The next topic in my What’s That? series is Coconut Oil. You may have been hearing about it a lot lately so I thought that it would be nice to summarise some of the myths and facts surrounding it. I’ve only just discovered it relatively recently myself, but have to say that it is quickly changing the way I cook, and especially the way I bake (more on that later). But before I get too far, I think that a quick refresher on trans fats might be in order:
- Unlike “good fats” such as essential fatty acids, trans fats provide no nutritional value
- In fact, trans fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
- Trans fats occur in small amounts naturally in dairy and meat, but also artificially in a lot of processed foods and some margarines
Everyone pretty much agrees that trans fats are evil – so much so that some jurisdictions have even banned them outright! So what’s the coconut oil connection? Well, coconut oil has been getting a bad wrap in the past couple decades, for two primary reasons
- Early studies on coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which contains trans fats, as opposed to virgin coconut oil which does not
- It is often lumped-in with palm oil, which itself is high in trans-fats
- Virgin coconut oil is free of trans fat
- While it’s true that coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, saturated fat is not as evil as previously thought (See Dr. Mercola’s website for more info on coconut oil & saturated fat)
- Coconut oil is very heat stable – so it’s the best oil to use when cooking at high temperatures, such as frying
- Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which:
- is responsible for increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”) – more than any other fatty acid, unsaturated or saturated
- is the same compound found in mothers’ milk
- transforms into monolaurin, which is responsible for helping to strengthen the immune system
- It has been shown to increase metabolism, which can improve thyroid activity and cell regeneration
- It is liquid at room temperature, but turns solid below 25°C/77°F
Coconut oil is a nice alternative to margarine because let’s face it: even non-hydrogenated margarine is not natural, and a bit scary when you really think about it!
- You can find coconut oil at most health food stores
- When choosing coconut oil, ensure that you are buying virgin coconut oil that has not been altered in any way, including having been heated or bleached
- Look for non-GMO and organic coconut oil
- I split-up my coconut oil so that I have some in the pantry (oil) and some in the fridge (solid)
- If you need to liquefy you coconut oil, simply place your container in a bowl of hot water and stir – you may need to replace the water a few times depending on the size of your container and how much oil you’re trying to melt
- Remember: it’s still a fat, so you don’t want to go overboard with the stuff!
- We all know that eating raw veggies is best, but when you must fry them, try using coconut oil instead of vegetable, soy, or canola (rapeseed) oil – it has a higher “smoke point” so it doesn’t degrade as much with heat
- Try using solid coconut oil as a replacement for margarine (or butter) in your baked goods – it is especially great in crisps and crumbles (I have a great recipe coming soon!)
- For your body:
- Rub coconut oil on your skin after a bath or shower to relieve dry skin
- I’ve heard that it’s great for many skin conditions including rosacea, acne and dry scalp
- Use it to shave your legs – no moisturizer needed!
- Use it to deep-condition your hair
- Dap it on a cotton ball and use it as an eye makeup remover (because it’s an oil, it will remove waterproof makeup)
- It’s great for pets too!
- For more info, read: 10 Amazing Things You Can Do With Coconut Oil
- Check out my recipes using coconut oil
Q: What are your favorite uses for Coconut Oil?