Is Coconut Milk Keto-Friendly?
Written by Ansley Hill, RD, LD on September 4, 2020 — Medically reviewed by Miho Hatanaka, RDN, L.D.
The ketogenic — or keto — diet is an eating pattern characterized by its high fat, moderate protein, and minimal carb content.
It was invented more than a century ago and has been among the most popular diet trends of the past several years.
It’s frequently used as a short-term tool to promote weight loss, but it may also be used therapeutically to treat certain medical conditions like type 2 diabetes and seizure disorders (1Trusted Source).
The exact macronutrient breakdown of a ketogenic diet can vary, but it’s generally 55–60% fat, 30–35% protein, and 5–10% carbs (2Trusted Source).
Most successful keto dieters avoid consuming more than 50 grams of carbs per day, although some people opt for a much lower daily carb limit than that (1Trusted Source).
If you’re just getting started with a keto diet, it can be confusing to know which foods are keto-compliant, including coconut milk, a popular dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk.
This article explores whether coconut milk is keto-friendly, plus a few tips on how to use it.
Naturally low carb and high fat
Coconut milk is a creamy, white liquid made from puréed coconut flesh.
The nutritional breakdown of 1 ounce 30 (mL) of plain canned or fresh coconut milk is about 7 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of carbs, and 0.5 grams of protein (3Trusted Source).
Roughly 90% of the calories in plain coconut milk come from fat, with the remaining 10% coming from a combination of carbs and protein. Still, the carb content is low enough that you shouldn’t have any problem fitting it into a keto meal plan.
Regular canned or fresh coconut milk is naturally high in fat and low in carbs, making it perfect for a keto diet.
Certain types are not as keto-friendly
Although regular, full fat, canned coconut milk is great for a keto diet, other varieties may not be as suitable.
For instance, sweetened versions may contain enough carbs to push you over your daily limit. Therefore, check the nutrition label to ensure you’re not buying a sweetened type.
Unsweetened, reduced fat options, such as light canned or carton varieties, likely won’t push you over your carb limit, although they won’t do much to help you reach your daily fat target either.
Thus, if you’re going to include coconut milk in your keto diet, it may make the most sense to use an unsweetened, full fat version.
You should avoid sweetened coconut milk on a keto diet. Reduced fat options aren’t as helpful as full fat ones when it comes to reaching your fat targets.
How to use coconut milk on a keto diet
Coconut milk is a versatile ingredient that can be used to add flavor, texture, and fat to many keto-friendly recipes.
Add full fat coconut milk to soups, stews, casseroles, and curries for a rich, creamy texture. Or, use it as a base for keto-friendly smoothies, desserts, and creamy salad dressings. You can even try using it in a marinade for meat and fish.
It likewise works well as a keto-friendly, dairy-free coffee creamer.
Coconut milk can be used to add fat and creaminess to a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, curries, smoothies, and sauces.
The bottom line
Regular, unsweetened coconut milk naturally contains lots of fat and minimal carbs, making it a great option for most keto meal plans.
However, certain varieties contain added sweeteners and may not be appropriate for a keto diet.
Meanwhile, low fat versions are technically keto-compliant, but you’ll be missing out on the naturally high fat content that traditional coconut milk provides.
Thus, your best bet is to use full fat, unsweetened coconut milk to add fat and creaminess to your favorite keto recipes.
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