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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Use Coconut Oil!

Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat derived from the fruit of the coconut tree that has numerous uses, among them being cooking. It's no surprise if you've never had occasion to use it. These days its use in the American kitchen is rare. In fact, your only experience with coconut oil or coconut milk may have come from dining out on Indian, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisine. That wasn't always the case. As recently as the early 20th century coconut oil was the oil of choice for baked goods. This made perfect sense because coconut oil is a stable fat, with lasting shelf life. It remains solid under 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It's use dwindled mid-century when misconceptions about the link between saturated fats and heart disease led to the widespread use of vegetable oils and margarine – trans-fats that are now understood to be far less healthy.

In Southeast Asia's tropical climate, coconut trees are everywhere and coconuts are a staple of the diet. The coconut tree is referred to as the Tree of Life. What an asset to have such plentiful access to such a nutritious and versatile fruit! The coconut provides valuable minerals, vitamins and fiber. Not only is coconut milk and oil great for cooking, but coconut water can be consumed straight from the fruit. I know from experience the pleasure of drinking directly from a coconut with a straw after a vendor has hacked off the top of the fruit with a machete. Not only is the water tasty and refreshing, but it is full of natural electrolytes (think “natural Gatorade”). And, once you are done with your drink, you can tear into the meaty flesh of the fruit. Yum! (Note: If you want to avoid the use of a machete and the messiness of tearing into coconut flesh, bottled coconut water is available at a number of natural foods coops at prices comparable to Vitamin Water or Gatorade.)

Now you might be thinking that coconuts are really high in fat. You're right! Really, really good fat. Not all fats are created equal. There is research out there that touts that coconut oil can even enhance your metabolism.  Additionally, earlier warnings linking fats like coconut oil to heart disease have been de-bunked by several studies.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat and fabulous for cooking. Think cooking stir-fry, baking, sautéing, etc. Saturated fats are tough and can withstand very high heat, unlike monounsaturated fats like olive oil that become rancid at high heat. There is evidence that shows that the oxidation of fats (heating unstable fats to high temperatures) is linked to many diseases like strokes, Alzheimer's, and liver disease. I think coconut oil tastes delicious and adds variety to the diet. Use it as an alternative to butter.

While it's great for cooking, coconut oil has other nutritional uses. I use coconut oil as a lotion when my skin is dry as well as a hair conditioner to keep it hydrated. I've also read that eating
raw coconut oil can be great for your overall health.

I have tried many brands of coconut oil. I have purchased them at my local co-op as well as over the web. I found that each of them had a distinct taste and I really enjoy the flavor of Tropical Traditions coconut oil. If you decide to make a purchase consider using my number #5531550. 

Keep your eyes peeled as a competition will be starting to win a 16oz. jar of premium Coconut Oil! Woo Hoo.

Interested in learning more:

Do you use coconut oil? Tell me about it!


Dave said...

Great post.. I love putting a little bit of coconut oil in green smoothies for it's detoxifying properties (helps with candida) I also love to use it with raw cacao!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

I love baking with coconut oil, especially in recipes with banana or mango. I also use it as a skin moisturizer in the warmer months.

MulberryMary said...

Dave - You made me hungry just thinking about raw cacao!

Michelle - I have been baking with coconut oil for awhile too! I know you have great recipes like your breakfast bars and I have been planning on making those for the last few weeks. YUM.

Now I am really looking forward to making a little something something with coconut oil.

Rayne said...

I finally took the plunge & bought some coconut oil last night. I am super excited to use it! What use would you recommend a newbie like me dives into first?

MulberryMary said...

Rayne - saute some garlic and Swiss Chard in the coconut oil. Lovely. Or you could make some chicken and use some Indian spices. You can use it while baking. Oh and you can make a lovely homemade salad dressing with it too! Let me know what you try!

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