Food Comparisons Food Myths Nutrition

So Delicious Coconut Products: Not So Healthy

so delicious coconut milk

Plant-based diets are a good thing. Plant-based diets that heavily rely on processed meat & dairy substitutes are not.

As a nutritionist and believer in a (mostly) whole foods diet, I am frequently irked by dairy-free food companies who claim their products are healthier than dairy foods. Because it’s usually not true.

Switching to non-dairy milk, yogurt, ice cream, kefir, etc. does not mean your diet will be healthier. Many dairy-free alternatives are highly processed, contain questionable additives and offer little or no nutritional value.

Here are a few examples from the popular So Delicious brand.

So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 11.49.19 AM

Unsweetened coconut “milk” is the least offender from this brand, but it’s still mostly water with added thickeners, stabilizers and vitamin powders. You can also see here that it has no protein and very little calcium (all of which is added, not naturally-occurring) so it does little for you nutritionally.

so delicious unhealthy

What to choose instead: Homemade almond milk, homemade or Edensoy soy milk, or light coconut milk in a can.

So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk

So Delicious Coconut products

Their version of “yogurt” – which is more like a cup full of additives trying to mimic the consistency of yogurt but with few other nutritional similarities.

What to choose instead: if you can’t have dairy and want some beneficial probiotics, try kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso or other non-dairy fermented foods.

So Delicious coconut products

So Delicious Coffee Creamer

so delicious creamer

Compare these ingredients to those in dairy cream (milk & cream) and you may be somewhat suspicious of this one.

so delicious coffee creamer

Two things concern me most about this ingredients list. The carrageenan – a very questionable found in tons of dairy alternatives and processed foods, even natural & organic ones. Here’s more about carrageenan from Dr. Weil (not normally my go-to resource but his summary is great). And titanium dioxide – a white coloring agent also used in paint and sunscreen – which is widely used but of concern to many scientists researching it’s effects on human health.

What to choose instead: Milk or half & half. If you can’t have dairy, opt for real or light coconut milk – the kind in a can that has only one ingredient.

So Delicious Cookie Dough Ice Cream

so delicious frozen dessert

Let me first say that even the most “pure” dairy cookie dough ice creams are not exactly healthy, so the moral of this story is not to choose the dairy option. Still, the loooooong list of (mostly processed) ingredients in So Delicious scares me a little.

so delicious frozen dessert

What to choose instead: Coconut Bliss ice “cream” offers a more whole-foods product, and all of it’s ingredients are sustainably sourced. It’s rich and high-calorie, but so tasty you only need a little at a time.

To summarize…

I’m all for a plant-based diet and have nothing against the decision to give up dairy foods. For many people, this can lead to positive, health-promoting dietary changes. However, dairy foods given up should be replaced with whole or homemade foods, not commercially processed products like the ones shown above.

40 Comments

  • Reply
    Kath
    November 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Great post of info! I’m all for the real food 🙂

  • Reply
    Debbie
    December 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Totally agree, more people need to understand that processed foods are not an alternative to fresh is best policy. Great read

  • Reply
    Adam
    May 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Disagree. The mct fats alone make coconut milk better than regular, in addition to being dairy free

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      May 27, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Many So Delicious Products barely resemble coconut milk, and have little fat from coconut.

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    June 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I recently bought a case of the Delicious coconut milk beverage at Costco. The only reason I bought it was because the coconut water I usually buy was out of stock. I was swayed by the “organic” label. I will be returning the unopened cartons this week to Costco. The product has no taste whatsoever. I looks like white water and tastes like water. When I checked the label, I was shocked to see no nutritional value at all. Only things listed are sodium and fat. Like we all need more sodium and fat! I will continue to use coconut oil and raw coconut in my cooking because I do believe coconut in its many forms ( naturally) is healthy.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      June 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      We are on the same page with all of this, Cheryl!

