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Is Coconut Milk Good for Diabetes?

Milk is one of the most nutritious drinks we have known from our childhood. Sometimes it is also called the reference protein.

In case of milk, cows’ milk is the first one to come in our milk. But there are a lot other milks which are beneficial for us too. Sadly many of us don’t know about them. However, it’s never late to gain knowledge.

Today, I’m here to enrich you with the knowledge of versatility of milk. But there’s a little twist. In this article I will mainly narrate the good terms between different types of milk and diabetes. Mostly I will focus on the coconut milk and other coconut products like coconut water, oil and flour.

Diabetes restricts your lifestyle. If you are a foodie, diabetes will disappoint you. But it’s not a massive hindrance. Diabetics always get into confusion regarding their intake when it comes to any relatively low-key foods and drinks. Coconut milk might bewilder some people though not all.

So let’s see why and how it’s beneficial for the diabetics!

Initials about Coconut Meat, Milk, water, oil and flour

Coconut meat:

This is the white flesh inside the coconut.

Coconut meat

Image credit: pexels.com

Nutrients

1 cup shredded coconut meat contains:

  • Carbs: 10g
  • Calories: 283
  • Fat: 27g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Manganese, copper

Benefits

  • Might improve health heart by boosting HDL.
  • May help in reducing weight
  • Due to high fiber content, it can aid in digestive health
  • Supports immunity.

Coconut Milk:

Thick coconut milk is made by squeezing the coconut flesh through cheesecloth after grating it to extract the liquid. Thin coconut milk is made by straining it for the second time after mixing it with warm water

Nutrients

1 cup of coconut milk (raw and canned) contains:

  • Carbs: 6.35 g
  • Calories: 445
  • Water: 164.71g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Fat: 48g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Vitamin B, C & E
  • Magnesium, calcium, Potassium, copper

Benefits

  • Helps in weight reduction
  • Decreases cholesterol level
  • Supports hair growth and restores damaged hair.

Coconut oil

Made by pressing fresh or dried coconut meat (corpa).

Nutrients

1 tbs of coconut oil:

  • 0 g of protein
  • 121 calories
  • 13.5 fat (11.2 is saturated)
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • Has vitamin E

Benefits

It might benefit you by:

  • Increasing HDL.
  • Controlling blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Providing shiny hair and healthy skin.
  • Improving satiety.

Coconut water

The clear liquid from the young green coconuts is termed as the coconut water.

Nutrients

  • Rich in electrolytes.
  • Very low calories
  • Negligible fat content

Benefits

  • Able to settle nausea and vomiting.
  • Works as hangover remedy.

Coconut flour

It is a soft, gluten free and naturally grain derivative of dried coconut meat.

Nutrients

  • Rich in dietary fiber.
  • Good source of protein
  • Rich in manganese.
  • Low in carbohydrate

Benefits

  • Helps in reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
  • It has less effect on the blood glucose level. So preferable for diabetes.
  • Classic option for people with celiac disease.
  • Important for cell growth and repair.
  • Supports bone health
  • Powerful antioxidant

Coconut and Diabetes

Now that you have got the primary idea about the coconut products, let’s move into their relationship with diabetes.

Is it okay for diabetics to take coconut products? Will their delicate physiology react positively to it?

Let’s see!

Coconut milk: Is it good for diabetes?

Coconut milk contains almost the same nutrients as the coconut flesh. So considering this fact, fresh coconut milk (pressed from coconut meat) is rich in fiber. Dietary fibers specially the soluble ones helps to slow down the absorption of sugar and help in keeping the blood sugar levels under control. Moreover, it contains plant sterols and calories from saturated fat. This helps to keep your cholesterol level low.

But don’t get confused with coconut milk which you generally find in the stores. They contain high calories and also added sugar. As this is the dilute version of coconut cream, can’s coconut milk can give you a sweet and creamy taste. This may also cause imbalance in the blood sugar level of diabetics if they take this regularly.

Any conclusion? Not all can find fresh coconut milk. Again, those found in the stores are mostly sweet. So, what a diabetic should do?

Find unsweetened coconut milk!

I will show you a comparison between sweetened and unsweetened coconut milk:

NutrientsSweetened (Original)Unsweetened
Calories8045
Fat5g4.5
Saturated fat5g4g
Protein<1g0g
Sugar6g (added)0g
Calcium45% DV (added)45%

So, you see coconut milk does not contain any natural sugar which is good for your blood sugar. So, intake of this will not spike your blood sugar. But as a precaution it is better to take unsweetened coconut milk as this does not even contain any added sugar. In case you don’t have access to it and having the sweetened one, monitor your blood glucose regularly by glucometer. This will help you to find the effects of coconut milk in your blood glucose level.

Is Coconut Water Good for Diabetes?

Coconut water is a natural drink without any artificial sweeteners and preservatives. It is full of essential minerals like potassium and sodium which maintains your electrolyte balance well and boosts up your entire health.

But if you are a diabetic, is it safe?

