Dear Dietitian,

I’ve been reading a lot about coconut milk on the internet lately. There are many claims that is good for you and decreases your risk of heart disease. Is this true?

Signed,

Liz

Dear Liz,

Coconut milk is made from pressing the liquid from the meat of a mature coconut. It is popular in the Philippines, parts of Asia, Sri Lanka, and wherever coconut trees are prevalent. There have been many health claims made about coconut milk recently, and while it is true that coconut milk is high in nutrients such as magnesium, iron, and potassium, it is also high in saturated fat, which has been shown to increase cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Certain claims tout that the fat in coconut is lauric acid, a saturated medium-chain fatty acid, that does not raise cholesterol levels. This is only half the truth. Lauric acid comprises only about half the fat content of coconut milk. While the people of Sri Lanka have a diet high in lauric acid and have lower rates of heart disease than Americans, their diets are also higher in fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish than most American diets.

Another fact that cannot be overlooked is calories. Coconut milk packs a considerable 225 calories in one cup (diluted 50% with water) compared to 150 calories in one cup of cow’s whole milk and 130 calories in a cup of soy milk. Therefore, if coconut milk is one of your favorite drinks, by all means, enjoy, but you would be wise to have it as a treat and not a staple part of your diet.

Signed,

Dear Dietitian

Dear Dietitian,

I was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I’m trying to watch my diet, and have cut out most carbs, but if I eat a slice of white bread, my blood sugar goes up to 200! What gives?

Signed,

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

First of all, try to be patient. This is a major lifestyle change, and it cannot be accomplished in a couple of weeks. It will take at least six weeks to become accustomed to the new diet, and it won’t be perfect.

Secondly, there is no need to remove carbs from your diet. Carbs are a great source of energy and are very satisfying. Anyone who has diabetes should be able to consume 12 to 15 servings of carbohydrate foods each day while maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. It is best to choose carbs that contain fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread and high fiber cereals (5 g of fiber or more per serving). Fiber helps us feel full, as well as keeping us regular. Finally, I recommend that you measure the carb foods for one month until able to accurately estimate portion sizes.

Another important component for good diabetes management is to obtain the right medicine to lower your blood glucose levels. My guess is that you need an adjustment in this area. My advice is to make an appointment with an endocrinologist, the expert in diabetes. After all, if you had heart problems, wouldn’t you want to see a heart specialist (cardiologist)?

If you haven’t already, search the internet for a Registered Dietitian (RD) near you to work on a healthy food plan. Congrats on getting on the right track. Good health to you!

Sincerely,

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician