Saturday, February 28, 2009

Coconut Oil - What's it for and Why do I care?

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Many of the people I speak to about Coconut Oil say they like it, they hear a lot about the health benefits and some of them go as far as buying some, but then it seems that people have some trouble finding uses for it. Many people don't hear much about it and may have little interest, so for those all of those folks who might be checking this out, I'd like to offer the idea that as far as plant-based oils go, Coconut oil is Fantastic and once you've read this you'll know more about it, you will be interested, you'll have some ideas of what you can do with it and you'll know the basics of which you are buying!

Some people in the USA and other countries who follow our lead on certain things have concerns about coconut oil having problematic effects on the health, weight gain, cholesterol and various other related issues. It isn't true. Coconut oil got a bunch of bad press in the US based on faulty, biased research years ago. Coconut and palm oil had various culinary uses widespread in our country but were suddenly out of favor after some research was publicized noting the "dangerous" effects that they posed, the research was largely backed by the folks who happened to have the industrial, manufactured replacements at the ready, products like margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils and Crisco.

The facts? Here is a little bit of info from researcher Dr. Mary Enig regarding coconut oil and its health effects, "Approximately 50% of the fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid... [this] is a medium chain fatty acid... additional beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human or animal body. Monolaurin is the anti-viral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria including listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the free lauric acid.". Coconut oil has been shown to have positive effects on regulating weight, building immunity, soothing digestion, improving skin and hair texture, moisture and regulation of cholesterol levels.

In order to get the best effects from coconut oil through eating it, you'll need to know a couple of things about buying, storing and using. Being a plant-derived oil, coconut does go rancid so you'll want to be sure any coconut product that you buy is fresh and has been stored properly. Coconut oil should be kept cool, dry and away from sunlight. If these conditions are met, coconut oil will stay viable for more than a year. The second bit to be aware of are the different grades of oil available. I am a raw fooder and so am not very interested in cooking anything ever. If you are cooking, then be aware of the smoke point of the oils that you use as healthy fats become oxidized and unhealthful if they are overheated.

For heating, refined coconut oil is best as it has a higher smoke point (450 F) vs unrefined which burns at 350 F. So as one can intuit, the refined has much wider application in cooked foods such as sautes, baked goods etc.. and can replace many of the fats used in those applications with its much healthier and whole characteristics as well as the incredible flavor that it brings. For lower heat applications you can use virgin, unrefined coconut oil which has a greater amount of the meat still present and so has a more whole, aromatic, rounded flavor. Be sure to use certified, raw, organic coconut oils. Many oils are extracted through processes using heat and chemicals which add toxins and destroy nutritional aspects of this fantastic oil!

The thing that many people do not realize about their bodies is the role of fats. Your brain is made out of fat! If you are not eating healthy fats your body will break down, you will develop all sorts of ill effects. Healthy fats do not make you fat! Crappy food makes you fat! Processed sugars have more to do with weight gain in our country than most fats. If you try to eliminate fats from your diet your brain will malfunction along with everything else! So, that said...

There are all sorts of awesome ways you can use virgin coconut oil in its raw form. It easily replaces butter and can be subbed for many other oils on toast, in oatmeal, in sauces, in dressings, in soups, in candies, desserts... on and on! The way I most often use coconut oil is in nut milks, fruit-superfood mashes and in smoothies. Fat is one of the most important parts of our diet and so if you are making a smoothie to start your day that is a perfect place to get some of the fat you need.

Many people are lactose intolerant or having discovered what a mess the dairy industry in our country is, have decided that eating the mother's milk from mistreated, factory farmed animals might not be such a good idea. Once you check into it, you will find that it is very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in the mass-market place; Add to this the deleterious health effects of the processing (pasteurization) of milk products and it will become obvious that consumption of these is difficult to do in a sustainable manner.

So then, what do I make my smoothie with if I don't have any yogurt or milk? No Problem! You can make a delicious, energizing and wonderfully nutritive smoothie that is also dairy-free.

Try this!

Blend:

Fat T coconut oil
small handful raw almonds
pinch sea salt
big handful fresh fruit of your choice (There are some great quality frozen fruits, make sure there is no sugar added)
half a banana
enough fresh water to get a nice consistency
blob o raw honey or agave if not sweet enough
1/4 vanilla bean if you have it
Fat T raw cacao
1 t Maca if you've got it.

if it seems a little flat, add some more fruit!

You'll feel great with this as the start of your day.

Best!

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