Coconut Milk vs. Cow’s Milk

coconut milk vs. cow's milk

What’s in coconut milk?

When comparing the relative merits of food products it is sometimes helpful to know exactly what is in each product. Most countries make it the law that food companies stipulate the ingredients of their products to allow the consumer to know exactly what they are buying.

This post will make a comparison between cow’s milk and coconut milk. This will help to give a scientific foundation for the assertions made as to the health benefits of coconut milk made on this website. Many people are of the belief that dairy products and milk in particular cannot be substituted for a vegan alternative because such alternatives lack the vitamins or minerals necessary for life, and especially for the healthy development of children.

Breakdown of 100 grams of coconut milk:

Calories – 230
Proteins – 2.3 g
Fat – 23.8g
Carbohydrates – 5.5 g
Dietary fiber – 2.3 g
Sugar – 3.35 g
Vitamin C – 2.8 mg
Vitamin E – 0.15 mg
Vitamin B1 – 0.026 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.033 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – 0.183 mg
Folate – 16 mcg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – 0.76 mg
Iron – 1.64 mg
Selenium – 6.2 mcg
Sodium – 15 mg
Calcium – 16 mg
Magnesium – 37 mg
Phosphorus – 100 mg
Potassium – 260 mg

Wikipedia’s breakdown of 100 grams of typical cow’s milk:

Water          87.8g
Protein      3.2g
Fat         3.9g
Carbohydrate     4.8g
Energy          66 kcal
Energy          275 kJ
Sugars (lactose)    4.8g
Cholesterol     14 mg
Calcium     120mg
Saturated fatty acids      2.4g
Monounsaturated fatty acids      1.1g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids      0.1g

Analysis – protein and calcium

Cow’s milk contains more protein and calcium than coconut milk. However, both are suitable sources of both protein and calcium for a growing child, or for that matter an adult.

From the comparison so far cow’s milk seems to be coming out on top. What is interesting is if we now take a look at the minerals and vitamins found in cow’s milk.

The following list is for 100 grams of semi-pasteurized milk:

Sodium          43mg
Potassium    156mg
Calcium     120mg
Magnesium     11mg
Phosphorus     94mg
Iron        0.02mg
Zinc        0.4mg
Chloride     87mg
Manganese     Trace
Selenium     1µg
Iodine      30µg
Retinol     19µg
Carotene     9µg
Vitamin D     Trace
Vitamin E     0.04mg
Thiamin     0.03mg
Riboflavin     0.24mg
Niacin      0.1mg
Vitamin B6     0.06mg
Vitamin B12     0.9µg
Folate             9µg
Pantothenate     0.68mg
Biotin             3.0µg
Vitamin C (mg)    2mg

NB. µg is 1 millionth of a gram: in other words a very small amount.

Analysis of vitamins and minerals in coconut milk and cow’s milk

Coconut milk has more vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B3 (niacin) than cow’s milk. In terms of minerals coconut milk has more phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron and magnesium. Coconut milk is much lower in sodium than cow’s milk (this is a good thing).

Cow’s milk has more vitamin B6 and vitamin B5 than coconut milk. In most other respects cow’s milk is inferior to coconut milk in terms of the mineral and vitamin breakdown.

As Wikipedia points out, modern Western civilization is unusual in continuing the consumption of milk after the period of breast feeding is over. This is prolonged through taking dairy products, especially cow’s milk. As we get older the enzyme, lactase, needed to breakdown the lactose found in cow’s milk and mother’s milk declines. This decline is only halted by the continual consumption of lactose containing milk. So if you have a break between mother’s milk and drinking cow’s milk there is a good chance that you will develop lactose intolerance.

Another point worth making is that both cow’s milk and coconut milk are high in saturated fat. The key difference is that coconut milk contains saturated fat that is mostly composed of medium chain fatty acids that are readily metabolized by the body. The saturated fat in cow’s milk contains a lot of long chain fatty acids that in comparison that are not readily broken down by the body and turned to energy.

Finally, as this website has pointed out a number of times. Coconut milk and coconut oil contains lauric acid the same as mother’s milk. The only other natural product that contains significant amount of lauric acid is palm oil. Lauric acid is responsible for making mother’s milk capable of protecting an infant from viral, protozoal, fungal and bacterial infection. Coconut milk can provide the same protection for adults. This alone makes coconut milk superior to cow’s milk.


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