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The coconut milk vs coconut water debate has been with us for some time now and it is not going anywhere. This is owing to the growing importance of the coconut fruit as a part of a general diet and sports nutrition.
From this versatile fruit, you can get coconut water, coconut milk or coconut oil. Each of these is used differently, depending on the type of food you are preparing. However, when it comes to sports nutrition, the most preferred are coconut water and coconut milk.
While one has the clear appearance of pure water, the other has a milky color. In this piece, we take an in-depth look at the coconut milk vs coconut water debate. We shall discuss each of these separately before reaching a conclusion on which is better. Read on.
What is Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is sourced from the white flesh of the coconut fruit. Apart from being thick, coconut milk has a creamy, rich texture. It has a high nutritional value compared to coconut water. Coconut milk is different from coconut water, given that the former doesn’t occur naturally but is made by mixing the solid coconut flesh with water.
In the coconut milk vs coconut water debate, it is clear that the latter is nearly 94 percent water and has fewer nutrients.
How Is Coconut Milk Made?
When making coconut milk, you may decide to vary the thickness depending on the type of consistency you expect. To make thick coconut milk, you will grate the coconut flesh, simmer or boil it in water, and then strain through cheesecloth.
The product is thick coconut milk. After you have made the thick coconut milk, you will retain the grated coconut in the cheesecloth and simmer it in water. When you repeat the straining process, you will get thin coconut milk.
In most parts of Asia, coconut milk is an important ingredient in their cuisine. To make thick sauces and desserts, they use thick coconut milk. On the other hand, thin milk is great for thin sauces and soups. But it is not possible to get either thin or thick milk in the stores.
All they have is a mixture of thin and thick milk. If you don’t like what you get from the stores, why don’t you make your coconut milk at home? You can then make it thick or thin depending on what you want.
What’s The Nutritional Value of Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is a high-calorie drink, given its rich content of fats. In fact, most of the saturated fats in coconut milk exist in the form of lauric acid which is both a medium-chain and long-chain fatty acid (MCTs).
But coconut milk also supplies other nutrients to the body including protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium. Some studies suggest that these special nutrients can greatly benefit your health.
What Are The Effects of Coconut Milk on Cholesterol and Heart Health?
One of the reasons coconut milk has been vilified is its high content of saturated fats. Because of that, some have found coconut milk not to be healthy but available evidence suggests that using coconut milk could be beneficial to people with cholesterol levels ranging from normal to high.
In one study, coconut milk in porridge was found to be able to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol to a higher degree than soy milk. At the same time, it raised the levels of the HDL (good) cholesterol by over 18 percent.
These results have been replicated by studies focusing on coconut flakes or coconut oil. Even where coconut oil led to an increase in LDL levels, it also raised the levels of HDL, which is still a good thing. This is easy to explain. When it gets into the blood, lauric acid inhibits the receptors concerned with clearing LDL from blood thus leading to high levels of bad cholesterol.
But this effect is not consistent between two different individuals and may vary depending on how much lauric acid you eat in your diet. A study involving healthy women tested the effects of using lauric acid in place of monounsaturated fats.
Those who replaced 14 percent of the monounsaturated fats with lauric acid had a 16 percent increase in LDL cholesterol. In another study, the women replaced only 4 percent of the monounsaturated fats with lauric acid and didn’t experience a significant change in cholesterol levels.
What Are The Effects Of Coconut Milk On Metabolism And Weight?
Coconut milk is thought to benefit metabolism, weight loss, and body composition due to its high content of the MCTs.This makes it great when it comes to increasing your body’s metabolism levels.
About 12 percent of the oil in coconut milk is composed of caprylic acid and capric acid, which are truly medium-chain fatty acids. From the digestive tract, they are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. Here, they are used to produce energy, thus preventing them from being stored as fats. This prevents your body from accumulating unnecessary weight.
But MCTs benefit weight loss in other ways. In one study, the MCTs were found to have the ability to reduce appetite, thus decreasing the number of calories you are eating. They work much better than the other fats. A group of overweight men participated in a study where they consumed 20 grams of MCTs for breakfast. These men consumed considerably fewer calories than those who ate corn oil.
Also, MCTs have been established to increase your levels of metabolism thus helping you burn fat and consume more calories. Only that coconut milk contains amounts of MCTs that are too small to improve metabolism and reduce weight. However, other studies have shown that including coconut milk in your diet helped to reduce the subjects’ waist circumference.
Does Coconut Milk Have Other Health Benefits?
