Coconut milk is my all-time favorite dairy alternative. Not only is it rich in saturated fat, but it’s also high in the medium-chain fatty acids that boost metabolism.
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy grass-fed dairy, particularly if it’s been cultured into something delicious like cheese or sour cream. But coconut milk has a rich place in the cuisines of the world, and a valuable place in my own kitchen.
Then one day, I noticed something truly odd: coconut milk in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. Coconut milk doesn’t need to be refrigerated. So, I grabbed the container of So Delicious Coconut Milk from the shelf, turned it to read the ingredients label, and cringed inwardly.
This wasn’t coconut milk! It was a coconut milk like “beverage.”
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
“Made with 100% organic coconuts. Cholesterol-Free. Dairy-Free. Non-GMO Verified. Smooth, refreshing, and naturally energizing with only 80 calories.”
So Delicious Coconut Milk: Ingredients
- ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM),
- ORGANIC DRIED CANE SYRUP,
- CALCIUM PHOSPHATE,
- MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE,
- GUAR GUM,
- XANTHAN GUM,
- VITAMIN A ACETATE,
- VITAMIN D2,
- L-SELENOMETHIONINE (SELENIUM),
- ZINC OXIDE,
- FOLIC ACID,
- VITAMIN B12.
So Delicious Coconut Milk (Original): DECODED
First, I want to clear up some confusion. This is NOT coconut milk.
Organic coconut milk is, of course, what this beverage is all about. It’s made from water and coconut cream, and my only complaint is minor. I simply wish the ratio of cream to water was higher so that the drink could be: 1) higher in the excellent healthy fats coconuts are naturally rich in, 2) naturally creamier, and 3) taste more like coconuts.
Organic dried cane syrup is sugar. It’s not, perhaps, any less refined than table sugar, but at least it’s organic and from sugar cane. The good news? It’s not made from genetically-modified sugar beets, and the organic growing practices mean that it’s better for the environment.
Calcium phosphate and magnesium phosphate, along with vitamin A acetate, vitamin D2, L-selenomethionine, zinc oxide, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are all micronutrients added to mimic the nutrient profile of cow’s milk.
I have never been a fan of synthetic vitamins. Not only are they hard on your liver, but they’re completely unnecessary if you’re eating a wholesome diet rich in real, nutrient-dense food.
As much as I would wish these added vitamins weren’t in this coconut milk drink, they’re not dangerous to the average Food Renegade. However, if you know your liver is already taxed (if, say, you have fatty liver disease, routinely take prescription drugs, or are detoxing for health reasons), then it’s best to avoid them.
Guar Gum and Xanthum Gum are added as emulsifiers. They make the drink creamer without the extra coconut cream. From a food manufacturer’s perspective, that not only saves money (these gums are surely cheaper than extra coconut cream), it also creates a more marketable product (because the general public is still afraid of higher fat foods). If you’re unsure about whether or not to get more fat in your diet it, read: 5 Ways to Get More Fat in Your Diet.
Guar Gum is derived from an actual food — the guar bean. It’s easy to grow and 100% natural. It’s only downside is that some studies show that those who eat a massive amount of the gum (upwards of 21g per day), experience gastrointestinal distress. Most of us will never get this much guar gum in our diets if we’re simply consuming it as a food additive, so we won’t experience any ill effects from it. However, if you’ve got any kind of digestive disorder like SIBO or IBS, you may want to avoid it.
Xanthum Gum is a mostly indigestible polysaccharide that is produced by bacteria fermenting a sugar-containing medium like genetically-modified corn, soy, or wheat. Healthwise, it’s similar to guar gum in that studies indicate it may cause digestive distress in those who are susceptible. Because this coconut milk drink is certified GMO-free, we can be confident that the xanthum gum in it isn’t derived from genetically-modified sources.
So Delicious Coconut Milk (Original): THE VERDICT
Is this a good coconut milk for cooking? No.
Is this a good coconut milk for drinking? Maybe….
I think this beverage is good as a compromise drink, in moderation. I generally dislike drinking sweetened beverages, but sometimes you want something special and while the sugar is questionably “natural” it’s at least GMO-free and organic. I also generally dislike consuming synthetic vitamins, but these are negligible amounts and my family isn’t going to be drinking this beverage every day.
It all boils down to where your comfort levels rest. This is obviously a convenience food and not for everyone.
Would I drink it all the time as a milk substitute? No. Would I drink it sometimes? Offer it to my kids when they want something special to drink? Yes. (In fact, I just bought a pack of it to keep in my pantry for such occasions.)
Am I recommending that you drink it? No.
After all, if you’ve got any kind of digestive problems, this coconut milk beverage made with xanthum and guar gums may cause you more stomach upset. If you’ve got any kind of liver problems, the fortification with synthetic vitamins may interfere with your detox process.
And, to be honest, you may simply not enjoy the taste. It’s not nearly as creamy or nutrient-rich as plain old coconut milk. And, it’s rather expensive when you consider that you can make a similarly drinkable coconut milk at home for far less.
I consider this APPROVED, but with a lot of caveats.
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!