While you may find regular coconut to be a beneficial addition to your recipes, the flavorful fluid has some nutritional drawbacks -- it's quite high in calories and fat. However, if you want to retain some of the flavor without the fattening aspects, you can use light canned coconut milk as an alternative. This type of coconut milk is more diet-friendly, but it isn't a robust source of nutrition, as it lacks vitamins and minerals.
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Light canned coconut milk is relatively low in calories, as a 1/4 cup serving of this milk contains 40 calories. This amount is the same as a 1/4 cup of whole dairy milk supplies, although it is much lower in calories than a 1/4 cup of regular coconut milk, which provides 142 calories. Thus, using light canned coconut milk instead of regular coconut milk can be beneficial for dieting.
Coconut milk tends to be high in calories due to the high fat content of the milk. As the name suggests, light canned coconut milk is not too high in fat; each 1/4 cup contains 4 g. However, all of this fat comes from saturated fat, a type of fat that may increase your risk of heart disease, as it can cause an increase in cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, limiting daily saturated fat intake to less than 16 g may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Unlike dairy milk, coconut milk is not a rich source of protein. Each 1/4 cup of light canned coconut milk contains just 1 g of protein. Consuming protein is vital for your health, as it promotes the building and repair of your body's cells and tissues.
If you're looking for a low-carbohydrate alternative to dairy milk, light canned coconut milk can be a good choice, as each 1/4 cup contains just 1 g of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your body's primary fuel source, but research from the July 2008 issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine" indicates that low-carbohydrate diets can be more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets.
Vitamins and Minerals
While dairy milk provides calcium and some other vitamins, light canned coconut milk is not a rich source of such nutrients. A 1/4 cup serving provides 2 percent of the daily suggested intake of iron, but the milk is not a significant source of other vitamins and minerals.
One drawback of dairy milk is that such beverages contain cholesterol. Light canned coconut milk, as well as regular coconut milk, contain no cholesterol.