According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture definition, a product can only be marketed as yogurt if it's made from dairy-based ingredients. That's why you won't find items labeled coconut yogurt in the grocery store, though you can find cultured coconut milk, which is prepared from coconut milk that's been cultured with beneficial bacteria in the same manner as traditional yogurt. In moderation, cultured coconut milk can be part of a balanced diet, but it differs nutritionally from regular low- or nonfat yogurt.
The nutritional content of cultured coconut milk varies with the brand, type -- regular or Greek-style -- and added sweeteners or flavorings, if any. A typical 170-gram, 6-ounce serving of plain, unsweetened cultured coconut milk contains approximately 75 calories, 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates and only a small amount of protein.
The same brand of Greek-style cultured coconut milk, which has a thicker consistency, contains 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, just over 4 grams of saturated fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving.
Some brands are fortified with over 20 percent of an adult's recommended dietary allowance of fiber, vitamin B-12, calcium and vitamin D. All list live and active cultures such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles as ingredients.
Comparison to Regular Yogurt
Both regular and Greek-style yogurt made from cow's milk contain more protein per serving than cultured coconut milk. If you choose low- or nonfat yogurt, it will also supply less fat and saturated fat in every serving. However, neither is a source of fiber and, unless it's fortified, it doesn't contain the vitamins and minerals that some brands of cultured coconut milk provide.
Unlike regular yogurt, cultured coconut milk can be eaten by vegans, strict vegetarians and people who are lactose-intolerant. It may be difficult, though, to determine if the bacteria cultures in cultured coconut products are truly live and active. Although the National Yogurt Association does place official seals on yogurt products that have passed tests confirming they are a significant source of live and active cultures, coconut milk products don't qualify because they are not dairy-based.
The average adult should have about 3 cups of calcium-rich dairy products per day, with items like 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese and 2 cups of cottage cheese all being equivalent to a 1-cup serving.
If you don't consume dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish like sardines, soy and calcium-fortified items like some juices, breads, plant milks, and cultured coconut milk can be substituted. One cup of cultured coconut milk would count as a single serving, but you'll need to check the label to ensure the brand you've chosen includes calcium fortification.
All cultured coconut milk contains saturated fat; some may contain as much as 6 grams per 6-ounce container. That's almost 40 percent of the daily saturated fat limit advised for healthy adults on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, the majority of the fat is lauric acid, a plant-based form of saturated fat that is not as strongly linked to heart disease risk as animal-based fat. Check the nutrition information and limit your consumption per day to avoid excess fat.
Use cultured coconut milk as a substitute for other foods in your diet that may be higher in fat and lower in nutritional benefit, such as the full-fat sour cream or regular mayonnaise in dips, sauces or casseroles. If you don't prefer a total swap, try mixing 1 part cultured coconut milk with 1 part sour cream or mayonnaise.
When you're baking, replace half of the butter called for with cultured coconut milk. To use less oil or shortening, reduce the amount called for by half, then add in enough cultured coconut milk to equal three-quarters of the original amount.
Skip commercial salad dressings packed with sodium and fat in favor of thinned cultured coconut milk seasoned with your choice of herbs and spices.