The lauric acid in coconut milk has been found to have antibacterial and anti-viral properties. It can be used to get rid of all the disease-causing bacteria and viruses. That’s in addition to reducing the size of stomach ulcers in rats. In another study, coconut milk and coconut extract were found to have the ability to reduce swelling and inflammation in traumatized mice and rats.
What Is Coconut Water?
Coconut water is nothing more than the clear liquid found in green coconuts. It is in no way related to coconut milk, which is usually sourced from a mixture of coconut flesh and water. Coconut water is at least 94 percent pure water. It is formed naturally in the fruit and its main purpose is to nourish the coconut fruit as it matures. Coconut water has a nutty but sweet taste.
In recent years, it has become popular especially when it comes to hydration and sports nutrition. But that’s nothing new, given its wide use in the tropical regions of the world. It has been used as medicine for improved semen production, urination, and digestion in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. However, its biggest use is in rehydrating the body.
You can buy coconut water in bottled form from many of the grocery stores near you or make your own at home. All you need is a green coconut. Once you press a straw in its soft part, you can have your coconut water right from the source.
If you are going for the bottled variety, you should be careful to properly read the list of ingredients. You don’t want a drink that includes added sugar and flavorings.
What Is The Nutritional Value Of Coconut Water?
Although more than 94 percent water, coconut water also contains nutrients such as carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and calcium. The carbohydrates in coconut water are easy to digest. In the coconut milk vs coconut water debate, it is clear that the latter is healthier, given that it contains no saturated fats. It also has fewer calories.
How Does Coconut Water Compare To The Commercially Available Drinks?
Compared to most sports drinks and sodas, coconut water contains very minimal sugar. If you are looking for a healthy way to hydrate, coconut water is the clearest way to go. It is no wonder that it is being recommended as an effective hydrating agent.
Besides, coconut water contains a lot of key electrolytes, which help to replenish the water in your blood. Electrolytes such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium are required by the body to maintain the proper fluid balance.
In rehydrating the body, coconut water works the same way as commercial sports drinks and much better than plain water. This was proven in a research study which put coconut water at the center of proper rehydration after exercise.
But unlike the commercial sports drinks, coconut water works without causing stomach discomfort and nausea. Considering the coconut milk vs coconut water debate, the latter is much better than the former when it comes to rehydrating the body after exercise.
Does Coconut Water Support Heart Health?
It has been suggested that you reduce the risk of heart disease simply by drinking coconut water. A study done in rats showed that consuming coconut water has an effect in terms of the reduction of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood.
In fact, coconut water works in a way similar to the drugs used to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Only that if this was to be effective in human beings then one would have to take at least 2.7 liters of coconut water in a day. Further investigation is needed to understand how taking coconut water could be used to reduce blood cholesterol levels in humans.
Coconut milk seems more effective than coconut water at supporting and improving heart health, given the available evidence involving human tests. But coconut water is still useful when it comes to controlling blood pressure.
A study done among people with high blood pressure showed that taking coconut water helped to improve the systolic blood pressure. Thus the highest blood pressure reading was much lower.
In addition, coconut water contains high amounts of potassium, which is a key mineral when it comes to lowering pressure whether you have normal or high blood pressure. This is important when it comes to the natural management of blood pressure, given that coconut water contains zero harmful chemicals.
Does coconut water have other health benefits?
Due to its antioxidant properties, coconut water has been found to fight the effects of the free radicals thus reducing damage to the cells and the risk of diseases such as cancer. A study done on rats showed that treatment with coconut water is able to reduce oxidative stress. As it reduces the free radical activity, coconut water also reduces insulin levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
In the same breath, coconut water has been found to lower blood sugar levels and greatly improve the health of diabetic animals. One study involved the treatment of diabetic rats with coconut water.
The sugar levels in the treated rats were found to be better than those who did not receive the treatment. Also, the rats that took coconut water has lower hemoglobin A1c levels, thus proving that coconut water could be good for long-term control of blood sugar.
In another study, treating diabetic rats with coconut water helped improve blood sugar levels and a reduction in the signs of oxidative stress. It is clear that coconut water could go a long way as part of the diet of diabetic individuals.
To conclude the coconut milk vs coconut water debate and after assessing the evidence, it is clear that both are good for your health and to incorporate in your daily diet. As such, you cannot replace one with the other.
Coconut water is great for the heart and also regulates blood sugar. It is also great when it comes to hydrating your body after exercise. In addition to making the health of your heart better, coconut milk is also an effective weight loss agent.