Coconut milk and coconut oil are both derived from the meat of a coconut. Coconut milk is made by soaking the grated flesh of the coconut in hot water, skimming off the cream and straining the remaining liquid through cheese cloth. The coconut milk becomes less viscous when the steps are repeated. Unrefined coconut oil is made by either drying out the coconut flesh and mechanically pressing the oil out or by the wet milling method, which can be achieved through processes such as refrigeration, boiling or fermentation. Refined coconut oil is derived from purified copra -- dried coconut flesh -- by a variety of methods, such as using chemical solvents.
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Coconut Milk Benefits
Coconut milk is full of nutrition, including vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6. It is also packed with minerals, such as calcium and selenium. One tablespoon of canned coconut milk also has 7 milligrams of magnesium. The lauric acid present in coconut milk converts to monolaurin in the body. Jo Lewin, a nutritional therapist, explains in a “BBC Good Food” article that monolaurin is an antibacterial and antiviral substance that helps eradicate disease-causing organisms in the body. Coconut milk should be used in moderation because of its high fat content. One tablespoon of coconut milk has 3.2 grams of fat.
Coconut Milk Uses
Coconut milk is an excellent dairy replacement for vegans or people who experience lactose intolerance. The thick cream derived from coconut can be used for an assortment of desserts. Try blending coconut milk with frozen bananas for a cold treat on a warm day. Coconut milk can also be used as a base for soups or curry dishes. Use coconut milk in smoothies, milkshakes or as a milk substitute in baking recipes.
Coconut Oil Benefits
Like coconut milk, coconut oil also contains lauric acid. Also, consuming coconut oil regularly can help lower your cholesterol and balance your cholesterol levels. Coconut oil may also help with weight-loss efforts. A study published in “Lipids” found that women reduced their abdominal fat after consuming about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day for 12 weeks. Coconut oil is also loaded with antioxidants, which have health benefits ranging from anti-aging to cardiovascular health. The antioxidants in coconut oil -- particularly vitamin E -- act as a moisturizer for skin and hair when applied topically. Coconut oil should also be used in moderation when ingesting it -- one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 13.6 grams of fat.
Coconut Oil Uses
Coconut oil can be used a variety of different ways in the kitchen. Unrefined coconut oil has a robust coconut flavor and aroma. Refined coconut oil is another, more neutral, option. Try melting coconut oil and pouring it over popcorn with a pinch of salt as a replacement for butter. Coconut oil can also replace other cooking oils, as it withstands high heats. Saute vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions and broccoli, in coconut oil along with your favorite spices to create a mouthwatering stir fry meal. Refined coconut oil works best for frying as it can withstand cooking temperatures up to 450 degrees, while unrefined coconut oil withstands temperatures up to 350 degrees.