In Defense of Coconut Milk
With this non-dairy milk taking partial stake in the dairy aisle and coffee shops keeping a stock of it handy for customers, coconut milk has become a popular choice for more than vegans and those with lactose intolerance. The creamy white liquid pressed from coconut flesh is lush and slightly sweet, making it a comparable plant-based replacement to traditional cow’s milk, yet some health experts have reprimanded coconut milk for its elevated saturated fat content. A quick web search on the subject leads to a split consensus between those hailing it as a wonder-food and those who stigmatize its nutritional content- so how does one decide whether coconut milk is the dietary enemy or a wholesome asset?
Indeed, coconut milk has significant saturated fat content; it’s what keeps coconut oil (the fat component of coconut milk) solid at room temperature while other vegetable oils like olive and canola remain liquid. The saturated fat in animals gives us butter and lard that is also solid at room temperature, although it should be noted that animals also contain unsaturated fat like the famous omega-3 from oily fish. To clarify, saturated fat is the type that has been linked to elevated cholesterol levels and risk for cardiovascular disease, leaving many reevaluating their dietary habits or at least easing up on the butter in grandma’s famous tuna noodle casserole recipe. The argument between whether or not plant-based sources of saturated fats are “healthier” than animal-based sources is a contentious one; the main defense being that the composition of saturated fats from plants like coconuts and palm kernels is dissimilar to that of animals, and therefore supposedly absorbed into the body differently and with no negative affects on cholesterol. However, evidence from several studies clash severely on this assertion, leaving coconut milk in the middle of dietetic researchers’ crossfire. At this point, there is not enough concrete scientific evidence to suggest coconut milk to be a nutritional goldmine or a no-better-than-butter swindler, and while experts can’t seem to agree on that debate, they can agree that all saturated fat, whether from coconuts or butter, have a sound place in a healthful diet. The key word is “moderation” and for a diet rich in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, a little saturated fat shouldn’t hurt. For reference, the American Heart Association asserts that an acceptable level of saturated fat intake should account for no more than 7% of total daily intake of calories, which is about 15 grams for most people.
The culinary director and the nutrition team here at PeachDish go to great lengths to research ingredients and pledge honesty and product transparency for our guests hoping to nourish themselves and their families with wholesome meals and experiences.For those looking to experience especially nutrient-rich foods with less saturated fats, calories and sodium, we offer a SuperFood series of meal kits (marked by a purple apple and heart icon on the front page of the website) that are chef-inspired and dietitian-approved. Our Silken Sweet Potato Frittata with Arugula Salad and our Roasted Delicata Squash Stuffed with Quinoa, Currants and Sage take SuperFood to a level way above the traditional salad and are both available next week! Of course, salad never goes out of style, and our Late Summer Superfood Salad is a seasonal item that made a comeback due to its wild popularity several months ago!