Is There a Difference between Coconut Milk and Oil?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between coconut milk and oil, but the two are separate and distinct creations, each made in a different way. They also boast different uses, possess different nutrients, and are employed in a variety of ways from food-based uses to health and beauty applications.

Differences in Creation

Although it would be easy to guess coconut milk is made of the liquid that comes from inside a coconut, that assumption would be incorrect. Coconut milk is actually created from the shell of the coconut by pressing the white flesh of the coconut with hot water. The resulting creation is a white liquid that quite closely resembles cow’s milk.

To create coconut oil, the process involves separating the oil from a mixture of coconut milk and water (coconut water is the liquid inside a coconut). This can be accomplished through a variety of methods like natural fermentation, which involves allowing the oil to separate naturally from the milk over the course of a single day. Another method involves heat and a stove-top to evaporate all but the oil from the mixture.

Differences in Nutrients

All the nutrients present in an untouched coconut are retained in coconut milk. Components such as sugars (or carbohydrates), protein and fat all remain in coconut milk. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is missing its sugars and proteins, with labels on coconut oil for human consumption often showing zero carbohydrates and proteins.

One of the most notable differences between the two is the amount of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) present in each. MCFAs have long been popular in the bodybuilding community as an ingredient that provides assistance in low-carbohydrate diets, and some studies have suggested that MCFAs can assist in burning calories (although research is still being conducted in this area). Coconut oil traditionally contains a more dense allocation of MCFA than coconut milk.

Health Benefits

Although it has often been vilified as an unhealthy source of saturated fat, there has been a recent and popular growing acceptance of the health benefits of coconut oil by nutritionists and dietitians. Research has suggested that the very dense chemical composition of saturated fat in coconut oil disallows the formation of free radicals, which age the body.

Uses of Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk

Unrefined coconut oil has a variety of uses and can act as a fighter of bacteria on the skin when used as a skin moisturizer. Coconut oil can also be used on the hair and scalp as a conditioner. In addition, coconut oil can serve as a pseudo bandage on cuts and scrapes by providing a thin layer to protect the wound from external contaminants like bacteria and dirt.

Coconut oil can also be used in most recipes which call for oil and in addition can be used as an interesting addition to smoothies and shakes. Like coconut oil, coconut milk can also be used in a variety of food recipes and can generally be substituted in any recipe that calls for milk. Coconut milk can also be used as a skin conditioner with several major health and beauty manufacturers offering exfoliating scrubs and moisturizers containing coconut milk.


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