  • Reply
    Debbie T
    August 28, 2014 at 2:53 am

    I’ve been enjoying daily consumption of the SO Dairy Free ice creams and creamers for over a year now, and have to say that my husband and I like the taste and products very much. This article does give me a reality check that I think we need. He just started telling me not to buy the ice cream, but he loves it too. He got worried about the sugar, and I have to admit that I wasn’t paying much attention after awhile to that aspect, so I think it is time to get real about how much sugar we eat, and also to get real about these processed vegan foods, which I’ve come to rely on, since I became a vegan. Eating fresh and homemade really is the best for our bodies and minds. Thank you for reminding us. I’m going to look into other healthier desserts, and maybe just have the ice cream as a special treat once in awhile.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      August 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Debbie. A few alternatives I suggest are Coconut Bliss and Nada Moo. Both of these are less processed ice cream choices compared to SoDelicous. I personally love Coconut Bliss – though still a splurge it’s delicious and taste very pure!

  • Reply
    Nathan
    October 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I agree, So Delicious Coconut Products are less than healthy.

    I recently purchased a new brand ( http://www.coconutgroveyogurt.com/) that among other things uses coconut sugar as its sweetener.

    The “plain” was not overwhelming sweet and was delicious with the mango chunks that I added,

  • Reply
    Judy
    December 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I moved a few months ago and started to use so coconut milk in my coffee, I drink a few cups a day. My opinion is due to the guar gum and xanthate gum, etc it is causing weight gain and other digestion problems. I noticed today it appeared to have a pinkish cast. I am going back to milk.

  • Reply
    sheri
    December 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Instead of So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk, what would you suggest for someone who can’t eat dairy. Do you know of a healthy non-dairy product with the consistency of Greek yogurt? thanks.

  • Reply
    John
    January 19, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I have enjoyed the SoDelicious French Vanilla creamer for a couple of years now, but lately they changed the formula and it’s now watery and separates in my coffee like curdled milk. After reading your comments and other web sites, I’m going to try and make my own or do without creamer in my coffee. It seems to me that so much of our “organic”, “natural” food products are anything but…all in the name of making a couple extra bucks. Thanks for being a part of the solution.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      January 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for your comment, John. If you do eat dairy, you could try Organic Valley Vanilla Creamer – it’s delicious, organic and doesn’t contain weird additives. If you’re looking for dairy-free, canned coconut milk (or coconut cream) + sugar or a splash of organic vanilla syrup is also delicious.

  • Reply
    Ronald Bowren
    May 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I have been using the So Delicious cream for years, will drop it and try canned Coconut Milk, will also try the plain Coconut Grove Yogurt. I have tried the Coconut Bliss and love it for a special treat now and then. I like it best after it has melted a little, and am able to stir in some organic Cocoa Nibs!

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      May 5, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Love your idea of stirring cacao nibs into Coconut Bliss!

  • Reply
    Janine
    July 29, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    So Delicious Coffee Creamer no longer contains carrageenan and titanium dioxide. It’s just coconut milk, dried cane syrup, calcium and xanthan gum.

  • Reply
    Veronique
    October 19, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Hi Amelia and others,
    what is your opinion of the following Koko Milk products, do you think they have nasty ingredients included?
    I am looking for dairy substitute for my coffee and oatmeal.

    – Koko Dairy http://www.kokodairyfree.com/
    – GO Tan https://www.go-tan.nl/en/products/kokosmelk/

    Many thanks for your opinion,
    Veronique

  • Reply
    Theresa
    October 26, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    I agree with your blog and I still enjoy the SO dairy free products, but along with other vegan ‘junk’ foods, they are quite pricey! This is why when I can afford to buy these products (Dairy free ice creams, Justin’s PB cups, Daiya Mac ‘n’ cheeze) it is mostly on rare occasions and I like to enjoy them in moderation. This way, these foods fit into my 80/20 percent diet and my budget!

