"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Quest for Coconut Milk

I've noticed that since I started eating Paleo/Primal more than a year ago, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket each time I need to buy something. It's not because I have a huge list of things-- usually there are less than five items. It's also not because I can't find the things I'm looking for (though Fro Gro is organized pretty terribly). Like Michael Pollan suggests, I shop the peripheries of the supermarket because that's where the real food (presumably) is kept, but I'm simply baffled by all of the artificial crap (usually claiming to be real) sitting next to the real stuff. I can't help but spend an unusually large amount of time reading the labels of things that make health claims (another one of Pollan's rules: avoid foods that make health claims) just to see if any of them are legitimate.

If it's not a fruit, vegetable, protein, nut, or seed, don't go near it. (*Except for a few things like dark chocolate... not totally Paleo, but 80/20, right?)
If it has a label on it, don't go near it.

Of course, I knew that already-- that's the basis of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle! But this really hit me last night when I was shopping for coconut milk. I'd never bought coconut milk before, and I didn't really know where to look (especially since it was kind of a last-minute decision, so I didn't do my research), so I walked along the peripheries in hopes to stumble upon it. Sure enough, I saw Silk PureCoconut Milk and thought that I was really lucky to have found it so easily. Wrong. While it looked promising at first-glance ("pure" and "all natural" being on the carton, of course), the ingredient list horrified me. Xanthum gum? Evaporated cane juice? Dipotassium phosphate? What the heck is carrageenan? With more than five ingredients (most of which I didn't recognize, couldn't pronounce, or knew to be totally fake), I moved on. I should've known: "too good to be true" foods are never what they seem.

I still couldn't find real coconut milk, so I went through the rest of my list: chicken, shredded coconut, almonds, mint leaves, dark chocolate (I found the 87% cacao-content Dagoba Eclipse and 77% XOXOX Chocolove that Mark Sisson talked about! I preferred the richness of the Dagoba more.). As I was shopping, I couldn't believe that there were things like chocolate dip (whose first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup!) right next to fresh fruit, or that there were six shelves of peanut butter of probably twenty different brands, yet only one brand of almond butter (which had crap ingredients in it too) that took up maybe six inches of one of those shelves.

So by this point I'd spent an insanely long time in the supermarket, trying to hunt down coconut milk. I'd already been down the baking aisle for shredded coconut (which I actually couldn't find there-- the only unsweetened kind was in the kosher section), and I'd been around the edges multiple times. Because Fro Gro has the worst organization of any supermarket I've ever been to, I ended up walking down every single aisle... which led me to stop and read labels of things that looked possibly Paleo. (Is anyone else obsessed with label-reading, or is that just my former Atkins-mindset of reading [a.k.a. obsessing over] carb counts taking over?) Did I find anything? Of course not! As I mentioned earlier: if it has a label, it's probably not good, and the center aisles of supermarkets are filled with horribly unhealthy/fake/evil things.

Eventually I found the coconut milk, hiding in the international aisle between quinoa and teriyaki sauce, under beans, and above rice. It's about time! My what-should've-been short shopping trip turned into a full-on hunt... but it was totally worth it. Coconut is always worth it!

Quote of the Day:
"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle." -Michael Pollan

What I made with ingredients from my supermarket adventure:
Coconut-almond-cinnamon chicken! (I dipped the chicken in the coconut milk instead of using egg, water, or regular milk.) For my first cooking experience not following a set recipe, not bad!


  1. I listened to a podcast recently (I don't remember if it was everyday paleo or Robb Wolf), they were talking about different types of coconut milk.
    They said there were two main types - drinking and cooking. For drinking she likes SoDelicious which has Xanthum gum in it to keep the fats from separating. The other is what you found. Normally it is canned and in the international section. They don't normally cook with the SoDelicious - rather it is for fruit cereal or something similar.

  2. Good to know! I'll try to look for that podcast to learn more about this.

  3. Found you a link. I think I first heard them talk about it when they were on Robb Wolf's podcast. They have their own now though since Sarah has a book coming out soon. http://everydaypaleo.com/2011/03/20/paleo-talk-episode-11/

  4. This is wonderful and helpful information. I also like coconut milk. I find some amazing info from this blog.

  5. Coconut milk is rich in calcium, but is rich in phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that the body needs to strengthen the bones. Phosphorus is necessary to take calcium to prevent bone loss, in particular, because the supply of phosphate in the body.

  6. Is coconut "juice" the same as coconut milk? That's all I can find in the Asian section of my grocer.

  7. Carrageenan is simiar to gelatin. It is made from seaweed. Vegetarians use it since it is not animal based. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan I will not go near gelatin but feel ok with this. I use the So brand for drinking, as it goes down better. It isn't completely Paleo but better than so many other options. I make sure to get the unsweetened. I like the canned idea for cooking. Thanks!

  8. right, don't be afraid of carrageenan, I called the silk company to get the upc code and gave it to walmart to order the unsweetened coconut milk they also make but have not yet distributed. Until they do buy unsweeted canned coconut milk and unsweetened almond milk wal mart carries

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