Eating nutrient rich foods is a great start to maintaining a balanced diet.
However, what many of us do not realize is that what you choose to cook your food with is just as important as the food you choose to consume.
This week’s Sunday Staple is Coconut Oil! Specifically, virgin, unrefined coconut oil.
Whether you currently cook with butter, canola oil, PAM or any other fat, coconut oil is a great way to upgrade your cooking to the next level.
And I know some of you may be thinking, “But I don’t want everything to taste like coconut!”
Take it from me, (someone who has literally despised the taste of coconut my entire life) once you upgrade to coconut oil, you’ll never go back. In fact, I would compare my previous hatred towards coconut flavors as the same hatred I had towards okra and flax seed oil – just downright disgusting!
However, as I continued to experiment with coconut oil and researched the highest quality brands, I have found that not all coconut oil is the same. When you choose a high quality, pure coconut oil, it will not have that overwhelming synthetic coconut flavor.
In fact, when I spread coconut oil on my toast… I can’t believe it’s not butter!
But unlike the company that has coined that slogan, this type of oil is not harmful for your health, has a far more superior taste and a wealth of nutritional benefits attached.
3 years ago, I upgraded from butter to coconut oil, and I have never looked back.
So let’s get started…
Why Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is comprised of nearly all saturated fat. Because of this, it is one of the best oils to cook with. The saturated fat means it is more resistant to heat. The smoke point of unrefined coconut oil is 350 degrees. By comparison, vegetable oil has a smoke point in the low 200’s.
Cooking with vegetable oil at high heat yields 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organization.
And I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t saturated fat bad for you?!”
No. Just like in last week’s Sunday Staple regarding sugar, it’s not the sugar or the saturated fat that is bad for you, it’s the quality and the molecular structure that will ultimately determine its effect on your health.
With over 23 years of clinical data, a report was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proving that there is no connection between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. Coconut oil is simply not atherogenic and there is no relationship between it and heart disease. In fact, the MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) in coconut oil have actually been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Today, scientists are now beginning to recognize and promote the value of coconut oil, more than ever. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that consuming coconut oil sensibly, can work miracles for your health. The FDA has even caught on, approving coconut oil as an ingredient in a dietary supplement for Alzheimer’s treatment in 2009. That’s right, it can improve cognitive function and even help prevent Alzheimer’s.
The molecular structure of coconut oil is particularly interesting because it’s saturated fat is made up of MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) aka MCFAs (Medium Chain Fatty Acids).
What is so important about the molecular structure of coconut oil?
Unlike other saturated fats, the molecular structure of coconut oil can be easily processed by our bodies.
The MCTs in coconut oil do not participate in the cholesterol cycle like the ways the LCTs (long chain triglycerides) in animal fats do.
Once our bodies ingest coconut oil, it is immediately broken down into individual fatty acids before travelling to the liver, where they are used for fuel and energy. In contrast, the LCTs in animal saturated fats actually enter the cholesterol cycle and deposit directly into fat depots.
This easy process and conversion rate of coconut oil into energy allows our immune systems to ultimately function more efficiently.
What else does it contain?
Aside from containing Vitamin E, K and Iron, coconut oil contains lauric acid which is known to fight bacteria and infection in the body.
The effects of lauric acid are very powerful. Once ingested, it converts into monolaurin, leading it to be a very potent antiviral, antimicrobial, and antifungal agent.
Some of the benefits of Coconut Oil include:
- Increase in Metabolism
- Regulation of cholesterol levels (through phytosterols)
- Improvement in energy (through ketones)
- Balance in blood sugar levels (improves insulin sensitivity)
- Reduction of the risk of heart disease (improves of blood coagulation)
- Increases absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (such as Vitamin A, B, D, E & K, CoQ10, beta-carotene, calcium and magnesium)
- Stimulates thyroid activity (production of thyroid hormones)
- Improves cognitive function (through the brains use of ketones)
- Improves digestion, reduces bloating and IBS (through its antimicrobial properties)
- Strengthens the immune system (resists disease and infection)
- Anti-aging (rich in antioxidant levels)
The best part about coconut oil is that it contains no trans fats (fat commonly found in hydrogenated oils, like canola oil and vegetable oil). Trans fat has been shown to increase bad cholesterol levels and lead to weight gain. My personal suggestion, avoid hydrogenated oils at all costs.
What kind of Coconut Oil should I look for?
Coconut oil that is unrefined and virgin is generally the purest form of coconut oil you can obtain.
Look for virgin coconut oil that is extracted by using a Cold Pressed method (coconut meat dried at low temperatures of 103-180 degrees Fahrenheit, where the oil is then pressed out).
This low heat method is key to ensuring that all the valuable nutrients and enzymes are not destroyed in the extraction process.
Purchasing a high quality organic coconut oil is extremely important as it eliminates chemical contamination and ensures you are getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.
Many times when studies correlate coconut oil to disease, they are referring to highly processed coconut oil, commonly sold in grocery stores. Refined coconut oil is less expensive to produce, but during the refining process, most of the beneficial nutrients are eliminated.
You should also make sure to purchase your coconut oil in glass containers. The tight seal reduces the risk of harmful plastic agents leaking into the oils… Oh, and it’ll taste better, too!
Organic Opulence Picks
Fortunately, there are dozens of great coconut oils on the market. Here are a few of my personal favorites!
This brand is one of my favorites in terms of loyalty and commitment to transparency and clean products. I personally love their White Kernel Coconut oil, as it is mild and delicate in flavor, perfect for any dish and use.
Nutiva is another one of my favorite brands. This coconut oil is mild and rich in texture. Goes perfectly with just about anything.
This is another great brand available at most health food stores, as they have a strong commitment to purity in products.
Check out more of my Sunday Staples!
For more information regarding the health benefits of coconut oil, feel free to check out these resources:
Coconut oil protects cortical neurons from amyloid beta toxicity by enhancing signaling of cell survival pathways
Enhanced memory in Wistar rats by virgin coconut oil is associated with increased antioxidative, cholinergic activities and reduced oxidative stress.
Polyphenols of virgin coconut oil prevent pro-oxidant mediated cell death
Acute Treatment with Lauric Acid Reduces Blood Pressure and Oxidative Stress in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats.
Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans
COCONUT OIL: Atherogenic or Not? (What therefore causes Atherosclerosis?)
Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association