Checking cholesterol and triglyceride levels is one way of determining risks to cardiovascular health and diet plays an important role in affecting cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body. Although coconut milk contains no cholesterol, its levels of saturated fat and calories may cause some people to have concerns over any cardiovascular health effects of this plant based nutritional drink.
Cholesterol levels in the body are affected by the foods that we eat. In general, saturated fats are known to increase levels of cholesterol and as a consequence many administrations and associations recommend to severely reduce saturated fat intake. But cholesterol levels in the blood are made up of both bad, LDL cholesterol, and good, HDL cholesterol. The bad, LDL cholesterol is involved in the formation of plaque in blood vessel walls that can clog arteries, whereas the good, HDL cholesterol is a measure of cholesterol being removed from the body. At naturally occurring levels, saturated fat can actually decrease an important marker for cardiovascular risk, the Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol ratio. In fact, in 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health published a large meta analysis that suggested there is no effect of saturated fat consumption on coronary heart disease. This Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol ratio can be further improved by eating foods that are high in fiber which can help remove bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut. It is high in calories and saturated fat and so people who have trouble with cholesterol levels often choose to avoid coconut milk, or at least limit its use in their diet because of the recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake.
But it is important to realize that there is more than one type of saturated fat and the main one found in coconut milk is a medium chain fatty acid called lauric acid. Lauric acid is known to raise cholesterol levels only slightly and does so by raising HDL cholesterol which, in turn, helps decrease the Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol ratio, a much better indicator of cardiovascular disease risk than total cholesterol alone which is, in fact, a poor measure of cardiovascular disease risk.
So as long as good, HDL cholesterol levels remain high, the risk of developing cholesterol related cardiovascular disease is low. Similarly, those with low total cholesterol levels can be at risk for cardiovascular disease if LDL cholesterol levels are high and HDL cholesterol levels are low. The lauric acid in coconut milk helps to keep HDL levels high which is desirable to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lauric acid comprises about half of the saturated fat in coconut milk. As well as improving blood cholesterol profiles, this medium chain fatty acid is very effective at fighting off bacterial and viral infections in the body and so is a great addition to anyone’s diet. Like anything however, too much of something can reverse the benefits. Ten to 20 grams of lauric acid per day is considered an appropriate amount which can be obtained from roughly 6 to 12 ounces of good quality coconut milk.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels Medical Meals offers a nutritional supplement, Heart Complete and a cholesterol lowering diet guide that has been clinically proven to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, increase HDL cholesterol, and lower blood pressure levels. Our nutritional success guide is compatible with any diet associated with metabolic syndrome and adheres to the Paleo diet.