Coconut Milk vs. Almond Milk: Which Is Healthier?
Coconut milk vs. almond milk
If you’ve purchased plant-based milk on a recent grocery haul, you’re not alone. According to a Harris Poll conducted for the grocery service Instacart, the number of people who purchased plant-based milk rose by 27 percent in 2020.
Just how do these dairy alternatives compare? Read on to learn about the nutritional differences between these two trendy milks.
Who should try almond or coconut milk?
Almond milk, coconut milk, and other plant-based options are suitable for a variety of reasons.
These kinds of milk can also help you reduce your consumption of animal foods, something many people are striving to do. The reality is that even dairy drinkers consume alternative milk sometimes.
According to an International Food Information Council (IFIC) report, about one in four milk drinkers chose a plant-based alternative at times.
Coconut milkHow it’s made
There’s a difference between the coconut milk sold in cans and the stuff sold in cartons.
The former is made from grated and squeezed coconut meat and is a higher-fat, thicker blend most commonly used for cooking. The latter has been diluted with water, so it more closely resembles the consistency of low-fat milk.
Still, it’s better to consume unsweetened coconut milk since, on average, adults consume roughly 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day—way too much. For perspective, the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests limiting added sugar intake to six teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men.
Benefits of coconut milk
The science isn’t settled when it comes to the benefit of MCTs in coconut milk. Studies involving MCTs typically use a supplement version.
Since coconut milk has been diluted with water, it doesn’t provide the same amount of these fats. Therefore, it’s hard to say whether you’ll benefit in the same way from MCTs found naturally in coconut milk.
But there are other potentially beneficial components in this milk alternative.
International Journal of Food Science
Your best bet for protecting your health is to eat primarily whole or minimally processed fruits and vegetables and other plant foods (such as nuts and whole grains).
Coconut milk can certainly be an addition to this eating pattern, but it shouldn’t be considered a sole source of antioxidants.
Coconut milk concerns
While there is a lot of confusion over saturated fat, the AHA recommends limiting it to no more than 13 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet. That means that if you’re eating fewer calories, your saturated fat intake should be lower.
Also, while ordinary milk has eight grams of protein per cup, coconut milk has almost none. This may not be an issue if you’re consuming it with other sources of protein or you’re careful about making up the protein deficit.
But it’s not ideal for kids.
Since plant-based milk isn’t a nutritional match for cow’s milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages giving anything but dairy milk to young kids unless there’s an allergy or another medical need to replace it.
Almond milkHow it’s madeBenefits of almond milk
Journal of Food Science Technology
But don’t count on almond milk to meet your fiber needs. Overall, it isn’t a good source of fiber. Instead, try to eat about 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day by choosing a variety of fiber-filled plant foods, whether or not you’re drinking almond milk.
Almond milk is low in calories, fat, and carbs, which can be helpful if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. It’s also low in saturated fat. The main type of fat in almond milk is monounsaturated fat, which is also found in olive oil.
Several studies indicate that this type of fat may be helpful with weight loss and weight management as well as lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.
Of course, almond milk won’t deliver these benefits alone. But it can be part of a healthy eating plan that promotes a healthy weight and heart.
Almond milk concerns
Almonds are very nutritious, supplying protein, manganese, magnesium, and copper, among other nutrients and bioactive substances. That said, almond milk is diluted and contains few almonds, so it has relatively low amounts of these compounds.
Similar to coconut milk, almond milk is low in protein and therefore isn’t recommended for young kids. Plus, almond milk can be high in added sugars, which are tied to numerous health problems, from heart disease and high blood pressure to memory problems and vision disorders.
And, as with coconut milk, if you see carrageenan among the ingredients, you may want to steer clear.
Nutrition facts of coconut milk vs. almond milk
When it comes to coconut milk vs. almond milk, their nutrient profile varies. Here are the nutrients and percentages of recommended daily value (DV) in one cup of each:
How to use coconut milk vs. almond milk
Coconut milk has a coconutty flavor, which may not pair well with certain recipes.
Unsweetened, plain versions of these milk substitutes also work well in savory recipes. But if a recipe specifies a type of milk, you may want to use that product for the best results.
The cost of coconut milk vs. almond milk
Of course, the price will vary depending on where you shop and the brand you buy. Don’t be surprised if coconut milk runs a little higher in price.
Which plant-based milk is better?
If you’re seeking plant-based milk because of lactose intolerance, a milk allergy, or concerns for animal welfare, both coconut and almond milk are suitable options.
But if you’re looking for the lowest-calorie option with the healthiest fat profile, almond milk is the winner.
No matter which milk you choose, always select an unsweetened variety and make sure that it’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D at levels that are roughly equivalent to cow’s milk.
And plan to eat enough protein from other sources since neither milk has a meaningful amount.
Mizina/Getty Images Types of Plant-Based Milk
Agustin Vai/Getty Images Is Coconut Milk Good for You?
Mintr/Getty Images Is Almond Milk Good for You?