Those who do not want dairy (such as vegans) or are allowed (people with lactose intolerance or cow's milk allergy) can switch to alternatives, such as coconut. How healthy are coconut products and how healthy is it as a dairy substitute?
Coconut has acquired a healthy image in recent years. According to Astrid Postma of the Voedingscentrum, that is unjustified. "Some people may have read something about coconut milk or yogurt and think: that seems good and healthy to me! But that is disappointing."
Breakfast with oatmeal porridge made with coconut milk, lunch with coconut cheese and ordering a cappuccino with coconut milk: it is all possible. But naturally there are not so many nutrients in the coconut, Postma says. "If a dairy alternative is made from coconut, calcium and vitamin B12 are often added, which makes dairy healthy, but usually no proteins."
A lot of saturated fat in coconut products
In addition to a low protein content, there is another snag: all coconut products contain a lot of saturated fat. You should not get too much of that because it increases your cholesterol level, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Postma: "Coconut fat contains more saturated fat than butter, coconut milk more than milk and coconut cheese more than cheese. For example, coconut yogurt contains 16 grams of saturated fats per 100 grams, while whole yogurt contains only 3 grams."
That is why it is not such a good idea to use a lot of coconut products, Postma concludes. "If you are not intolerant of lactose, you better take dairy. That's healthier."
Titia van der Stelt, dietician and expert at the I'm a Foodie nutrition platform, would certainly not recommend coconut products as substitutes for dairy. "It contains a lot of saturated fats and calories."
Van der Stelt discusses coconut products that are often used as an alternative to dairy:
- Coconut milk (drink). "Coconut milk from a can is a pure, fat coconut product," says dietitian Van der Stelt. There is also coconut milk drink. Calcium and B12 have been added. But it is not comparable to a glass of milk, because it contains no proteins. "
- Coconut yogurt. "This product often only contains a few grams of protein. In the variant of a well-known supermarket that I now have before me, B12 and calcium are not added. It is also very fat. It is anything but an alternative to dairy, it is a completely different product. "
- Coconut cheese. "Coconut cheese is actually pressed coconut fat with a taste. I see that this product contains 23 grams of fat, 21 grams of which are saturated. It also contains a lot of salt, 2.3 grams, to get a little taste in it. B12 in, but no calcium and proteins. I would not actively recommend this product. "
The coconut is full of saturated fat. (Photo: 123RF)
More proteins in soy
As an alternative to dairy, it is better to use soy products, advises Van der Stelt. "There are proteins in it. Make sure it contains B12 and calcium and no other unnecessary additives, such as sugar. Rice and oat milk products, which can also be suggested as alternatives, contain fewer proteins than soy."
An advantage of coconut is that the fruit contains potassium and iron. Postma: "It's better to get the potassium from fruit and vegetables and the iron from nuts and beans. Then you don't have those saturated fats."