Is coconut milk yogurt alternative good for you?

Coconut milk yogurt has become a popular dairy-free alternative to traditional yogurt made from cow’s milk. With the rise of veganism and concerns about lactose intolerance, many people are looking for plant-based yogurt options. But is coconut milk yogurt actually a healthy choice?

What is coconut milk yogurt?

Coconut milk yogurt is made by fermenting coconut milk, usually with live active cultures added. This gives it a similar tangy, creamy texture to traditional yogurt. However, since coconut milk comes from coconuts rather than cows, it is completely dairy-free. Most brands will also add thickening agents like pectin or starch to achieve the right consistency.

Coconut milk yogurt can be found in a wide variety of flavors, including plain, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, and mango. It is sold in cups or drinkable bottles and can be used as a substitute for dairy yogurt in many recipes. Some people even use coconut milk yogurt to make smoothies or chia pudding.

Nutritional profile of coconut milk yogurt

Here is the basic nutrition information for a 6 oz serving of plain, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt:

  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 12g
  • Saturated fat: 10g
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Calcium: 10% DV
  • Vitamin D: 25% DV (if fortified)
  • Potassium: 3% DV

The nutritional profile can vary between brands based on factors like added sugars, fortification, and thickeners used.

Pros of coconut milk yogurt nutrition

  • Contains healthy fats – Coconut milk is high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have been linked to increased fat burning and weight loss.
  • Lower in sugar – Plain coconut milk yogurt is lower in naturally occurring sugars than traditional yogurt.
  • Plant-based – Suitable for vegan or vegetarian diets.
  • Lactose-free – Does not contain lactose, making it suitable for those with dairy sensitivities.
  • Provides probiotics – Often contains live cultures like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium species that support gut health.
  • Can be nutritionally fortified – Many brands enrich coconut milk yogurt with vitamins like D, B12 and minerals like calcium.

Cons of coconut milk yogurt nutrition

  • Higher in fat – Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, which should be limited in the diet.
  • Lower in protein – Contains only about 1 gram of protein per serving versus 9 grams in traditional yogurt.
  • Added sugars – Flavored varieties can be high in added sugars.
  • Lacks micronutrients – Does not contain the same micronutrients as dairy-based yogurt.
  • Contains fillers – Often includes thickeners and stabilizers.

Overall, while coconut milk yogurt does contain some beneficial nutrients and healthy fats, it lacks the protein and micronutrients of cow’s milk yogurt. It is also relatively high in saturated fat if eaten in large amounts.

Health benefits of coconut milk yogurt

Here are some of the top evidence-based health benefits associated with coconut milk yogurt:

1. Rich in healthy fats

The predominant type of fat found in coconut milk is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike long chain fatty acids, MCTs are metabolized differently in the body. They are taken directly to the liver where they are either used for energy or converted into ketones. Some research shows MCTs may have benefits like:

  • Increased energy expenditure and fat burning
  • Lowered cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Reduced hunger and food intake
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Antimicrobial and antiviral properties

However, there is controversy over whether the high saturated fat content in coconut milk negates its potential benefits. More research is needed on what intake level optimizes its effects.

2. May support gut health

Most coconut milk yogurts contain probiotic cultures. Probiotics are beneficial strains of live bacteria that can improve digestive health when consumed. Potential effects may include:

  • Enhanced immune function
  • Better digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Improved elimination and reduced constipation
  • Protection against inflammation, pathogens, and infection

Intake of fermented foods containing probiotics may also help increase the diversity of microbiome. However, the efficacy can vary based on the strains and dosage of probiotics.

3. Dairy-free

Coconut milk yogurt provides a suitable dairy-free, vegan substitute for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. Lactose intolerance affects up to 75% percent of adults worldwide. People who avoid dairy require non-dairy sources of nutrients like protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins B12 and D. Coconut milk yogurt can help fill some of those nutritional gaps.

4. Low glycemic index

Foods with a low glycemic index have a slower, more gradual effect on blood sugar levels. Studies show coconut products, including coconut milk, generally have a lower glycemic index than other fruits. This may make coconut yogurt a better choice for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes compared to yogurts made with high glycemic foods like fruit.

