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The Paleo Diet and Coconut Milk

By Mike Samuels

Finding fat sources on the paleo diet shouldn't be a difficult task. The idea of paleo is to eat like your cavemen ancestors did, which means that meats, fish and nuts are staple foods on the plan. If you're looking for an alternative fat source, coconut milk may fit the bill, though there is some controversy over whether it is truly paleo or not.

The Problem With Milk

The paleo diet -- also known as the primal diet -- bans grains, beans and legumes, and processed food, but allows large quantities of fruits, vegetables and animal products. The one exception to this is dairy. Foods like milk, cottage cheese and yogurt are fine in small quantities, provided they come from high-fat, raw, natural sources and you can tolerate them, notes nutritionist and paleo advocate Mark Sisson. In the United States, however, most states prohibit the sale of raw dairy, so you may need to find alternatives. One such alternative to regular milk could be coconut milk.

Coconut Milk Conundrum

The liquid that comes straight from the coconut is not coconut milk. Coconut milk is made by combining coconut flesh with water, simmering the mixture, then straining and squeezing it. In this form, coconut milk can be considered paleo-friendly. The problem arises, however, when thickeners and sweeteners are added to make the coconut milk products you often find in your local grocery store, according to website The Paleo List.

Paleo and Saturated Fat

Coconut milk is high in fat, mostly in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, a type of saturated fat. In his book "The Paleo Diet," Dr. Loren Cordain advises against consuming large amounts of saturated fat. Cordain recommends picking poultry and lean red meat over fatty red meat to limit saturated fat consumption and steering clear of foods high in saturated fat in general. Coconut oil contains 11.8 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.

Ways to Use Coconut Milk

Provided you opt for coconut milk with no added flavors, sweeteners or thickening agents, coconut milk does fit with your paleo lifestyle. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests limiting your consumption of coconut milk so as not to consume too much saturated fat and always going for virgin coconut products. Try a tablespoon or two in a breakfast smoothie, or add a little to thicken up a chicken curry.

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