The Coconut Oil Comeback

Maybe you’re wondering how a FAT – and one that’s not olive oil, gasp! — could be considered a superfood. Maybe you’re still scarred from the “fat is bad, must not eat it” mantra that’s been drilled into our heads by the government, advertisers, and mislead dietary experts.

The idea that “fat is bad, must not eat it” is a wildly exaggerated myth derived from the false notion that fat in = fat on. But, it’s not that simple. Not all fats are created equal. And, of course, there’s always the moderation factor. Unfortunately, some still believe we should eliminate or replace natural fats with fake, manufactured “foods” like margarine and fat-free butter, which are loaded with trans-fats.

Sadly, the “fat is bad” rumor is responsible for the virtual disappearance of coconut oil from the marketplace and our diets.

Coconut oil has been particularly ostracized for its high saturated fat content, and until recently, almost unavailable to consumers. Luckily, it’s regaining the positive attention it deserves. (Personally, I think someone should formally apologize to the mighty coconut for the cruel public shunning!)

So, why the resurgence of coconut oil? Lately, more and more nutritional experts are bailing off the “fat is bad” bandwagon. In addition, it was discovered that most, if not all, of the earlier studies were conducted on unrefined, highly processed forms of partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which was full of trans fats. Real, virgin coconut oil does not contain trans fat. Finally, coconut oil is being recognized for its high levels of lauric acid – a rare and amazing compound that’s known for assisting in weight-loss and having an antibiotic effect.

NUTRITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

Coconut oil is a super-fat! that has the following traits:

  • Essential Fatty Acids (Medium-Chain Triglycerides)  - Virgin coconut oil gets around 66% of its saturated fat content from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), primarily lauric acid, and also capric, caprylic, myristic, and palmitic acids. MCTs are easily used by the body and do not require production of pancreas enzymes or bile salts for digestion. Because MCTs are more water-soluble than other oils, they are routed from the small intestine to the liver where they can be promptly burned as fuel (similar to a carbohydrate), and are not broken down for storage in the manner of other fats. MCTs may help preserve muscle mass in times of fat loss, particularly in conjunction with a low-carb diet, with increased support for ketogenesis.
  • Lauric Acid - Coconut oil is one of the most concentrated sources of lauric acid, an  MCT rarely found in high concentration. Lauric acid is thought to aid in weight loss, increased metabolism, immune system support, bacteria elimination, and lowered inflammation. Breastmilk is the only other significant source of lauric acid known. You’re free to chose your preferred source — think I’ll stick with coconut oil. ;)
  • Healthy Poly- & Mono-Unsaturated Fats - Coconut oil contains some linoleic and oleic acid. It’s low in omega-6s.
  • Antioxidants - Notable antioxidants in coconut oil include ferulic and p-coumaric acids, which prevent free-radical damage and prevent cell death, resulting in a slower aging process. Ferulic acid also decreases inflammation and lowers blood glucose levels. P-coumaric acid is said to lower LDL cholesterol and prevents plaque buildup in artery walls.
  • Cholesterol Impact - Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, diets high in coconut oil have not been associated with cholesterol increases. In fact, coconut oil is said to have the most positive effect of any oil for increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol) while maintaining or lowering “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Antibiotic properties - Coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic properties thanks to lauric acid and monolaurin, the disease-fighting component derived from MCTs.

OTHER NUTRITIONAL BUZZ ON COCONUT OIL:

  • promotes healthy hair and skin
  • supports weight loss, increased thermogenesis, increased ketone burning, increased metabolism, increased thyroid function
  • helps battle cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, inflammation, infection, chronic disease, etc
  • aids in digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids

BUYING TIPS

While supermarket chains might have a jar on hand, I’d suggest ordering online. First of all, it’s cheaper. Plus, you’re not limited on quality. Ideally, you should buy organic, unrefined (virgin) coconut oil that’s cold-pressed, non-GMO, unbleached, and undeodorized.

Avoid any cheap manufactured brand like the plague: if it’s processed, hydrogenated / has trans fats, it’s NOT a superfood.

I’m not here to sell you on a brand, but I will say that I like Nutiva. It’s a wonderful, high-quality oil. I was really disappointed in the Spectrum brand organic product. It didn’t taste or smell a bit like coconut — plus, it was refined!  :(

STORAGE TIPS

Coconut oil has a shelf life of at least a year or two (if it lasts that long!) and does not require refrigeration. If it’s solid and you want to soften or liquefy it, just run some warm water on the sides of the jar or place the jar in a bowl of warm water.

COOKING & USAGE TIPS

Don’t like the flavor of coconut?

Good news. Coconut oil has a very light flavor when used in cooking or baking. It adds a hint of sweetness, but not a strong coconut flavor. More than one coconut-hater has not been able to detect my sneaky substitution! Which I find interesting because if you were to, errr, say, eat it from the jar, you would notice more fragrance and flavor.

It’s a great 1:1 baking substitute for vegetable oils, olive oil, butter, shortening, etc. To substitute it for another oil, just melt it. To substitute it for a solid fat (like butter), I recommend the other ingredients be close to room temperature so it doesn’t clump up when combined.

Coconut oil is unusually solid at room temperature and has a high melting point for an oil — 76 degrees. You can safely cook and bake with it (up to 350 degrees) without worrying that it has reached its smoke point and become toxic.

NOTE: Remember, you shouldn’t rely solely on coconut oil as your only fat source — or you’ll miss out on the benefits of other healthy fats! :)

Cuckoo for Coconut & Chocolate Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (I use gluten-free)

  • 1 cup almond meal (or almonds ground in a food processor)

  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 – 1 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped baking chocolate

  • optional: 2-3 tbsp peanut or almond butter, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F.

  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, ground almonds, and cocoa powder.

  3. In a saucepan, stir coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, and brown sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Don’t boil.

  4. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and mix well.

  5. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Add the peanut/almond butter, if used. Quickly stir in chocolate chunks, trying not to let chocolate melt.

  6. Press mixture into an ungreased 8×8 inch pan.

  7. Bake for 20 minutes.

  8. Set on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting and eating!