Downsides and risks of coconut milk yogurt

While coconut milk yogurt does have some nutritional upsides, there are also a few downsides to consider:

1. High in saturated fat

The biggest concern with coconut yogurt is its high saturated fat content. The predominant type of fat found in coconut milk is saturated fat. In a 6 oz serving there are 10 grams of saturated fat, which is half of the recommended daily limit.

Diets high in saturated fats from red meat, dairy and coconut have been associated with increased LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Some organizations recommend limiting coconut milk and coconut oil due to this concern.

2. Lacks protein

Traditional dairy yogurt is a high protein food, providing about 9 grams per serving. It is an especially good source of casein protein. However, a serving of coconut milk yogurt contains only about 1 gram of plant-based protein.

Higher protein diets have been associated with increased satiety after eating, preserved muscle mass, improved body composition, and lower cardiometabolic risk. Those who switch from dairy to coconut yogurt may need to increase plant-based protein intake from other sources.

3. Often high in added sugar

Many flavored varieties of coconut milk yogurt contain added sugars to enhance the taste. For example, a 6 oz serving of vanilla coconut milk yogurt can contain up to 14 grams of added sugar. High intake of added sugar has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and tooth decay.

To limit added sugar intake from coconut milk yogurt, choose plain, unsweetened varieties or sweeten it yourself with fresh fruit.

4. Lower in calcium

Dairy yogurt is a good source of calcium, providing about 30% of the daily value per serving. Calcium is essential for bone health. Coconut milk is not a significant source of calcium, containing just 1% DV. Many brands fortify coconut yogurt with calcium to help increase intake for those avoiding dairy. But levels may still be lower compared to cow’s milk yogurt.

5. Contains fillers

In order to achieve the thick, spoonable consistency of yogurt, coconut milk yogurt relies on thickeners and stabilizers. Guar gum, locust bean gum, pectin, starch or xanthan gum are often added. These food additives are considered safe by food safety authorities in small amounts.

However, there are concerns that large intakes may cause issues like flatulence, bloating and diarrhea. Those with sensitivities to FODMAPs may want to check labels for these additives.

Coconut milk yogurt vs. dairy yogurt

Here is a nutritional comparison between a 6 ounce serving of unsweetened coconut milk yogurt and non-fat plain Greek yogurt:

Coconut milk yogurt Non-fat Greek yogurt
Calories 140 100
Fat 12g 0g
Saturated fat 10g 0g
Protein 1g 18g
Carbs 4g 6g
Calcium 10% DV 15% DV
Sodium 45mg 50mg

As you can see, coconut yogurt contains more calories and over 10 times more fat and saturated fat compared to non-fat dairy yogurt. It is also significantly lower in protein and calcium. However, it contains no cholesterol and is suitable for plant-based diets.

How to incorporate coconut yogurt into your diet

Here are some tips for enjoying coconut milk yogurt as part of a healthy diet:

1. Choose unsweetened

Select plain, unsweetened coconut yogurt whenever possible. Avoid brands with added sugars or artificial sweeteners which are unhealthy in high amounts.

2. Watch your portion sizes

Stick to a single serving size around 3/4 cup or 6 ounces. Larger portions will increase your saturated fat and calorie intake.

3. Sweeten with fruit instead

For a touch of natural sweetness, add fresh berries, chopped fruit, or pureed banana to plain coconut yogurt instead of sugary flavors.

4. Use it to replace dairy yogurt

Swap coconut yogurt in a 1:1 ratio for dairy yogurt called for in smoothies, chia pudding, parfaits, or dressing recipes.

5. Combine with nuts, seeds, or granola

Boost the nutrition by topping coconut yogurt with healthy add-ins like walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, or low-sugar granola.

6. Pair with high-protein foods

Since it’s low in protein, enjoy coconut yogurt alongside high protein foods like nuts, chickpeas, tofu or eggs to balance your meal.


Coconut milk yogurt provides an acceptable dairy-free substitute for those avoiding animal products or lactose. It is lower in sugar than fruit-based yogurts, and may offer probiotics. However, it is lacking in protein compared to dairy yogurt. Coconut yogurt is also relatively high in saturated fat if eaten in large amounts.

Overall, coconut milk yogurt can be part of a healthy diet, but portion sizes should be monitored. To maximize nutrition, consume it alongside other high-protein foods and limit added sugars by choosing unsweetened varieties.

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