Coconut milk has become extremely popular and is increasingly used as an alternative to cow’s milk. We interviewed Danielle Opoku-Akyeampong, the Founder of the Ghanaian and woman-owned brand, Ila Pure, to discuss the health benefits of coconut milk as well as the growth in plant-based diets in Ghana.
Tell us about Ila Coconut milk
Ila Coconut Milk is a dairy free, 100% natural coconut milk sourced and produced in Ghana. All of our raw materials (coconuts, bottles, labels and bags we deliver in) are sourced in Ghana. We believe in adding value to our raw agricultural products that we have been blessed with in Ghana and with coconuts being a top 5 crop and so abundant, we decided to start here.
What inspired you to create a brand centred around Ghanaian coconuts?
I like milk and began limiting my dairy milk intake over 10 years ago whilst I was still living in England- I also follow a more plant-based diet and prefer dairy-free milks. Upon moving to Ghana, I noticed that a lot of the milks in stores were milks I would buy in the UK which made no sense to me because the raw crops used to make them, all grew in Ghana. I also did not understand why we were importing so much of these milks when we could easily have a Ghanaian brand making and supplying these to the masses.
My mind began racing and that’s when I decided to look into coconut milk because I already liked coconuts. I was upset to discover that only a handful of brands were really focusing on producing coconut milk as their primary product and that most companies preferred to make coconut oil or water- coconut milk was not very popular and was usually secondary to the coconut products mentioned. The latter prompted me to focus on this as I felt there was a real market for it that Ghanaians weren’t adequately exploring. Coconuts are everywhere so I decided to add value to it whatever way I could.
What are some of the health benefits of coconut milk over animal milks for Ghanaians?
- Lauric acid makes up 50% of the fat found in coconut milk. It is also found in breast milk and has great antiviral, antibacterial and immune development properties.
- Coconut milk is plant based and contains no dairy making it suitable for lactose intolerant individuals and Africa’s lactose intolerant population is made up of approximately 70% of its total population.
- The fats in coconut milk do not store in the body as fat and are burned by the body as energy- it will not increase your cholesterol which is usually the main cause behind heart maladies.
- It is high in medium-chain fatty acids and these are considered safe even for babies. Premature babies are sometimes given foods containing medium-chain fatty acids to help increase their fat and mineral absorption as well as develop their immune systems. The fats in animal milks are long-chain and metabolise in the intestinal walls- this is what builds fat deposits in the body tissue.
- Drinking coconut milk aides ketone production which in turn, induces the feeling of being sated thus stopping you overeating.
- Coconut milk reduces and prevents the occurrence of ulcers by killing the bacteria responsible for them.
Besides drinking it fresh, what are some of your favourite recipes you use coconut milk in?
I use coconut milk for a range of things that it would be hard to list my favourites. I will, however, say that when used in a homemade, deep conditioner mix, my hair feels amazing and I use it a lot for this. Smoothie ice lollies and curries are also my current favourite foods to use coconut milk in
In the future, do you foresee more people in Ghana drinking coconut milk as a plant-based milk alternative?
I do, yes, especially if it’s coming from a Ghanaian brand and is truly natural and preservative free. My aim is to have every person worldwide consuming a bottle of lla Coconut Milk daily and this include Ghana. I’d love for coconut milk to be the alternative milk of choice in this country 🙂