  • Reply
    Ki
    December 17, 2015 at 2:07 am

    I would like to remind everyone that “natural” doesn’t equate healthy. Poison Ivy is totally natural, but it sure isn’t good for you. As someone diagnosed with various food allergies and intolerances (dairy, soy, almonds, bananas, shellfish–I can go on) I think it’s important to research ingredients for yourself. After two weeks of researching, I decided to try the unsweetened versions of their coconut milk beverage and yogurt, and guess what? No side effects. I’ve used them for about 6 months now, and I’m not any less healthy. My digestion is the same. My weight is the same. My blood pressure/cholesterol is stellar. My skin is clear. I’m still on my ‘I haven’t had a cold in X years streak.’ You know what happens if I eat “pure” “natural” dairy? (And really what’s natural about consuming the bodily fluids meant to fatten up a baby animal anyway?) Puking, acne, stomach cramps, wheezing, you name it. Almonds tear up my stomach, even organic, fermented soy gives me rashes, and bananas REALLY tried to kill me one night. Those foods aren’t ‘bad’ they’re just bad for me. So while vegetable gums and vegetable fibers may sound like horrible chemicals–research them and how they are processed. They are actually beneficial in some ways, so long as you are able to tolerate them–some people are sensitive to them, but that’s with anything. There isn’t a food, substance, etc out there that someone somewhere isn’t sensitive to. My point is, research things for yourselves and then see how they effect your own body. Decide based on more than what the names sound like, because despite the rhetoric on a lot of blogs and in the organic community, just because you cannot pronounce it doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, maybe it just means you need to learn to pronounce a new word and stop listening to overly paranoid people. Nothing is wrong with enjoying making your own food–in fact I’m currently learning to make a lot of my own things due to allergies, but you don’t have to be afraid of EVERYTHING that you don’t make. Just my two cents.

    Anyway, the new formula of the plain unsweetened cultured coconut milk doesn’t last in my house. (Never tried the others because I’m low sugar for acne and can’t eat the SF ice cream because my body cannot tolerate carrageenan.) I use it as sour cream and mayo–two things I cannot have otherwise and hadn’t had in over 5 years. It’s a winner in my book. I’ve put “sour cream” on things that I’m pretty sure no one else recommends putting sour cream on. LOL

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      December 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      I absolutely agree that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. And good point about every body functioning differently. It’s important to listen to your own body’s reactions to foods above all. You know best!

      That being said, I am still a fan of avoiding heavily processed foods most of the time. Very little research has been done on processed derivatives so leaning toward whole, real foods is usually a safe bet.

  • Reply
    Isaiah53
    January 16, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    The So Delicious Coconut creamer recipe was changed quite a while ago. I would suggest looking into it as it no longer has carageenan and soy and other additives.

  • Reply
    Grace
    April 9, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Disagree, plant based products that are processed are still better for your health and the environment than animal based ones, unless they are “mainstream” and contain HFCS or hydrogenated oil, or common preservatives that are carcinogens. However, I do agree that a healthy plant based diet is not primarily based on vegan versions of meat and cheese or highly processed foods, but instead whole grains, vegetables and beans.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      April 13, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      I agree that plant-based is best, especially for the environment. The resources used to raise meat for consumption or for dairy, etc. will always be higher than for plants. However, it’s wrong to assume that a diet full of meat alternatives is healthier than a diet that includes a little meat, dairy, eggs, etc. Processed food – even plant-based – tends to have more salt, fat, and food derivatives that haven’t been heavily studied especially in combination with each other – than whole foods do.

