Got Coconut Milk?

Starbucks is jumping on the bandwagon with the newest addition to their menu, coconut milk.  Advertised as a dairy free, soy free, vegan, non-GMO alternative to the current menu, the new beverage option has been both praised and criticized.  Here are the facts; you decide.

True or False?  Coconut milk is high in fat.

Coconut milk is higher in saturated fat than its soy and dairy counterparts.  However, more evidence is mounting that the type of fat found in coconut milk (medium chain fatty acids) provides more health benefits than once previously understood.  The research is still in its infancy, but the potential health benefits are worth considering.  The fat found in coconut milk may be converted directly to energy for the body; supporting healthy metabolism, and heart health.  This makes it popular amongst athletes and vegans.

True or False?  Coconut milk should be substituted for cow milk.

Everything in moderation.  The coconut milk consumed at Starbucks is less concentrated than the coconut milk you may use in cooking, and it has added sugars.  Coconut milk is no magic bullet for your health, but it can be a  tasty treat with creamy texture and unique flavor.   The sweetness found in coconut milk eliminates the need for extra sweeteners in your coffee, which can lead to a healthier cup of joe.  If you’re not living a dairy free lifestyle, mix up your routine!  Variations in your diet will ensure you are consuming the necessary nutrients your body needs. Keep your local barista on their toes by ordering dairy one day, and coconut milk the next!

True or False?  Coconut milk from Starbucks tastes like coconut.

Unfortunately, you will not be sipping a pina-colada flavored coffee on your way to class.  Coconut milk is made by soaking the meat of a coconut in water, and straining the water in a repetitive process.  While most of the coconut flavor found in the flesh is lost, the fat and nutrients that make the food popular are retained.  Instead, enjoy it for the tangy, creamy, and full-bodied flavor that compliments your morning java so well. 

While you should not consider your favorite coconut milk latte an essential part of your healthy diet, it is a valid option for those looking for a certified vegan alternative to dairy or soy milk.  So go ahead and stay on trend.  Try out the newest milk option from your local Starbucks barista.


LeeAnn Kindness is a graduate student at Drexel University majoring in human nutrition. She plans to become a registered dietitian.

Photo Cred: Reina Nicole Hayashi



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