By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD
Coconut milk seems to be the new darling of the plant milk world. With a mild flavor and relatively few calories, coconut milk can be used to replace other plant milks in recipes or as a beverage. Note that we’re talking about aseptically packaged or refrigerated varieties rather than canned coconut milk. Beverages like So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage and Silk Pure Coconut are based on coconut cream with water added so that they are lower in calories and fat. The coconut milks that we’re referring to have 100 calories or less per cup (somewhat more in specialty flavors) compared to over 400 calories in a cup of canned coconut milk.
Coconut milk serves mainly as a source of calories, fat, and carbohydrate. Some vitamins and minerals may be added. Coconut milk is not nutritionally equivalent to soymilk (or cow’s milk) and would not be a good choice as a main beverage for someone with higher protein needs unless they are meeting their protein needs from other foods.
We were able to find close to 20 different varieties of coconut milk on grocery aisles and in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. Look for more information about coconut milks and other plant milks in an upcoming issue of Vegetarian Journal.
To see detailed information about the nutritional content and ingredients in coconut milk from Dream Blends, Silk, So Delicious, and Trader Joe’s, take a look at this chart: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/milk_alternatives/coconut_milks_table.pdf
Thanks to VRG interns Candice Kalinski and Gabrielle Rapsis for helping to collect product information.
To support VRG research, donate at www.vrg.org/donate