Shedding Light on Coconut Oil's Bad Rap
Why it's Actually Great for You
For decades now, consumers have been told to avoid coconut fat because it is a saturated fat and therefore “bad.” It is indeed a saturated fat (92%), but if you look at its composition, you might be surprised to learn that coconut fat actually has beneficial properties that contribute to health and well-being.
Two thirds of coconut fats are medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are easier to digest. They are readily converted into an energy source utilized by our body and brain. Lauric acid is one of the MCFAs in coconut fat that is very important to overall health, not only because it is a rich source of antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, but it also has anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties that aid digestion and strengthen the immune system. These MCFAs have also been shown to improve metabolism, support proper thyroid function, and even play a role in restoring and improving memory.
Mary Enig Ph.D., a lipid biochemist and nutritionist working with the Weston Price Foundation, has done extensive research on saturated fats. Her research is liberating tropical saturated fats from the “bad” list by explaining how fats work in the body and their role as part of a healthy whole foods diet. Saturated fats are very stable and not prone to oxidation or rancidity. They play a key role in maintaining cell integrity, enhancing the immune system, protecting the liver from various toxins, and are a source of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E & K.
The Weston Price Foundation has done extensive research on tropical native populations, and their diets and use of tropical oils including coconut oil. In essence, these cultures have been using these oils for thousands of years without adverse health effects such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. They were, in fact, quite healthy until the introduction of “Western” foods that were highly refined, sweetened, processed, and full of hydrogenated oils. It was after the introduction of these foods that these once-healthy populations started to develop heart disease and diabetes so prevalent here in our part of the world.
So perhaps we could take a cue from these native populations and refrain from isolating a food component as being good or bad. Instead, we could look at how whole foods make up a healthy diet, of which fats – including saturated fats – are an integral part.
Cooking with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is great in baked goods and desserts. It has a smoke point of 350 degrees making it excellent for stir-frying and sauteing. When substituting coconut oil for butter or other oils, use a 1 to 1 ratio. Coconut oil is stable at room temperature so you can store it in your pantry for up to 2 years.