What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coconut Milk Every Day

There are tons of different alternative milks to pick from nowadays.

But some, like coconut milk, are staples that have been around much longer than the trend. Coconut milk itself is derived from the flesh of mature coconuts and is mixed with water to thin it out.

You’ll find some coconut milk in a carton, which is different from canned coconut milk which usually includes the thicker coconut cream. Since coconut milk in cartons is more diluted than coconut milk in a can, it can contain stabilizers, and flavorings and can be fortified with additional nutrients.

This type of coconut milk often has nutrients like vitamin B12 and vitamin D added that help your body thrive, and it can also support heart health, lower inflammation levels and better blood sugar control.

You might be wondering: what happens if you drink coconut milk daily? Is there a downside to adding it to your diet? Let’s talk about the benefits of coconut milk, and potential drawbacks and understand what to expect from this popular plant-based alternative.

Health Benefits of Coconut Milk

You May Experience Better Blood Sugar Control

Coconut is mainly composed of carbohydrates and fat. When dietary fat is combined with protein- and fibre-rich foods, this trio of nutrients helps support steady blood sugar levels, rather than blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Bailey Franklyn, RD, registered dietitian and owner of Harvest Table Nutrition also highlights a 2021 study done on rats with diabetes suggesting that daily consumption of coconut milk may improve blood sugar and HbA1c levels.

It’s important to note that these findings are preliminary and derived from animal studies, so more clinical research in humans is needed to help clarify their findings.

You May Support Weight Management

Something that sets coconut milk apart is that it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a unique type of fat because they are used by the body as an immediate energy source similar to glucose in the blood.

A recently published review even points to studies linking MCTs to increased energy expenditure (AKA burning more calories) and improved weight management.

However, it’s important to not jump to conclusions too quickly. Emily Holdorf, M.S., RDN, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at EmPowered Nutrition points out a 2022 review that also took a look at MCTs in food. Holdorf mentions, “There have been many studies done to see if MCTs can benefit body composition, weight and metabolism, but none have been conclusive and more extensive research is still needed.”

Holdorf goes on to highlight, “Coconut milk is lower in calories, but since it has less protein and carbohydrates than cow’s milk, you may end up feeling less satisfied which could contribute to more snacking throughout the day.”

To keep you satisfied longer, try pairing a glass of coconut milk with a source of protein and fibre such as a bowl of yoghurt and berries or an egg scramble with vegetables.

You May Improve Heart Health

Research has shown that a high-protein diet combined with coconut milk could potentially reduce cholesterol. This research was done primarily in rodents, so more clinical research in humans is needed to understand this potential link.4

Argavan Nilforoush, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist at Baby Steps Nutrition, points out how coconut milk is also a good source of potassium, which is a nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure. Be sure to round out your potassium intake by also reaching for potassium-rich food sources like salmon, avocados and bananas.

You May Decrease Inflammation

Franklyn relays how coconut milk may help decrease inflammation in the body because it contains something called “lauric acid”, a medium-chain fatty acid. Lauric acid is found in even larger quantities in coconut oil.

According to research, lauric acid has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects.5 More research is needed to fully understand the potential effects of coconut milk on inflammation, though.

Coconut Milk Nutrition

One cup of unsweetened, fortified coconut milk contains the following:6

  • Calories: 76
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Total Sugar: 6g
  • Added Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Total Fat: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 46mg
  • Vitamin B12: 1.5 μg (63% Daily Vaule [DV])
  • Calcium: 460 mg (35% DV)
  • Vitamin D: 2.4 μg (12% DV)

Compared to cow’s milk, coconut milk is relatively low in calories but higher in saturated fats than 2%, 1% or nonfat cow’s milk.

The notable amounts of vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D (often added during processing) help support bone health, brain health and metabolic functions in the body.

Cons to Consider

Higher Saturated Fat

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping saturated fat intake to 10% or less of your daily calories.7 If you’re eating a 2,000-calorie diet, this equates to about 22 grams of saturated fat per day.

Therefore, a one-cup serving of coconut milk containing 5 grams of saturated fat already contributes over 20% of your daily intake. Excess saturated fat consumption may be a concern for heart health over time, so be sure to consider how coconut milk fits into the rest of your day.

Also, aim to balance your saturated fat intake (from coconut milk or otherwise) with sources of unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and fish.

Lower in Protein

Compared to cow’s milk and soy milk, coconut milk has a significantly lower protein content, so don’t rely on it to help meet your protein needs.

Try to pair it with a source of protein to help slow down how quickly it’s digested to support healthy blood sugar levels.

Can Contain Added Sugar

Nilforoush also recommends being mindful because “sweetened or flavoured coconut milk products often contain added sugars.” This is a nutrient that most Americans overeat, which can lead to dental caries, insulin resistance and higher chronic disease risk down the road.

Instead, reach for unsweetened coconut milk and try flavouring it at home with a small splash of vanilla extract or small drizzle of honey or maple syrup to taste if you prefer it with some sweetness.

Is Coconut Milk Safe for Everyone to Eat?

Holdorf notes, “Coconut milk would not be safe for someone with a coconut allergy. If you have a tree nut allergy, consult your allergist before consuming coconut-based products as well.”

Due to its high saturated fat content, if you have heart disease or high cholesterol, you may consider talking with a healthcare provider or dietitian before drinking it regularly.

Tips for Enjoying Coconut Milk

You can use coconut milk in a variety of dishes to add creaminess without dairy. Think: coffee drinks, soups, smoothies and dairy-free ice cream. We especially love adding it to recipes like Turmeric Lattes or Berry-Coconut Smoothies.

If you’re looking for recipes with canned coconut milk, which is more dense due to the coconut cream it contains, try fan-favourite recipes like Jerk Chicken with Coconut Rice or One-Pot Coconut Milk Curry with Chickpeas.

The Bottom Line

Coconut milk is a flavorful and versatile alternative milk. When purchasing, look for unsweetened versions with no added sugar. While you shouldn’t solely rely on coconut milk to support good health, when combined with other nutrient-rich foods it can be part of a balanced eating pattern.


1 Comment
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