Do you know what’s in your coconut milk?

One of the most common ingredients we use is coconut milk. But watch out if you’re using any of the most widely available coconut milks or creams it’s highly likely you’re getting a lot more than coconut milk and it’s not good …
In fact many supermarkets options have so little coconut in them it’s surprising they can actually be called “coconut milk”. These products generally have a host of undesirable extras including canola oil and sugar! Even the more “natural” versions usually have questionable additives and preservatives included. So when you’re shopping for your coconut milks get into the habit of looking at the ingredient label. What you see may shock you.

coconut-milk-supermarket

A confusing choice?

Take for example Sanitarium “So Good” Coconut Milk which seems to be pretty popular:
Ingredients:
Water
Coconut Milk 21% (Water, Coconut Cream)
Cane Sugar
Sunflower Oil (contains Soy)
Canola Oil
Tricalcalcium Phosphate
Sodium Bicarbonate
Lecithin
Gellan Gum
Guar Gum
Xanthan Gum
Carrageenan
Salt
Natural Flavour
Modified Starch No. 1450

sanitarium-coconut-milk

Not really coconut milk!

And here is the ingredients for one of the brands that we use Ayam*:
Coconut Kernel Extract (82%)
Water
I prefer to use a Coconut Cream in which case I make sure that ingredients are 100% coconut kernel extract.

*There are about 5 brands available in NZ that don’t have additives. They’re not the most commonly found by long way you need to hunt them out. Also watch out some brands are good for full fat but use gums and additives in the low fat versions like Ayam does.

Also note that there is a concern about BPA with some of these “good” coconut products including Ayam.  My thought is that I would rather avoid the issue with all the additives that we know we are ingesting than worry about possible issue of BPA being potentially injested. (What they say with Ayam is that the cans are not BPA free but they have done testing and no BPA has come through in the testing into the food.) That said, obviously ideally you would have the milk or cream that was free or additives and preservatives and packaged in BPA free packaging.  The real answer at the end of the day is to make your own.   But if for convenience reasons you are going to be buying your coconut milks or creams then  it’s best to know what’s in your purchases and to know your options so you can make an informed decision.

If you want to make your own coconut milk find out how here…




Packaged Herbs and The Price of Convenience

herb-pastes

Herb Pastes – Not Just Herbs!

Have you ever noticed what is in those super convenient ready-to-use herb tubes and jars? I don’t know but for some reason I just assumed that when it was labelled “garlic” or “oregano” that that was all that it was but many are only 40% the fresh herbs! Of course a lot of these products have a long fridge life so it’s not surprising you’d be getting additives or preservatives in the paste. But still I know I previously never took note and now I am, I’m disappointed to see canola oil featuring yet again.

For an example in the Gourmet Garden range only 40% to 60% of the ingredients are the fresh herbs. Their Oregano is comprised:

40% Fresh Oregano

Remaining 60% is listed as:

Dextrose
Sodium Lactate
Citric Acid
Canola Oil
Glycerol
Milk
Salt
Sodium Ascorbate
Ascorbic Acid
Xanthan Gum

Anyway – not something to be alarmed about and you’re probably already onto this. But if not, just something to be mindful of next time you’re in the supermarket.

Price-wise in my local supermarket the tubes of paste are $5.99 for a tube (115g – which is obviously going to last for a while). But you could have bought a couple of herb plants (so also ready to use and convenient!) for $2.99 each. And of course you could buy several different herbs for only a couple of dollars from your local garden centre and have fresh herbs available from your garden.

herb-garden

Herb Garden




Supermarket Sleuth: Is Your Coconut Milk So Good?

sanitarium-so-good-coconut

Sanitarium Coconut Milks – Maybe Not So Good?

So Sanitarium has been advertising its new Coconut Milk far and wide and pushing hard on the fact that it has “no added sugar”. Well it’s true – the “unsweetened” product is free of added sugar. And it is “made from coconut” in the sense that coconut constitutes a (small) part of the ingredients.

They’re also placing considerable emphasis (as you would expect) on the fact that their nut and coconut milks rate highly under the new Healthy Food Star system and declare proudly that choosing to drink their milks is “a choice you can feel great about making”.

The thing is – is it really? Yes this product contains coconut and yes they have reduced the sweetener but that’s not the whole story. It also contains a whole lot more. Let’s look at what’s really inside:

Coconut So Good (Unsweetened)

  • Filtered water
  • Coconut milk (23%) (water, coconut cream)
  • Vegetables oils [sunflower oil (contains soy) and canola oil]
  • Mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate)
  • Emulsifier (lecithin)
  • Vegetable gums (gellan, guar, xanthan, carrageenan)
  • Salt
  • Natural flavour
  • Modified starch (1450)

So it’s 23% coconut milk (being water and cream). Going on average then we can assume that about 30% of that 23% is water. So that’s 16% coconut cream and 84% other stuff.

What do you think? Still a choice you “feel great about making”?

It might not be so bad if that was the ONLY option. But it’s not. Here are some options that I would recommend instead of So Good products:

Option 1 : Buy An Additive Free Coconut Milk/Cream

The brand we use is called AYAM. Checking out those ingredients we see:

Ayam Coconut Milk:

  • Coconut cream 70%
  • Coconut water 30%

Or Ayam Coconut Cream

  • Coconut Cream 100%

These particular products are often the same price in which case it’s best value to buy the cream and add your own water to make it go further. There are other brands too like Aroy-D or Trade Aid and – while some made have some additives – it’s not hard to find those that have better nutritional profiles than the Sanitarium milks.

These are not without issue though because they cannot confirm that the cans are BPA free. My understanding is that they have tested the product itself and no BPA was present. But if that is an issue for you then you need to find a brand in a tetra pack without additives or better still take option 2…

Option 2 : Make Your Own!

And then of course there’s the fact that you can make your own. It’s really not that hard to do. Check out a super easy way to make your own homemade coconut milk. Understandably you probably like to have have the convenience of a store bought product and that’s fine but just then be mindful of which one you choose as they’re not all created equal.

The Other Sanitarium Nut and Coconut Milks

Just for the sake of completeness here are the other Sanitarium nut and coconut milks that are on the market in New Zealand:

Coconut So Good

Filtered water, coconut milk (21%) (water, coconut cream), cane sugar, vegetable oils [sunflower (contains soy), canola], mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), vegetable gums (gellan, guar, xanthan, carrageenan), salt, natural flavour, modified starch (1450).

7.3 grams of sugar (or nearly 2 teaspoons of sugar) per 250ml serving size.

sanitarium-nut-milks

Sanitarium Coconut Milk

Sanitarium-So-Good-Coconut

Sanitarium So Good Coconut Milk Nutrition Panel

Almond Coconut So Good 

Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), coconut cream (1%), mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), salt, vegetable gum (gellan), natural flavour.

Almond So Good

Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), natural flavours, salt, vegetable gum (gellan).

Almond So Good (Unsweetened)

Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), coconut cream (1%), mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), salt, vegetable gum (gellan), natural flavour.

Almond Coconut So Good (Unsweetened)

Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), coconut cream (1%), mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), salt, vegetable gum (gellan), natural flavour.

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