Sunday, April 12, 2009
Coconut: Friend or Foe?
Coconuts are more than just a tropical fashion accessory. Today at lunch when I was telling my in-laws how I made Elana's pie (see my previous post for the link) they were stunned that I had made pie with coconut milk. In their minds coconut is not at all heart healthy due to the amount of saturated fat it contains. This opinion about coconut oil causing heart disease is largely due to studies performed in the 1970s and 80s using hydrogenated coconut oil (trans fat) which we all know is very bad for our cardiovascular system. Coconut in its natural form is a great source of Lauric Acid which has anti-microbial properties and contains a high percentage of Medium Chain Triglycerides which our bodies use readily for energy, rather than storing as fat (though, of course, any excess of calories can ultimately lead to weight gain from any source). Research from this decade shows coconut oil to be beneficial for cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
Coconut oil is also a very heat stable fat, able to retain high temperatures without becoming damaged (unlike unrefined plant oils which need to be used under low to medium heat only.)
So no need to fear coconut, coconut milk, or the oil, just buy high quality, unrefined products. And as a family member once asked me, no, this does not mean you can go out and stock up on Almond Joy candy-- whole food sources only please!