Some of the health benefits of coconut milk in baby food include good source of vitamins and minerals, supply of essential fats, removes nutritional deficiency, possesses antimicrobial properties and anthelmintic properties, acts as a remedy for cholera and can be used as an alternative in case of lactose intolerance for older babies and infants.
Coconut milk is the juice that is obtained by grating and squeeze-filtering fresh coconut flesh along with coconut water. The liquid thus obtained has a consistency of milk, it is therefore called as coconut milk.
Coconut milk has been obtained and used for many centuries now. It is mainly used in Southeast Asian tropical countries where coconut trees are found in plenty of numbers. Coconut milk is popular in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, China, India, Sri Lanka and in other Asia-pacific as well as American-pacific islands, etc. Coconut milk is added in most of the cuisines from the above mentioned countries. Coconut milk is added not just to exotic or occasional dishes, but to regular dishes, on a daily basis as well.
Coconut milk is different from coconut water, though they have identical properties. The only big difference between coconut milk and water is that coconut water does not contain any fat, where as coconut milk contains fat that has been extracted from the fresh coconut meat. The fat found in coconut milk is very beneficial fat, just like the fat found in coconut oil.
Nutrition of coconut milk
According to the National Nutrient Database, from the US Department of Agriculture, the nutrition of coconut milk is as follows
|Nutrition Component||Value per 100 g||Nutrition Component||Value per 100 g|
|Water||67.6 g||Energy||230 kcal|
|Protein||2.29 g||Total Lipid||23. 84 g|
|Iron||1.64 mg||Magnesium||37 mg|
|Phosphorous||100 mg||Potassium||263 mg|
|Sodium||15 mg||Zinc||0.67 mg|
|Selenium||6.2 ug||Vitamin C||2.8 mg|
|Pantothenic Acid||0.18 mg||Vitamin B 6||0.03 mg|
|Folate||16 ug||Vitamin E||0.15 mg|
Can coconut milk be given to babies?
Yes, coconut milk can be given to babies. Lot of people mistake coconut to be a nut and think that as a nut coconut can also induce allergies. This is a wrong notion. Coconut belongs to palm family and not tree nut family. And coconut milk is actually not milk. It is just coconut water which has the goodness of the coconut flesh in it. If a baby can be given coconut water, then surely he or she can be given coconut milk as well. The right age for giving coconut milk is between the ages of 6-8 months. (Bernard, 1998 Health Through Scientific Nutrition, pp 23).
Health benefits of coconut milk for babies
Here are some of the health benefits of coconut milk for babies.
The health benefits of coconut milk are similar to coconut water, which has been covered in one of our previous articles.
Good source of essential vitamins and minerals: Coconut milk can be a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. These include iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, etc along with vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate and vitamin E. These minerals and vitamins are vital for your baby’s overall development.
Good source of fats: Apart from essential vitamins and minerals, coconut milk is also a good source of fats, good fats. These good fats are essential for your baby’s brain development.
Eliminates nutritional deficiency: Coconut milk which is full of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals is ideal for infants and toddlers who suffer from malnutrition. In the recent times, it has been noted that malnutrition exists in infants belonging to developed nations as well. So, those parents, who want to eliminate nutritional deficiency in their babies, coconut milk is a very good choice for them. (Bakhru, Foods That Heal, pp 186).
Antimicrobial properties: Coconut milk which has considerable amounts of fats and lipids possesses antimicrobial properties. These lipids can fight against viruses and bacteria. In our previous article on coconut water, we’ve mentioned that coconut water possesses antimicrobial properties. As coconut milk’s main constituent is coconut water, naturally the antimicrobial properties are also present in coconut milk as well.
Kills intestinal worms: Coconut milk can also be used to kill intestinal worms. Infants and toddlers who play around the whole day are vulnerable to worm infestations. Due to their weaker immune system and not-so strong gastric acids, it will be easy for the eggs of these worms to pass through the stomach and settle in small intestine and colon. By giving coconut water and coconut milk regularly, you can remove these worms.
Remedy for cholera: Just like coconut water, coconut milk can also act as a good remedy for cholera. Add a teaspoon of fresh lime juice to a glass of coconut milk and give it to your baby regularly, for easy recovery from cholera.
Good alternative in case of milk allergy: If your baby has cow milk allergy, you can think of giving him coconut milk. Coconut milk is very much consistent with cow milk in its texture and nutrition, without the allergy.
Measures to be taken while giving coconut milk
Here are some of the measures that can be taken while giving coconut milk to your babies.
Storage of homemade coconut milk: Coconut milk made at home can be stored in refrigerator for a maximum of one week. Use it within a week for better results, as this homemade coconut milk does not contain any preservatives. If the fat gets separated from the liquid, just shake the milk and it is ready to use. Storing for more than a week can spoil the taste, flavor and texture.
Better to stay away from commercial preparations: Some of the commercial preparations of coconut milk are known to contain traces of chemicals used to preserve. These chemicals along with some spoiled batches of coconut milk can make matters worse. So, to avoid such issues, it is better to stay away from commercial preparations.
Add in small quantities: You can add this milk in small quantities to your homemade baby food such as mashed vegetables that you give to your baby without storing. Do not this milk to those vegetable purees that you want to store in refrigerator, as you might be using stored coconut milk in the purees.
Check for coconut allergies: Coconut is not a part of the tree nut family and is part of the palm tree family. Thus, the chances of coconut allergies are reduced. The recent addition of coconuts in tree nut family purely has to do with its commercial classification of food products and medicines that contain nuts. So, don’t worry that if your baby has tree nut allergies, he or she might not have coconut allergy. Just confirm it with your pediatrician, who can tell you whether or not your child actually has coconut allergy.
Not a good source of calcium: Coconut milk is not a good source of calcium and hence, avoid coconut milk in case your baby needs calcium.