Coconut Yogurt Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

coconut yogurt

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Coconut "yogurt" is a popular dairy-free alternative. Naturally high in saturated fats, coconut has left consumers and health experts debating whether or not it's a healthy choice. Fortified coconut products have many of the same micronutrients as dairy (including calcium), although the yogurt is not as high in protein. Here's how coconut yogurt stacks up.

Coconut Yogurt Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup of unsweetened coconut yogurt alternative.

  • Calories: 157
  • Fat: 8.6g
  • Sodium: 51mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19.5g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 18.1g
  • Protein: 0.8g

Carbs

Coconut yogurt alternatives have just under 20g of carbohydrate per cup, the majority of which are from sugar. If you choose a flavored or sweetened variety (like vanilla or strawberry) it will likely be even higher in sugar. The canned coconut cream used to make this product is sweetened, providing the majority of carbohydrates.

Fats

Coconut is a naturally high-fat food. A cup of coconut yogurt has 8 to 9g of total fat, the vast majority of which are saturated. Current recommendations advise those high cholesterol or heart disease to minimize their intake of saturated fats and palm oils.

Protein

Unlike dairy yogurt, coconut yogurts are very low in protein, with less than 1g per cup.

Vitamins and Minerals

Coconut yogurts that are fortified will provide many of the same micronutrients as dairy yogurt. A cup of fortified coconut yogurt has 416mg of calcium, the same amount you would find in dairy yogurt. There's also some potassium, zinc, selenium, and B-vitamins.

Health Benefits

Coconut yogurt alternatives can be a healthy dairy-free yogurt option for those who need or choose to avoid dairy products. While Greek yogurt contains less lactose than traditional cow's milk yogurt, many people with lactose intolerance may be more comfortable avoiding it entirely.

Strengthens Bones

Calcium is essential for bone health, especially as bones initially grow and develop in our youth. If you don't eat dairy products, it's still possible to get the calcium you need through fortified dairy alternatives, like coconut yogurt. Check food labels to make sure the product you choose is fortified, as coconut alone is not a significant source of calcium.

Improves Night Vision

Coconut naturally contains several carotenes which serve as precursors to vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and good vision. Furthermore, the high-fat content of coconut makes it easier for your body to absorb vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins. For instance, if you eat coconut yogurt together with pumpkin or mango, you'll absorb more vitamin A from these foods as well.

Reduces Waist Circumference

Visceral fat, or the type of body fat which accumulates around the waist, is associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A clinical trial of 136 participants found that including 13mLs of extra virgin coconut oil within a healthy diet significantly reduced waist circumference. These results support similar findings in other studies suggesting the same benefit.

Improves Dementia Symptoms

There's been a lot of recent interest in the effect of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) on brain health and the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Coconuts are naturally rich in MCT oil.

Digestion of MCTs produces ketone bodies, which are an alternative source of fuel for the brain (versus glucose). Although more research is needed, experimental trials using MCTs have demonstrated cognitive improvements in memory and processing speed for Alzheimer's patients.

May Protect Heart Health

The jury is still out on coconut oil, but most medical organizations advise avoiding coconut oil, especially for heart patients. However, it's worth noting one benefit of coconut is its positive effect on HDL levels. HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, are known as "good cholesterol" because HDL is protective against heart disease.

While coconut oil may raise total cholesterol levels, it helps boost good cholesterol levels along the way. Coconut also contains vitamin E, an antioxidant associated with heart health. Currently, most doctors would not advise increasing your intake of coconut products. Nonetheless, it's possible that the recommendations will change as more studies are conducted.

Allergies

According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, coconut allergies are very rare. But it is possible for a person with another nut allergy to also be allergic to coconut.

Coconut allergy symptoms may be mild, such as hives, rash, or eczema, or more severe including anaphylaxis. Contact dermatitis is most likely. See an allergy specialist if you suspect a coconut allergy. And as always, get medical help immediately if symptoms are severe.

Adverse Effects

Coconut yogurt is a safe choice for the majority of people, especially if you generally follow a heart-healthy meal plan. However, drastically upping your intake of coconut without monitoring the potential impact on your blood cholesterol levels could be risky.

Furthermore, if you replace a significant portion of dairy intake with dairy alternatives like coconut yogurt, it's crucial to make sure you get sufficient calcium from either fortified foods or dietary supplements. See a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you need help putting together a comprehensive meal plan that covers your basic needs.

Varieties

Just like dairy yogurt, there are a variety of coconut yogurt products. You may see fruit-flavored items and those which are modified to have more or less fat content. Looking at the Nutrition Facts Label will help you understand what's in the product you're getting and identify hidden sugars.

Storage and Food Safety

Treat coconut yogurt as you would dairy yogurt. This means you should store it safely in refrigerated temperatures and discard it after the expiration date listed on the product. If you notice an unusual odor or texture, or the product package is broken, it's best to stay on the safe side and discard it.

How to Prepare

It is possible to make your own coconut milk yogurt using a combination of canned coconut milk and powdered probiotics. Some recipes require stovetop cooking or pressure cooking while others do not.

Most recipes call for an activation period where yogurt and bacteria are left out at room temperature (usually about 24 to 48 hours) to allow for fermentation. Preparing yogurt in this fashion requires properly sterilized equipment to prevent the growth of yeast and unwanted bacteria, so proceed with caution.

Use coconut yogurt to prepare a yummy yogurt parfait. You can experiment with coconut yogurt in recipes that use Greek yogurt or enjoy it on its own topped with fruit or nuts.

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Article Sources
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