutrients found in dairy milk.

Benefits of Drinking Coconut Milk from the Can

Although high in calories and fat, drinking coconut milk straight from the can may provide some benefits:

  • Convenience – Coconut milk from a can is fast and easy without any prep needed.
  • Creaminess – The thick, creamy texture can be satisfying as a drink on its own.
  • Tropical flavor – The natural coconut flavor provides a sweet, tropical taste.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Coconut milk contains potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
  • Lactose-free – Coconut milk is naturally dairy-free and lactose-free.

Downsides of Drinking from the Can

However, there are some significant downsides to consider with drinking canned coconut milk by itself:

  • High in saturated fat – With 57g fat and 54g saturated fat per cup, coconut milk is very high in saturated fat which can raise cholesterol levels.
  • Low in nutrients – Coconut milk is lacking many of the nutrients found in cow’s milk like protein, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A.
  • High in calories – At 552 calories per cup, coconut milk is much higher in calories versus cow’s milk with 122 calories per cup.
  • Additives – Some canned coconut milk contains stabilizers, emulsifiers and preservatives such as guar gum or carrageenan.
  • BPA lining – Cans may contain BPA lining which can leach into the coconut milk.
  • Not environmentally friendly – Canned products generate more waste versus buying coconut milk in cartons.

Nutrition Facts Label

Always read the Nutrition Facts label when buying canned coconut milk to check for any additives, preservatives or BPA lining. Here is an example label for a popular brand of canned coconut milk:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup (240g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 550
Total Fat 57g Saturated Fat 54g
Sodium 35mg
Total Carbohydrate 13g Dietary Fiber 0g Total Sugars 0g
Protein 5g

As you can see from the label, a 1 cup serving contains 550 calories and 57g of fat, most of which is saturated fat. It provides only 5g of protein and nofiber, sugar, vitamin D, calcium or other micronutrients.

Lighter Coconut Milk Alternatives

If you want to drink coconut milk but are concerned about the high calories and fat content, consider these lighter alternatives:

  • Light coconut milk – Contains around 125 calories and 5g fat per cup.
  • Coconut milk beverages – Store-bought beverages are diluted with water and lower in fat.
  • Make your own – Mix 1 part canned coconut milk with 1 part water to cut the calories in half.
  • Coconut water – Contains electrolytes like potassium and only 46 calories per cup.

Best Practices for Drinking

If you do decide to drink canned coconut milk, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Shake or stir the can well before pouring since the solids and cream separate.
  • Drink in moderation. Limit to 4-8 oz max per day due to the high fat content.
  • Pour into a glass – avoid drinking straight from the can to prevent BPA exposure.
  • Use as a creamer in coffee or tea instead of drinking on its own.
  • Pair with fresh fruit like berries or pineapple to balance the richness.
  • Store opened coconut milk in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days max.

Potential Health Risks

While delicious, drinking too much canned coconut milk on its own may pose potential health risks including:

  • Weight gain – Due to the high calorie and fat content which can lead to excess weight gain.
  • High cholesterol – The saturated fat may negatively impact cholesterol levels long-term.
  • Nutritional deficits – Lacking protein, calcium, vitamins D and A found in dairy milk.
  • BPA exposure – Risk of exposure to BPA lining in cans over time.
  • Gut issues – Some people report stomach pains or diarrhea from drinking straight coconut milk.

To help mitigate potential risks, limit coconut milk to just a few ounces per day and avoid drinking it as an everyday milk replacement. Rotate it with other healthier beverage options like unsweetened almond or oat milk.

DIY Coconut Milk Recipes

For a healthier homemade version, try these easy DIY coconut milk recipes:

Basic Coconut Milk

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in coconut flakes and salt.
  3. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth or nut milk bag.
  5. Squeeze cloth to extract milk.
  6. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Coconut Milk Smoothie

  • 1 cup DIY coconut milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 dates or dash of honey
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1/4 cup ice
  1. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Enjoy immediately!

The Bottom Line

While canned coconut milk can be enjoyed in moderation, drinking too much of it straight from the can may have downsides due to its high saturated fat and calorie content. For healthiest results, limit intake to a few ounces at a time. Shake cans well before pouring, avoid BPA lined cans, and dilute it with water if needed. Alternatively, opt for DIY homemade coconut milk a few times a week for a fresher, additive-free option. Overall, coconut milk can be delicious in coffee, smoothies, curries but should not completely replace daily cow’s or plant-based milk intake.

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