It seems everyone is talking about coconut oil these days, so I thought I’d take a stab at explaining what all the fuss is about. Coconut oil is a saturated fat (gasp!)…. Hold it right there…I know, after all these years of putting saturated fat on the same level as the devil himself, we’re hearing a different story. It turns out not all saturated fats are created equal and we’ve learned the body actually needs saturated fat for really important things like brain cells and hormones. The real demons are now the ones treated artificially — liquid fats that are manipulated to make them solid at room temperature by adding hydrogen (aka “hydrogenated”) to create “trans fats.” Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature all on its own making it naturally more stable and capable of handling higher temperatures without burning and creating free radicals — those things that cause major cellular damage (ie. signs of aging, inflammation, cancer, etc.).
Aside from being able to handle the heat, coconut oil is oozing with health benefits. It’s linked with boosting metabolism, improving heart health, supporting the immune system and maintaining a lean body. Our bodies actually burn coconut oil differently than they do other fats. The fatty acids in coconut oil are much smaller so they’re easier for the body to use. That means we’re able to burn the fat quickly and use it up as energy, instead of storing it (Now, that’s my kind of non-fat!). As if that weren’t enough, this little miracle worker does wonders for the skin too. Use it as a substitute for butter in baking, to saute vegetables, as a moisturizer, eye-makeup remover… you can even take it daily as a supplement. Have you seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? If so, this is my Windex!
To truly reap the benefits, look for these buzz words on the label: virgin, organic, unrefined, and cold pressed or expeller pressed. There are coconut oils out there that are refined or processed to neutralize the flavor and extend the product’s shelf life. You don’t want that. When buying coconut oil, go for the pure stuff. Also, you might see some that are labeled “extra-virgin,” which is not really a thing as it is with olive oils. For coconut oil, virgin is as good as it gets. Just so you know…
Fun fact: Coconut oil was actually what movie theaters originally used to pop popcorn until saturated fat became a no-no. But the stuff they were using was far from the pure coconut oil we’re talking about here. I’d imagine it did give those kernels that perfect combo of sweet and salty though.
Want to give it a try? Use coconut oil as you would olive oil to saute vegetables. Itching to bake? Here are a few recipes that use coconut oil:
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.