People Are Obsessed with Coconut Aminos, But Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Try It

Photo credit: sveta_zarzamora - Getty Images
Photo credit: sveta_zarzamora – Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

While perusing various recipes, particularly Paleo-inspired ones, you may have come across an ingredient that’s unfamiliar to you: coconut aminos. And if you hit Google to find out more about it, an array of health claims about the ingredient often pop up. Curious to hear more, especially if you’ve heard you can use coconut aminos as a soy sauce substitute and sidestep some of its sodium? Read on to find out the real skinny about coconut aminos, what it is, and whether it really has those health benefits you’ve heard about.

What is coconut aminos?

Coconut aminos is a seasoning sauce that’s made from the fermented sap of coconut palm and sea salt. But it’s not going to give your food a tropical twist: despite its name, it actually doesn’t taste like coconut. Coconut aminos has a taste that’s less rich and dark and a little sweeter than soy sauce (which is also fermented, but from soy beans)—and in fact, it looks similar to the light version. “It performs very similarly to soy sauce in cooking,” says Stefani Sassos, registered dietician with the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Is coconut aminos better for you than soy sauce?

Unlike soy sauce, coconut aminos doesn’t contain soy, wheat, or gluten—so if those are things you’re avoiding, coconut aminos is a decent alternative. Same with sodium: Soy sauce is super-high in the mineral (over 1000 mg in a tablespoon—that’s 42% of your Daily Value), while coconut aminos has 270 mg per tablespoon. Yes, that’s better, but if your doc has told you to watch your sodium content, go easy on coconut aminos. “When you’re cooking with it, the sodium can certainly add up,” says Sassos.

Does coconut aminos have health benefits?

The main nutritional benefit of coconut aminos is about avoiding things that your body may not like, rather than adding extra nutrients. Beyond that, the research doesn’t support specific health benefits, despite what you may have read online. Some of the claims about its supposed health superpowers (reduces your risk of heart disease! Levels out your blood sugar! Helps you slim down!) are based on health benefits attributed to coconut palm and raw coconut. But since coconut aminos is fermented coconut sap, the science just isn’t there pointing to any measurable health boost. And let’s say science did turn up some evidence of these benefits: you’d have to swig a whole lot of coconut aminos to make a difference (hello, sodium overload—and ewww). So again, it certainly makes sense to use it if you want or need to avoid wheat, gluten, or soy, and if you’re keeping an eye on your sodium—but don’t expect magical health benefits beyond that. For instance, you might read that it’s “packed with potassium”—but it has only 16 mg per tsp. Compare that to a banana (422 mg) or an avocado (almost 1000 mg). That 16 mg is looking pretty meager in comparison, right?

Are there any risks to using coconut aminos?

Again, make note of its sodium level if you’re watching this mineral in your diet. Aside from that, it’s a matter of taste—you may need to tweak a recipe if you’re subbing in coconut aminos for soy sauce. And judging by a very unscientific scan of a few online stores, coconut aminos seems to be a bit pricier.

Where can you buy coconut aminos?

It’s much easier now than in years’ past to find coconut aminos at the store. You can certainly find it at a store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but it’s also available widely online. Walmart has a half-dozen different versions, including this organic version from Kevala; and Amazon has a bunch as well, such as this organic product from Better Body Foods.

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