Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coconut Oil

      Recently I've been seeing many CE recipes calling for coconut oil in place of where you'd normally expect to see olive oil or vegetable oil. I've been wondering about coconut oil for some time now, so I decided to do some research on the topic and report back to you. I avoided websites that were clearly "Pro Coconut oil" for information - like "The Coconut Oil Research Council" :-\

This post is a cobbling together of information I've gleaned from multiple other sites: theundergroundbootcamp.com,
The Seattle Times

Coconut Oil: A Medium Chain Fatty Acid

     Because of its high saturated fat content coconut oil has earned itself an undeserved bad reputation. However, a series of scientific studies have recently begun to shed light on the numerous ways coconut oil can benefit the health of its consumers.
     Though coconut oil does contain saturated fat, the saturated fat found in coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride or fatty acid (MCT), which our bodies digest more efficiently than other fats. Because of this the saturated fat in coconut oil is not stored in our bodies as fat. Instead the medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are rapidly broken down and converted into energy, thus putting less strain on the liver, pancreas, and digestive system.
     In fact, coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium-chain triglycerides. The fact that coconut oil contains (MCT’s) is what makes this oil far more nutritious than corn oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and even olive oil. A second reason why coconut oil is far healthier than other oils is because it contains no dangerous trans-fatty acids which can raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels (LDL), and lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more.

Processed or “partially hydrogenated” coconut oil is unhealthy.

One thing both sides agree on is that when coconut oil is hydrogenated it becomes a trans fat, and trans fats are bad news. Trans fats have been closely associated with heart disease because they not only increase LDL cholesterol but impede the body’s ability to utilize HDL.
Unless you are cooking with virgin coconut oil, the only coconut oil in your diet may be hydrogenated, since that’s the form it takes in snack foods and nondairy creamers.

Coconut oil is one of the only plant-based sources of saturated fat (others include palm and palm kernel oils). Animal sources of saturated fat include butter, whole dairy products, beef and poultry skin. According to the American Heart Association, American Medical Association and USDA, we should limit our saturated fat to 7-10% of our daily calorie intake — this includes eating tropical oils such as coconut, which contains 92% saturated fat (one of the highest sources of saturated fats around).

Most old-school nutrition experts slam coconut oil because of its sat-fat content. Pro-coconut oil advocates, meanwhile, argue that the oil is easily absorbed because it’s a medium-chained triglyceride However, there’s strong evidence that suggests the various fatty acids found in coconut oil, including lauric, palmitic and myristic acid (all medium-chained triglycerides), raise both LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol and total cholesterol.

According to Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University who has extensively reviewed the literature on coconut oil, a considerable part of its stigma can be traced to one major factor.
"Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data," Brenna said. "Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn't so bad for you after all."

Partial hydrogenation creates dreaded trans fats. It also destroys many of the good essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil. And while it's true that most of the fats in virgin coconut oil are saturated, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the arterial villains they were made out to be. "I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong," Brenna said.

Plus, it turns out, not all saturated fats are created equal. Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, a nonprofit association of nutritionists, said, "Different types of saturated fats behave differently."

 If you chose to include coconut oil in your CE diet...

How To Choose The Best Coconut Oil

Recently coconut oil has gained tremendous popularity in the west and has become readily available in most supermarkets. However, not all brands of coconut oil are of the same quality. In order to make sure you are purchasing the best coconut oil look for the following factors:
  • Certified organic
  • Ensure the label says "Virgin" or "Extra Virgin" 
  • Made from fresh coconuts, not dried
  • No chemical additives (100% virgin coconut oil)
  • None refined
  • Non-GMO
  • Non hydrogenated
  • No hybridized coconuts (crossbred)