It might be beneficial for you due to the following reasons:

It has very high nutrient density:

Each cup contains:

  • Potassium: 600mg
  • Sodium: 252 mg
  • Magnesium: 60mg
  • Calcium: 57.6mg
  • Vitamin C: 5.8mg
  • Coconut water is protein and fiber (2.6g in 240g coconut water) rich. These nutrients slow down the digestion process which in turn raises the blood sugar level gradually. Both of them are helpful for diabetics.
  • It does not contain any refined sugar rather it’s naturally sweet. And has a glycemic load of 3 which does not spike your blood sugar level immediately. So, coconut water is considered better than aerated drink. Moreover, magnesium present in it improves insulin sensitivity.
  • Diabetics are prone to poor blood circulation. Coconut milk widens the blood vessels and helps in improving blood circulation. This is return saves the diabetics from certain discomforts like blurred vision, numbness in feet and kidney failure. Also fights atherosclerosis.
  • Lastly, this keeps you energized throughout the day. Also helps in the proper metabolic functions by supporting the PH balance.

So, you see coconut water is good for you even if you have diabetes. But there should a limit. Excessive drinking of coconut water at once may harm you.

Drinking more than specified amount may cause a huge increment in your blood sugar level. Moreover, diabetic patients are vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases. And coconut water is rich in potassium. Excess potassium is harmful for your heart.

Does Coconut Water Cause Sugar Spike?

One glass of coconut water per day without malai should be your limit. If you stick to this routine then your sugar levels are not likely to spike. And the preferable time for having this is during half of the day/post workout. And also having it in empty stomach is more suitable. However, if you are suffering from uncontrolled diabetes, then you should check your blood sugar frequently. If it fluctuates, avoid having coconut water completely.

Coconut Flour for Diabetics

In comparison to other flours like wheat and corn, coconut flour is considered better as it is low in carbohydrate. So, diabetics can prefer this over other flours due to it’s mild or no impact on blood glucose levels.

Coconut oil for Diabetics

Coconut oil contains MCTs which is said to preserve your insulin sensitivity. But this was only suggested in animal (rat) study. There is no strong basis regarding coconut oil controlling your blood sugar level. It is also said to improve HDL level while lowering the LDL level. But this has also got certain controversies.

Milk Substitutes for Diabetics

In different studies, it has been found that, there is a co-relation between milk intake and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In today’s world you have a lot of milk option besides the cow’s milk.

Before narrating their relation with diabetes, I would like to give an account of their nutritional value:

Nutrients (per cup)Almond milk (unsweetened)Soy milk (unsweetened)Oat milk (unsweetened)
Calories3979120
Carbohydrates1.52g4.01g16g
Protein1.55g7g3g
Fat2.88g4.01g5g
Fiber0.5 – 1g1g2g
Calcium516mg300g27% of the DV

Let’s look around their association with diabetes:

Almond Milk and Diabetes:

You will find two sorts of almond milk in the stores: sweetened and unsweetened.

Diabetics – Be alert about what you choose! Unsweetened is the one for you.

Sugar free almond milk contains less than 2% of carbs whereas low fat cow’s milk contains 5% of it. This makes it more preferable. Moreover, it has high protein and fat compared to carb content. As a result, it does not cause spike in your sugar level. Hence, diabetics can easily have this without dilly dally.

Oat milk – Is it Preferable for Diabetics?

Though oat milk is available in both forms, keeping your blood sugar under consideration, unsweetened is the best one for diabetics.

Generally, this milk is high in carbohydrate and fiber but low in protein. Again, they are not as nutritious as the wholegrain because they are made by straining oats.

But thinking about diabetics, almond and soy milk are much better option for them as they provide less carbs and more of some of the nutrients like vitamin E.

Soy Milk – Should Diabetics Go For It?

Diabetic nephropathy is one of the main issues causing disability and death amongst diabetic patients. The major reason behind it is glomerulosclerosis which is linked to high amount of coagulating factors. Other relevant culprits working behind this are oxidative stress and inflammation.

Recent study has shown that soy products created a positive impact on inflammatory markers, coagulation and oxidative stress indices. Liquid soy products like soy milk are low in phosphorus compared to cow’s milk and also get absorbed more quickly than soy foods. Thus soy milk is preferable for patients with diabetes.

Moreover, it was seen that the serum D-dimer level decreases to a certain level after soy milk consumption. So, this is a great option for patients with DN. People having type 2 diabetes can also start consuming this as a part of their dietary plan instead of cow’s milk.

Here is All Answer: Is Soy Milk Good For Diabetes?

The FAQs About Coconut and Diabetes

Q. What is the best milk substitute for diabetics?

Answer: Diabetic people should prefer milk options with less carb but high in protein and taste.

Here are some recommended milk substitutes for you:

Name of milkCaloriesCarbohydrateProteinFatSaturated fatCalcium
Unsweetened organic coconut milk451g0g4.5g4g10%
Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk301g1g2g0g45%
Good Karma’s Unsweetened flax milk601g8g3g0g30%
Silk organic unsweetened soy milk804g7g4g0.5g15%

Other Alternatives:

Organic Valley’s Fat-Free Grassmilk

Nutrients (per cup):

  • Carbs: 12g
  • Protein: 8g

Meyenberg’s low fat goat milk:

Nutrients:

  • Carbs: 11g
  • Protein: 8g

Milks that a diabetic should avoid:

Nesquik’s strawberry 1% low fat milk:

Why?

