Coconut Oil – Healthy Fats Series #1

cracked coconuts

Coconut oil is a healthy oil, even though it is considered a saturated fat.

(Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature, true with coconut oil, but unlike coconut oil, most saturated fats have been saturated with hydrogen atoms to make them solid – i.e. hydrogenated margarine)

Healthy fats include:

  • Avocado Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Fatty fish like salmon, cod and sardines
  • Fats from nuts and seeds
  • Coconut Oil – refined and unrefined

Adding in healthy fats is one of the biggest things you can do to turn on your metabolic fire.

Healthy fats are very nutrient rich foods. Fats from coconuts, avocados, nuts & seeds, olives,  fatty fish like salmon and cod are a wonderful sources for healthy fats.

While I love all of these fats, one of the fats that has been found to be highly beneficial for weight loss is coconut oil.

Coconut oil has become the latest buzzword in healthy diets these days.

Healthy coconut oil? This goes against everything we have been told for the last 65 years.

I must admit I held a lot of misconceptions about coconut oil until I started doing research and talking to people about using coconut oil.

 “Coconut oil is high in fat and therefore bad for you.”

Consuming coconut oil is very different than consuming other types of fat, because it reacts differently within your body. Most types of dietary fats contain long-chain fatty acids, but coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized in a unique way.

The fat found in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid or triglyceride. The medium-chain fatty acids are easily processed in the liver without insulin spikes. They easily break down therefore are used by the liver as energy rather than stored as fat cells like the long-chain fatty acids.

Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, rarely found in nature, lauric acid is known as a ‘miracle’ element due to its ability to promote health in the body. The body converts lauric acid into an anti-viral and anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa substance.

(Bacteria, viruses and parasites such as some protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, are major sources of food borne illnesses.)

“Coconut oil is a saturated fat. It can build up in your system and cause clogged arteries, obesity and heart disease.”

Actually the opposite is what is true.

We have been told for the last 65 or so years, all saturated fats are bad for you. Consuming saturated fats can lead to health issues.

The health issue list includes obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, just to name a few.

Some saturated fats occur naturally and some are created, like margarine.

Bombarding  molecules with hydrogen to produce a thick sticky substance has no health benefits whatsoever. Yet this is what has been sold to us in the form of margarine and preached to us by the ad agencies as being “beneficial, healthy, and a better choice than butter. Witness the popularity of things like Country Crock, Parkay and I can’t believe it’s not Butter kind of products.

The created products are full of trans-fats, which we should avoid completely.

The marketing industry convinced us that because coconut oil was solid at room temperature, it should never be consumed. It was used in cosmetics to benefit the skin, but it was shunned as an ingredient in our diets.

Research has discovered these negative myths about coconut oil are not true. Studies have been done on cultures that thrive on coconut oil in their diets to show lower rates of obesity, no cardiovascular disease, and over all better general health than we have in the USA.

Coconut oil helps equalize cholesterol levels by promoting HDL in the blood which helps improve the HDL/LDL ratio. Additionally coconut oil helps promote healthy thyroid function thereby also assisting cholesterol and boosting energy and endurance. A boost to the thyroid can also pump up your metabolism, which is a great benefit!

Consumption of coconut oil helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. It helps blood sugar stabilize, it can help resist fungus and yeast and can improve how the body uses insulin.

Consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, in this 2009 study, demonstrated benefits. In this 12-week study, the women did not gain weight but actually lost stomach fat during the study. Reading this study made me decide to give coconut oil a try.


Selecting Coconut Oil

Coconut oil comes it two varieties: Refined and unrefined in addition to various degrees of quality ranging from commercial to organic non-GMO etc.

Unrefined Coconut Oil has a mild coconut aroma, taste and flavor. It will impart this to your cooking.

coconuts and coconut oil
refined coconut oil

Unrefined Coconut Oil has a mild coconut aroma, taste and flavor. It will impart this to your cooking. Great for dishes like coconut shrimp, chicken or tofu and vegetable stir-fry dishes.

Refined Coconut Oil will give you all the benefits from unrefined coconut oil but none of the aroma, flavor or taste. This is great for using coconut oil but you don’t want the coconut flavor.


Coconut Oil in the Kitchen

Not all coconut oil is the same. Some is hydrogenated which is what you want to avoid. Whether you choose unrefined or refined, you still need to read the label to see what you are getting.

Some are highly commercially processed and others are minimally processed, which is what I prefer.

Storing Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil has a low melting point (76°F) and a high smoke point (350°F). Store the oil in a cool dry place like a cabinet.

Do not store the coconut oil in the refrigerator.

It gets very hard when cold

Do not store it near the stove

because it could cause it to melt.

Store it in a cool cabinet away from the stove. It should last about 2 years without going rancid.

But if you are using it, it shouldn’t last that long.

Using Coconut Oil:

Use Coconut Oil to saute or pan-fry your meals and snacks. Popcorn is wonderful popped in a bit of coconut oil.

Saute kale for an incredible flavor! The sweetness of the coconut oil really enhances and tames the bitterness of kale.

Use it to saute any vegetable, chicken, fish, or meat.

Use it just as you would any cooking oil.

However because it is solid below 76°F, it is best not used in dressings or marinades. Use a quality grade of olive oil for these items instead.

Here is another use for coconut oil: replace butter or solid shortening (Crisco or margarine)with equal amounts of coconut oil in baking recipes. Your baked goods will be amazing and much healthier.

Does it make everything taste like coconut?

While the unrefined oil has the very mild scent of coconut, so far I cannot detect the flavor of coconut when I cook with it. Sometimes things may taste a bit “sweeter” but not like sweet as if you added sugar; just an enhancement of the natural sweetness that is already there.

You can select the refined to use in baking if the flavor is of concern.

Last night I marinated some chicken breasts in a spicy “Cockalacky” sauce which is made with sweet potatoes. After the marinade, the breasts were breaded in panko and pan-fried in coconut oil until done.

The oil really brought the flavor of the sweet potato used in the marinade, such a nice flavor surprise!

While I have added coconut oil to our diets, we still use other oils as well. I enjoy the flavors of various seed and nut oils in salad dressings. Additionally the various oils also have other health benefits.

This is not about giving up other oils but about making smarter choices, more informed choices.

The key thing to remember fat is fat.

Just because it is coconut oil does not mean you can consume mass quantities of it. As with all fats, use it in moderation.

You may have  heard of using coconut oil instead of sunscreen.

Personally, I think that’s taking it a bit too far.
I love using coconut oil on my skin, it feels so good but instead of sunscreen?

“They” may say that coconut is naturally SPF 30 but I think I’ll back it up with some SPF 50 just to be sure.
Before foregoing coconut oil for sunscreen, ask your dermatologist their professional opinion!
Skin cancer is no laughing matter and not worth a risk.

Use all fats in moderation, including coconut oil.

What is coconut butter? 
Coconut Butter is pureed coconut meat. It is not like or similar at all to coconut oil.

Do you use coconut oil? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts and experiences so we can all learn something from each other.

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