The popularity of non-dairy alternatives to grocery items like milk and ice cream seem to be on the rise lately. Almond milk sales are skyrocketing and I know several people who have switched from dairy to almond, not because they are lactose-intolerant or vegan, but because almond milk is just awesome!
But I’ve also noticed new coconut milk products hitting the markets and I’m very excited about these new options. Now we not only have soy, rice, and almond-based products to choose from, but coconut butters, oils, milk, water, yogurt, coffee creamer, whipped cream, and ice cream!
But just like that of soy, the reputation of coconut has jumped around for the past several years. According to a recent article on VegNews.com called Guide to Coconuts, “it’s now clear that most studies on coconut oil were done on partially hydrogenated versions.” Anytime you see “partially hydrogenated” on a label, read “cholesterol raiser.” These types of coconut oils and butters also contain trans fats, and we’ve all heard plenty about that in recent years. But virgin coconut oil is a different story. The article explains that while virgin coconut oil is high in saturated fat, “it is a fairy healthy type of [fat]” called lauric acid. Here’s where I’m a little skeptical because, as I mentioned before, the research on how “healthy” lauric acid is a bit confusing and even contradictory at times. Moderation is they key suggestion I have here. Even the VegNews article mentions that we shouldn’t be eating this (or any other type of saturated fat, for that matter) in large quantities.
The coconut-based products out there do have a lot of great qualities to them though, and not all are high in fat. For example the coconut milk coffee creamer that I buy (see my Top 10 Vegan Alternatives post) is made by SO Delicious and it contains no fat. Coconut oil is also a great alternative to olive oil or canola/vegetable oil for use in baked goods or with stirfying or sauteing. Keep in mind that virgin coconut oil has a very slow smoking point (around 280 degrees F) so you don’t want to fry or roast with it.
I haven’t tried the coconut milk yet (on cereal and the like) because the saturated fat is around 25% of your daily value for 1 cup. However, according to the article in VegNews, ” Compared to dairy milk, coconut milk has fewer calories and sugar, comparable calcium and fat, but no cholesterol. Overall verdict? It’s healthier and tastier.” Of course, we haven’t been told what type of milk these comparisons are based on–skim, 2%, whole, etc. But I’d rather have coconut milk any day that dairy milk that contains, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, puss from infections, etc. GROSS!
I tried coconut water a few years ago and remember it tasting like sweaty socks smell. I’m not sure what brand I tried, or maybe my taste buds have changed along the way, but now I absolutely love that cold, refreshing, subtly sweet taste after a good workout, on a hot day, or any time! My two favorite brands are Taste Nirvana and Amy & Brian. Both brands offer a plain coconut water option, or one with pulp, which is my personal favorite. Taste Nirvana also offers one with aloe in it that is AMAZING. Coconut water is virtually fat free and low in sugar. It’s very hydrating, helps to balance your body’s pH, and has electrolytes. Plus, it tastes so much better than those icky sports drinks.
You can even use coconut to make your own deodorant! I found this recipe here that looks great. (Here’s looking at you, Audrey!)