  • Flavored
  • Fat:2.5g
  • Carb: 24g
  • Sugar: 22g

TruMoo’s Chocolate 1% low fat milk:

Why?

  • Flavored
  • Carb: 2.5g
  • Carb: 20g
  • Sugar: 18g

Q. Is shredded coconut good for diabetics?

Answer: Shredded coconut might be helpful for stabilizing your fasting blood sugar by altering gut bacteria. Besides, it contains many minerals and vitamins. So, diabetics can have them not only for maintaining blood sugar level but also for overall health improvement.

Q. Is unsweetened almond milk good for diabetes?

Answer: Unsweetened almond milk is one of the best milk options for diabetics. They fulfill the nutrient requirements of people with diabetes. This milk is high in protein, fiber and healthy fats but low in carbs. According to different studies, this is helpful for following reasons:

  • May improve insulin sensitivity if you have an almond enriched diet.
  • Might help in the prevention of heart disease.
  • High vitamin E content (16.58mg per cup) protects cholesterol against oxidation.
  • Helps in the management of weight by increasing the feeling of fullness. This prevents obesity which increases the risk of diabetic complications.
  • Source of magnesium (16mg per cup). But in this case almond nut is more preferable. Proper magnesium intake decreases the risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Q. Can I drink milk if I have diabetes?

Answer: It is not prohibited to drink milk if you have diabetes. You just need to be conscious. It is advisable to avoid any kind of extra sugar while you are suffering from diabetes. So when you are buying milk from the store, check the label carefully. You must go for the unsweetened one. This will provide you with all the balanced nutrients while keeping your blood sugar under control.

Q. What kind of milk is suitable for diabetics?

Answer: There are many milk options for a diabetic. Other than cow’s milk, you can include coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, flax milk, pea based milk and rice milk as a part of your diet plan. The benefits of coconut, almond and soy milk has been already discussed above.

Pros and cons of rest of them are given below:

Rice milk:

Nutrients:

  1. Calories: 113
  2. Carb: 22g
  3. Protein: 0.67g
  4. Fat: 2.33g
  5. Fiber: 0.7g
  6. Calcium: 283mg

Pros:

  • Low-fat
  • Lactose free and vegan
  • Not expensive

Cons:

  • Sweetened one contain added sugars
  • Low protein
  • No significant content of vitamins

Pea based milk

Nutrients (per cup):

  1. Calorie: 79g
  2. Carbs: 2g
  3. Protein: 8g
  4. Fat: 4.5g
  5. Fiber: 0g
  6. Sugar: 0g
  7. Sodium: 139mg

Pros

  • Contains high level of calcium, potassium
  • Good source of vitamin D
  • Protein content id high
  • Low calories (70 calories in 1 cup unsweetened milk)

Cons 

  • Lacks in some essential minerals
  • May contain gels and gums.

Hemp Milk:

Nutrients (per cup or 8 ounces)

  1. Calorie: 83
  2. Carbs: 1.3g
  3. Protein: 4.7g
  4. Fat: 7.3g
  5. Calcium: 7% of the DV

Pros:

  • Rich in omega 3
  • Low carb content( 0-2 per serving)
  • Available in forms fortified with vitamin D, B12 and calcium

Cons:

  • Less protein content than cow’s milk
  • May contain sugar ( except unsweetened ones)
  • Not easily available.

Q. Is coconut high in sugar?

Pre-packaged and dried coconut products found in the stores are generally rich in sugar which may increase the blood sugar level in a diabetic.

You will find 34g sugar in 1 cup (93g) of shredded coconut pack whereas fresh unsweetened coconut contains only 5g of it. So, some packaged coconut products are high in sugar. It is better to go for the healthy unsweetened products.

Conclusion

Though diabetes curtails many food items from your diet, coconut milk is not one of them. Coconut itself is a very healthy fruit. And so are the products made from it. But you need to be aware of the added sugar in the processed coconut products.

Other than coconut milk, there a lot other milk options open for you even when you are diabetic. The nutrients available in milk are pretty much helpful for everyone. But admist everything, one thing you need to keep in mind is to check your blood sugar every day. After starting any new milk type, you must monitor your blood sugar after having it. If it fluctuates, it is better to avoid that milk.

I hope today’s article will give you a clear idea about different coconut products along with the other milk options available for the diabetics and help you to fight against your diabetes in a healthy happy way.

I'm a medical student from Bangladesh. Along the path of my life, medical science has always entranced and enticed me through it's continuous advancement. I believe being health conscious and having a wholesome lifestyle should be our utmost priority. Being a medical student, I like to share my opinions and views on different aspects of medical science in order to enlighten people with knowledge and to motivate them to become aware of their own health condition. We all need to remember that health comes first! So, I hope that my work will help out and benefit people and assist them to remain hale and hearty in their daily life. Zahin Ibnat MBBS (3rd year) Armed Forces Medical College, Bangladesh