So, what have YOU heard about coconut oil? It’s fattening? Bad for you? Don’t use it? Well, I am here to set the record straight. Coconut oil is one of the most nutritious forms of fat out there. Mainly made up of saturated fat at 92% , it has gotten a pretty bad rep because saturated fats are linked to CHD (coronary heart disease). In an article entitled A New Way of Looking at Coconut Oil by the amazing Mary Enig, Ph. D, she explains how coconut oil ended up the red-headed step-child:
How did coconut oil get such a negative reputation?
The problems for coconut oil started four decades ago when researchers fed animals hydrogenated coconut oil that was purposefully altered to make it completely devoid of any essential fatty acids. The hydrogenated coconut oil was selected instead of hydrogenated cottonseed, corn or soybean oil because it was a soft enough fat for blending into diets due to the presence of the lower melting medium chain saturated fatty acids. The same functionality could not be obtained from the cottonseed, corn or soybean oils if they were made totally saturated, since all their fatty acids were long chain and high melting and could not be easily blended nor were they as readily digestible.
The animals fed the hydrogenated coconut oil (as the only fat source) naturally became essential fatty acid deficient; their serum cholesterol levels increased. Diets that cause an essential fatty acid deficiency always produce an increase in serum cholesterol levels as well as an increase in the atherosclerotic indices. The same effect has also been seen when other essential fatty acid deficient, highly hydrogenated oils such as cottonseed, soybean, or corn oils have been fed; so it is clearly a function of the hydrogenated product, either because the oil is essential fatty acid (EFA) deficient or because of trans fatty acids (TFA). (To view the entire article go to http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/coconut_oil.html)
Listen people, saturated fats are not the ones to be afraid of…at least these are natural. Trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils-usually found in things like margarine or other highly processed foods) are the real killers because they are an unnatural man-made “fat” that your body does not recognize, so they actually do not get utilized and get stored as well, FAT…but we will get into that at another time because that is a whole other subject. I want to feature the beauty of coconut oil and hopefully reduce the fear of using it in your cooking.
Coconut oil is one of the best, if not THE best oil to use when cooking, especially when used for baking because it is able to remain stable and not become rancid when exposed to high heat. In fact, coconut oil is twice as stable as olive oil in high heat and four times as stable as canola oil. If you ingest rancid oil, this can have a toxic effect on the body, promoting inflammation, which as we know can lead to DIS-ease in the body. Oils have a limit to what they can take; some are meant for using in their pure, rawest form, such as flax (one of the most fragile and unstable oils that can go rancid extremely quickly–do NOT heat flax oil!) or olive, which can withstand heat up to 325 degrees, but is better used raw, possibly as a salad dressing or drizzled over lightly steamed veggies.
Coconut oil has actually been shown to PROMOTE weight loss by increasing the burning of calories. Coconut oil contains short and medium chained triglycerides with shorter chains. These get processed quicker and are sent to the liver to be burned as energy. Hmmm, an oil that actually promotes losing weight? Are you all still there, or did you run to the store to get some coconut oil?
Not only does coconut oil remain stable, promote weight loss and is wonderful for baking, it adds a rich flavor to foods. Now, this is coming from someone who at one time despised coconut and everything to do with it. I always said coconut (shaved) tasted like hair in your food. But believe you me, I am a huge cheerleader for coconut products now. Again, we are talking organic, virgin products, not Samoas, people. Since coconut IS high in saturated fat, yes, you don’t want to eat globs of it, but when used for cooking, rest assured, your food should not burn, will not be toxic and will taste pretty awesome.
Unrefined vs. Refined
Definitely choose unrefined coconut oil as refined has less nutritional value than unrefined. Refined coconut oil is also known as RBD coconut oil, which stands for Refined, Bleached and Deodorized. During the refining process, the oil is heated to very high temperatures, which strips it of its beneficial nutrients, which with unrefined, are left in tact. It is also, as the name suggests, bleached and deodorized, so unless you like to eat bleach and sodium hydroxide, I’d stick with pure unrefined oil. Refined coconut oil is left with no scent or taste of coconut, but also void of proteins or minerals. Just remember: unrefined, raw, virgin, organic. Those things are key when choosing a coconut oil to use. This goes especially if you are using it on your skin, which as we know, is the largest organ. What IT eats, YOU eat.
Some other coconut oil facts/uses:
Antimicrobial properties-coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps to protect us from viral or bacterial infections
Can help reduce the risk of heart disease-contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including heart burns, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Can be used on skin in place of lotion to prevent free-radical formation such as wrinkles, age spots and liver spots
Helps with damaged skin and scar tissue-extremely healing for wounds and if using a high quality organic virgin coconut oil, this can be useful in post-op situations (make sure to discuss with your doctor)
Use in place of massage oil
Can use on hair to promote healthy growth and shine
Diabetes-helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps in effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.
Suggested brands of high quality coconut oil:
Coconut oil is a bit pricey ranging from about $6-15, but keep in mind, it’s oil, which reminds me, it is white and solid at room temp, but quickly melts down to an oil-like substance when heated. You are not using it in huge quantities and when you cook, you want to make sure you are not ruining your food with rancid oils. It’s well worth the investment.
Barlean’s-can definitely be found at Whole Foods or other health food markets. Amazing flavor! Organic, raw, virgin! Can find online or in stores for about $12-15 (PS, they also make an awesome flaxseed oil as well.)
Artisana Raw Organic Coconut Oil-can be found at most health foods stores for about $15
Spectrum Organic Virgin Coconut Oil-also can be found at health food stores, such as Whole Foods-this one is a little less expensive-roughly $12-13. They also make one that is not virgin, but still organic and this is one is around $6. Don’t be tempted by low price…stick to unrefined!
I also like to use Dr. Bronner’s or Whole Foods 365 brand. Those are nice as well and are around $10/jar.
I hope this helped shed some light on the mystery of coconut oil. Start using it! It offers a world of benefit, tastes great and remember, it promotes weight loss! Just remember, everything in moderation.