Is Coconut Milk Safe During Pregnancy? Are There Benefits?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Coconut has many benefits that help the health of both mother and unborn baby.

You can enjoy the benefits of coconut in the solid flesh, coconut oil, coconut milk, or coconut water.

Coconut milk is safe to drink during pregnancy, as long as it is not a substitute for water. It can safely be used for cooking, too. Coconut milk has a higher fat content than other milk alternatives, which is something to bear in mind when you’re pregnant.

This article deals solely with coconut milk, including its safety during pregnancy.

If you want a guide to drinking coconut water during pregnancy, then you’ll find that here.

If you want to know about eating coconut in general, including coconut oil, yogurt, and in baking and cooking, then you’ll need this article instead.

If you’re here for the details on coconut milk, read on!

Is Coconut Milk Safe During Pregnancy?

Coconut milk comes from blending the white flesh of mature coconuts with water.

It’s not to be confused with coconut water which is inside young green coconuts – and we have a dedicated coconut water article right here.

Coconut milk is safe to drink during pregnancy and safe to use in cooking.

Coconut milk is another source of healthy fat that can decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol) (Source: Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism).

However, due to its high fat content, you should use coconut milk in moderation if you want to use it as an alternative to dairy.

One cup of coconut milk has on average 360 calories and 36 g of fat! (Source: USDA).

When choosing your brand of coconut milk, look for brands that are unsweetened and preferably organic.

Some brands and types that are good quality are:

  • So Delicious (unsweetened)
  • Trader Joe’s (unsweetened original – the new version has carrageenan, which you may wish to avoid)
  • Trader Joe’s canned organic (reduced fat)
  • Native Forest canned organic
  • Natural Value canned organic lite
  • Alpro (unsweetened)
  • Silk (unsweetened)

You may choose to avoid brands that have preservatives and added sugar (look for this on the label).

an open can of coconut milk

Is Canned Coconut Milk Pregnancy-Safe?

Canned coconut milk tends to be used for cooking, whereas carton coconut milk can be used for either cooking or drinking. Both are usually pasteurized and safe during pregnancy.

When buying canned coconut milk, a handy tip is to check the pricing on the ‘light’ vs the ‘normal’ versions.

Light coconut milk may just have more water, in which case it can be more economical to buy the normal version and add water!

Some canned brands contain guar gum, which is safe to consume when pregnant and has even been given to pregnant insulin-dependent diabetic women as part of a study to help improve glycemic control (Source: PubMed).

It may be preferable during pregnancy to avoid cans that have been lined with BPA where you can, as the safety on BPA during pregnancy is still under review (source: NHS).

Powdered Coconut Milk When Pregnant

You can also buy powdered coconut milk, which you combine with hot water to make a ‘thin’ coconut milk.

Some people like to use powdered coconut milk as an alternative to creamer for coffee and other hot drinks.

A similar product is coconut flour, often used in gluten-free baking. This is also OK to have when you’re pregnant.

Popular brands that are fine during pregnancy are:

  • Anthony’s Organic
  • Wildly Organic
  • Z Natural Foods Organic
  • Terrasoul Superfoods Organic
  • KOS Organic
  • Native Forest

Coconut vs Almond Milk in Pregnancy

Some pregnant women wonder if coconut milk is better than almond milk.

Both kinds of milk are fine to drink during pregnancy; the main difference is in their nutritional content and your personal preference.

We have a separate article dedicated to almond milk during pregnancy, too.

Coconut milk has a higher vitamin and mineral content than almond milk, yet almond milk is slightly lower in calories and has almost half the amount of fat.

Almond milk also has protein, whereas coconut milk does not. Coconut milk also has a stronger taste, which you may or may not appreciate.

Coconut milk is also more filling than almond milk because of its fat content.

glasses of fresh coconut milk

Is Coconut Milk Pasteurized?

As with other foods, it’s important to avoid raw, unpasteurized coconut milk while pregnant.

This is because raw, unprocessed coconut supports the growth of salmonellae as well as other bacteria due to contact with contaminated soil.

Raw coconut meat needs to be pasteurized in a water bath of 80 degrees C for 8 to 10 minutes to effectively kill such bacteria, and this method is what the coconut industry now uses for commercial products (Source: NCBI).

Coconut milk, like other commercially-available milks, is pasteurized using UHT. Canned coconut milk is also pasteurized or sterilized.

Some popular brands that are pasteurized and safe during pregnancy are:

  • Pacific Foods (non GMO)
  • Real Coco Organic
  • Aroy-D
  • So Delicious
  • Coconut Dream
  • Silk
  • Alpro

Homemade and Fresh Coconut Milk

You can also buy fresh pressed coconut milk at local juice bars, which is best drunk immediately as it hasn’t been heat-treated or pasteurized.

Coconuts are sterile at the point of opening them, so the only type of unpasteurized coconut milk that is safe during pregnancy is the type that is freshly cracked, made, and consumed straight away.

If you wish to make your own coconut milk, it’s easy to do. Simply blend 2 cups of unsweetened shredded (dried) coconut with double the amount (4 cups) of water. Strain the result through a fine sieve, a nut bag, or a cheesecloth. Voila!

Just be aware that when making your own coconut milk, you need to keep it refrigerated and drink it within 1-2 days.

Is Coconut Cream Safe During Pregnancy?

There are two types of coconut milk: coconut cream (thick coconut milk) and coconut milk (thin coconut milk).

The cream is made by pressing grated coconut pulp through cheesecloth, with no water added.

Coconut cream is safe during pregnancy but bear in mind it is much higher in fat: 20 to 50%, whereas the thinner coconut milk has 5 to 20% fat.

The Benefits of Coconut Milk During Pregnancy

Coconut can have many benefits during pregnancy, and these are covered in more detail in our article on eating coconut when pregnant.

The above article also covers things like coconut oil, dried coconut, and snacking on coconut.

There are also benefits to drinking coconut water (the juice from young coconuts, which is different from coconut milk). You can read all about coconut water during pregnancy here.

Overall, you can get many of coconut’s benefits through consuming coconut milk, but bear the fat content in mind, to avoid the extra calories that can come with using or drinking coconut milk.

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