  • Reply
    Tatyana
    August 8, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Switched to So delicious a month ago, just started doing my research about the brand and very dissapointed, will be taking all my yogurt supply back to HEB. Thank you for the article very helpful

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      August 11, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Tatyana, sorry to hear that! But luckily there are some better brands on the market now. Also, I know that So Delicious has made some ingredient changes so may want to read all your labels before returning. Also, my friends Willow and Stephanie have a great video on how to make coconut yogurt at home – it’s super easy and delicious! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CamClfW7Eis

  • Reply
    Monique
    November 12, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Hello, my husband has high cholesterol and loves to eat the So Delicious Coconut-Coco Dipped Vanilla Bars. I am quite concerned because of the high saturated and trans fat 45%. He argues that it says on the package 0% cholesterol so that it’s okay. What do you think? Thanks.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      November 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Hi Monique, cholesterol is a tricky subject. A few key things to remember: 1) the cholesterol in food does not necessarily raise cholesterol levels in your body (so for example eggs contain cholesterol but have not been shown to raise cholesterol levels in the body. 2) Saturated fat from animal products – fatty meat, dairy, etc – is the type that’s been associated with elevated blood cholesterol and poorer heart health. Coconut fat may not negatively impact body cholesterol levels. 3) Recently it was discovered that the sugar industry fraudulently paid off gov. agencies to say that saturated fat was to blame for heart disease, rather than sugar which is what scientific studies had begun to show, so it’s an uncertain time right now in the world of heart health and cholesterol. The best thing your husband can do is eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole/unprocessed grains (barley, oats, bulgur, brown rice, farro, buckwheat, sprouted grains, etc), dietary fat from plant sources, and lean proteins. If he has a So Delicious bar as a treat on occasion it shouldn’t be a concern. But, I always recommend checking with your doctor, as I do not know your family’s health history and can’t say anything for certain. Best wishes.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    February 10, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    What about BPA in cans (and BPS in BPA-free cans)?
    I drink the unsweetened so delicious daily as part of my morning drink. I find it has a blood sugar stabilising effect which for me is so vital. Open to alternatives but cans don’t seem like a good choice due to BPA/S.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      February 17, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      That’s a great point, Lisa. There is BPA in most cans (even cans labeled “BPA-free” may be instead lined with another similar chemical, perhaps BPS or something similar). I guess it’s all about weighing the pros/cons for each product and deciding what to prioritize based on your own health and goals. Avoiding BPA is likely as important as avoiding other additives – perhaps even more so vs. some additives that are thought to be safe — so perhaps your choice is the right one for you!

  • Reply
    LEE
    August 3, 2017 at 8:50 am

    At the end of the day, they’re just another company looking to profit. The healthiest things to eat don’t come in packages. Thank you for sharing. Very eye-opening.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      August 4, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      I agree that the healthiest foods don’t come in packages!

  • Reply
    MISCHA
    April 27, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    BUT COULD IT HURT ME THO? I LITERALLY ONLY BUY COCONUT MILK BECAUSE I CAN’T DRINK REGULAR MILK. I DON’T CARE IF IT BENEFITS ME HEALTH WISE I JUST WANT SOMETHING TO EAT MY CEREAL WITH AND DUNK MY OREO COOKIES IN

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      May 4, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      I personally look for options with fewer ingredients (even canned coconut milk is just coconut + water – and a good option when you want to avoid other nut mylks) but whether or not each of the ingredients in So Delicious is harmful, I’m not sure. Also, since this post was published, So Delicious has changed some of their recipes so there may be fewer/different additives.

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I bought my first product of this brand yesterday. It was the whipped topping, like Cool Whip. How dangerous, if at all, are these products?

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      December 7, 2018 at 11:01 am

      Hi Mary, I don’t think any of these products are “dangerous” – they’re just not the type of product I think should be consumed regularly or thought of as “healthy” simply because they’re non-dairy. I’m sure the whipped topping is fine for occasional use!

  • Reply
    Elveria Walton
    April 9, 2019 at 10:02 am

    I just bought SO Delicious yogurt alternative blueberry; doesn’t list carrageenan, guar gum, tapioca dextrose, dipotassium phosphate, or rich starch. Maybe a response to the criticism of their product. I agree, processed foods are not as good as nature’s finest and fresh.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      May 6, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks Elveria. This post should be updated to reflect current products. They’ve reformulated some.

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