If you read my two last recipes (Italian-Asian Fusion Vegan Salad and Basmati Rice and Quinoa with Coconut Curry Sauce) you can probably guess that I like cooking with coconut oil. I do! It’s awesome.
After cooking with olive oil for my entire adult life, I have now started realizing not only the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil, but also how good it tastes! The amount of actual coconut flavor depends of course on how much you use, as well as what you are cooking in it. It could taste very coconutty, or it could add a bit of general sweetness. Regardless, it’s all good.
Why cook in coconut oil?
Besides the delicious flavor it gives your food, there are many health benefits associated with using coconut oil. First of all, coconut oil gives us the “good fats” that our bodies need including:
• Medium chain triglycerides like capric acid, caprylic acid (natural enemy of Candida albicans), lauric acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid.
• Polyunsaturated fats like linoleic acid
• Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs, as referred to in the Flat Belly Diet book by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD) like oleic acid
Please note that although these are called “acids” (like so many other ingredients), they do NOT produce an acidic reaction in the digestive tract. If fact, coconut oil actually soothes and strengthens the digestive tract and prevents inflammation that leads to agita. The medium chain triglycerides also strengthen the immune system since they naturally possess antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Coconut oil also contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the other health benefits of cooking with it are:
• Prevents diseases of the liver, kidneys, and gall bladder
• Helps control blood sugar and improves insulin production which can help prevent and manage diabetes
• Helps strengthen bones by helping the body absorb minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. This also strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.
• Contains less calories than other cooking oils and it contains the “good fats” that are easily converted into energy rather than building up in the circulatory system and contributing to cardiovascular issues. In fact, it does not increase LDL levels (“bad cholesterol”) and actually helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure
• The MUFAs in coconut oil aid in weight loss and fat burning efforts
When choosing a coconut oil, you want to look for one that is organic, extra virgin, unprocessed, and cold-pressed. At first I was using expeller pressed, but I was then told cold pressed is the way to go.
Coconut oil as a cosmetic ingredient
Coconut oil is one of the most commonly used skin care ingredients in natural and homemade skincare formulations, and you will often find derivatives of it (such as capric/caprylic triglyceride) in many commercial preparations as well. It is also often used as a carrier oil for aromatherapeutic massage oils, as well as in hair conditioners and pomades.
A word of caution about using coconut oil topically: it is a highly comedogenic ingredient (meaning that it will clog pores which will contribute to acne). Unless you have dry skin I highly recommend avoiding the use of coconut oil or products containing it (even hair care products) because you will break out. Many products that claim to be non-comedogenic (which really doesn’t mean anything, by the way…more on that another time) contain fatty acids and triglycerides derived from coconut oil including capric/caprylic acid and oleic acid. Watch out for oleic acid…it is a pore clogger; capric/caprylic acid is not considered non-comedogenic but it is less likely to clog pores than oleic acid. However, if you are prone to oily skin or breakouts I recommend avoiding it completely (won’t be easy…it’s everywhere).
I highly recommend experimenting with coconut oil in the kitchen. Even if you think you don’t like coconut, I think you should give it a try with some different foods and see if you change your mind.
*Coconut image from Touched By An Angel