The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk
By Jody Braverman
Coconuts and coconut milk have traditionally gotten a bad rap due to its high saturated fat levels. However, island populations around the world have used the fruit's meat juice, milk and oil in everything from cooking to disease prevention. Furthermore, the unique fatty acids in coconut milk may aid weight loss, improve immune function, reduce heart disease risk and improve skin and hair health.
New research has revealed that not eating enough fat can actually make you fat. According to Bruce Fife, N.D. in his article "The Fat that Can Make You Thin," people who include more healthy fats in their diet, such as the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut milk, eat less than those who don't get enough fat. While all fats help the body feel full and satiate the brain receptors that control appetite, the fat in coconut milk may increase metabolism and perhaps increase weight loss on a reduced-calorie diet.
Immune System Health
Coconut milk contains lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid, which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which may fight the viruses and bacteria that cause herpes, influenza and even HIV. According to a study led by Dr. Gilda Sapphire Erguiza, a pediatric pulmonologist at the Philippine Children's Medical Center in Quezon City, children with pneumonia who were treated with antibiotics and coconut oil benefited more than those taking the antibiotic alone.
The medium-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut milk may also improve heart health. A study in "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" showed that Filipino women who ate more coconut oil had healthier blood lipid profiles, a major determinant of heart disease. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk may also kill the three major types of atherogenic organisms -- bacteria that cause plaque formation in the arteries -- that may lead to heart disease.
Healthy Skin and Hair
Coconut milk is highly nutritious when ingested, and these nutrients may help fortify and condition skin and hair as well. The fatty acids in coconut milk are a natural antiseptic and may help treat dandruff, skin infections, wounds and dry, itchy skin. Furthermore, the high fatty acid content in coconut milk serves as a natural moisturizer for healthy skin and may help repair wrinkles and sagging in aging skin.