While coconut cream does have certain redeeming nutritional qualities, such as small doses of fiber, iron and potassium, it also contains a large amount of fat, almost all of it saturated. Eating a small serving of coconut cream every once in a while probably won't cause you to gain any weight, but regularly including it in your diet can contribute to weight gain.
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Coconut Cream 101
Coconut cream is not to be confused with coconut milk. The cream is made from 4 parts coconut meat and 1 part water, which yields a rich and creamy concoction that can be used in any number of recipes, including baked goods, casseroles and soups. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is made from equal parts coconut and water, which means it's lower in fat and calories than coconut cream. Sweetened cream of coconut is slightly different than coconut cream, and it's used primarily in baking, according to the Food.com Kitchen Dictionary.
Raw Coconut Cream
Raw coconut cream, which is available canned on a year-round basis, contains 50 calories and 5.2 grams of fat per tablespoon. Of these 5.2 grams, 4.6 grams are saturated. While the fat in raw coconut cream won't automatically equal weight gain, it can contribute. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a diet high in saturated fat can lead to weight gain because high-fat foods are also high in calories. A diet high in saturated fat can also increase your cholesterol levels, which puts you at a higher risk for heart disease even if you don't gain any weight by eating it.
Sweetened Coconut Cream
Sweetened coconut cream, which comes canned and is available throughout the year, contains 68 calories and 3.1 grams of fat per tablespoon. Of these 3.1 grams of fat, 2.9 grams are saturated. While the sweetened coconut cream might appear to be the healthier choice compared to raw coconut cream, looks can be deceiving. Yes, sweetened coconut cream is lower in saturated fat than raw coconut cream, but it's also higher in sugar, which is why it contains more calories. A tablespoon of sweetened coconut milk contains about 9.8 grams of sugar. A diet high in sugar is fattening because all those calories in the sugar can cause you to take in more calories than you're able to burn, and that leads to weight gain.
Make It Less Fattening
If you enjoy the flavor of coconut cream, use a light version. These are lower in fat and calories than traditional versions and supply a similar taste and texture. Many large supermarkets stock the light versions next to the traditional versions of coconut cream. Even if you use full-fat versions, you don't need much to lend your foods a coconut flavor. Coconut cream has a bold coconut taste, so a tablespoon is likely all you need per serving anyway.
- Kitchen Dictionary: Coconut Milk or Cream
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nuts, Coconut Cream, Raw (Liquid Expressed From Grated Meat)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nuts, Coconut Cream, Canned, Sweetened
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, in With the Good
- Harvard School of Public Health: Added Sugar in the Diet