Coconut Oil has been receiving a lot of buzz recently but the associated health benefits are nothing new. Residents of tropical areas have been using coconut oil for centuries and even though it’s a saturated fat (gasp!) they have relatively low levels of cardiovascular disease.
Saturated fats have always been discouraged since they are largely animal based products that raise the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increase risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, 50% of it is composed of lauric acid and when consumed is converted to monolaurin which has anti-bacterial/viral properties. Monolaurin is said to help with heart health, immune system support, metabolism, thyroid support, weight loss, and a reduction in type II diabetes risk.
Another reasons why it’s being promoted as a “healthier” saturated fat is because it’s a medium chain fatty acid and when consumed, is broken down and digested very quickly. This means your body can use the calories for energy instead of storing it as fat and so it is said to boost metabolism without causing a spike in insulin. Vegetable oils on the flip side are long chain fatty acids so take longer to break down and have a higher tendency to be stored as fat.
None of these benefits, however, can be realised if you start using coconut oil like candy. As with all foods – what your body doesn’t use for energy is stored as fat so go easy.
You may want to think about replacing olive oil with coconut oil when cooking at high temperatures (above 325 or medium on the stove). Even though olive oil is a great UNSATURATED fat, when heated it becomes unstable, chemically altered, and subsequently loses its antioxidant and cholesterol lowering abilities. It’s still a great choice for salad dressings, soups, cheese dishes, and pasta salad.
Here is a recipe for you to try:
Coconut Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Recipe: ¼ cup pumpkin puree, 1 fresh or frozen banana, ½ cup coconut milk, tsp honey, and 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted). Combine ingredients in a blender, top with a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!