Coconut Milk Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 08/12/22 •  11 min read

What are coconut milk benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are coconut milk pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

coconut milk benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on coconut milk benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about coconut milk benefits and side effects. This will include coconut milk benefits for your health and potential risks, coconut milk water footprint and carbon footprint, sustainability, if coconut milk is vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if coconut milk is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about coconut milk benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Top Coconut Milk Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Coconut milk health benefits may include:

Additionally, coconut milk is…

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Environment

Water footprint: likely moderate, it takes 2,687 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of coconuts / 322 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of coconuts

Carbon footprint: likely moderate, 2.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coconuts, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers

Destruction: moderate, coconut milk production is relatively sustainable, there is no significant damage to air or water but land, soil and forests may be affected, growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides, and coconuts are harvested by hand, instead of by tractor, however monoculture farming is an issue where coconuts are grown, this means deforestation and farmers replacing native plants and biodiversity to meet the demand for coconuts, can reduce soil quality and ultimately lead farmers to use chemical fertilizers to boost their productivity *be sure to buy organic and sustainably sourced coconut products

Coconut milk is…

Animals

Kills: none, coconut milk production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, coconut milk production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly killed or harmed: possibly monkeys, in some regions of the world (notably Thailand) monkeys are intentionally bred and trained to harvest coconuts, they may be punished, are always tethered to their handler and are not permitted to eat the coconuts they collect, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Coconut milk is…

Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Coconut milk…

The world’s top coconut producing country is Indonesia, followed by Philippines and India.

The world’s top coconut milk exporting country is USA, followed by Germany, Singapore, UK, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, China and Hong Kong.

Coconut milk is high in vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6 as well as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and potassium.

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coconut milk is likely acidic.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

Is coconut milk alkaline or acidic?

Coconut milk is likely acidic since it is processed and other plant based milks are mildly acidic.

Coconut yogurt is acidic if sugar has been added. Additionally, most processed foods are acidic. Since coconut is alkaline and diary yogurt is acidic, the dairy-free coconut yogurt alternative is likely to be less acidic than yogurt made with cow’s milk.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

coconut milk is gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Is coconut milk gluten free?

Yes, pure coconut milk is gluten free. Coconuts do not contain gluten.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

coconut milk is not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is coconut milk a common food allergen?

No, coconuts are not a common food allergen. Coconuts are drupes, not actual nuts. Some people may experience allergic reactions to coconuts but it is not one of the big 8 food allergens.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

coconut milk likely has a moderate water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Does coconut milk have a high or low water footprint?

Coconut milk likely has a moderate water footprint compared to other foods and beverages.

What is the water footprint of coconuts?

It takes 2,687 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of coconuts / 322 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of coconuts.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource? Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

coconut milk likely has a moderate carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does coconut milk have a high or low carbon footprint?

Coconut milk likely has a moderate carbon footprint.

What is the carbon footprint of coconuts?

It takes around 2.1 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of coconuts, a car driving equivalent of 5 miles or 8 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating product emissions, some factors that may be included are… farm equipment, animal feed production, hothouses (greenhouses), food processing, packaging, transport, refrigeration, freezing, package waste, and more.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

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coconut milk is sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is coconut milk eco friendly? Is coconut milk sustainable? Coconut milk is moderately sustainable.

There is no significant damage to air or water but land, soil and forests may be affected. Growing coconuts doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides and coconuts are harvested by hand, instead of by tractor. However, monoculture farming is an issue where coconuts are grown, which means deforestation and farmers who replace native plants and biodiversity to meet the demand for coconuts. This can reduce soil quality and ultimately lead farmers to use chemical fertilizers to boost their productivity. Be sure to buy organic and sustainably sourced coconut products.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’

coconut milk is vegan but monkeys may be used to harvest coconuts.

monkeys used in the food industry for coconut harvesting

Is coconut milk vegan?

Yes, coconut milk is vegan. Pure coconut milk is from the grated pulp of mature coconuts and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. However, in Thailand and some other countries monkeys are used to harvest coconuts.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

coconut milk is a product that may or may not have labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is coconut milk a product that has labor issues?

At this time, there are no specific reports of worker mistreatment regarding coconut farming but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Coconuts may or may not have labor issues.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade.

Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade

Sources:

coconut milk – FoodData Central – USDA

Monkeys Chained, Abused for Coconut Milk – PETA …

Antioxidant and Nutritional Properties of Domestic and Commercial Coconut Milk Preparations

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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