Coconut - photo by anitasarkeesian
There's been a ton of hype about Coconut Oil in the health food news lately and I went digging to see what I could find. What started this article was a friendly argument with my sister in-law last April. I knew that Coconut Oil wasn't as bad as the press has made it out to be. But at the time, I couldn't tell her why...
Remember the movie theater popcorn "butter" backlash? coconut oil was implicated and I remember signs saying "No Coconut Oil used here" after the showdown. As far back as 1994, the LA Times among others reported that, "A medium-sized "buttered" popcorn at a typical theater contains "more fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac-with-fries lunch and a steak dinner with all the trimmings combined," article found here.
Two days after the dialectic with my sister in law, I went to Chicago for the 10th Annual Spring Fancy Food Show. There, I met a representative for Coast Coconut Farms who convinced me to eat a teaspoon of their "Extra Virgin." Because the melting point is 74 degrees Fahrenheit, he handed me a spoonful of a pure white solid but it instantly melted in my mouth. It was delicious. The other surprise was that it didn't coat my mouth like butter, shortening, or an animal fat would have.
I was intrigued. I told him about the discussion I had just days prior and he filled me in on two commonly overlooked health benefits of coconut oil.
- Although coconut oil is mostly saturated, the fatty acids are of small and medium length fatty acid chains, making up medium chain triglycerides. Which are good for you, read about them here.
- Coconut oil is one of the best sources of lauric acid (44-45% of its total makeup) - which is believed to not only have antimicrobial/antiviral properties but may naturally raise the metabolism.
Small chain fatty acids (SCFA) contain less than 8 carbon atoms. Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) contain 8-14 carbon atoms. Large chain fatty acids (LCFA) contain more than 14.
Coconut oil may be mostly saturated fat (90%); however, it is mostly made up of SCFA's and MCFA's. Almost 70% by volume via wikipedia.com. As long as you are consuming unrefined, non-hydrogenated, and non-fractionated coconut oil, you are consuming a natural and healthy product.
By contrast, olive oil is mostly made up of Oleic acid, a monounsaturated LCFA (55-83%) and Palmitic acid, a saturated LCFA (7-20%). Even though it is mostly LCFA's, we all know how much the health benefits of olive oil are touted by the western medical world.
I have since bought some and use it often. Spreading it on toast, frying with it [especially eggs, yum!], and although I have not baked with it yet, they say it can be substituted ounce for ounce with shortening. This is a great tip if you are looking to remove trans-fats from you pie crusts or biscuits.
Give it a chance, I personally like Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil 54oz.