Coconut oil is approximately 90 per cent saturated fatty acids, so why do we always hear it's so beneficial?
Those fatty acids are long- and medium-chain triglycerides (LCTs and MCTs). MCTs are amazing - your body can use them very quickly for a sustained energy boost (and they are supposed to be the preferred energy source for your brain, smarty-pants) – and eating fats and oils helps to reduce our appetite and cravings. But coconut oil still packs a tonne of calories. It is a great and healthy alternative to other oils and fats, but don't go pouring it over everything.
Here are two easy and tasty ways to include coconut oil in your diet:
1) Add it to your morning joe
After drinking milk in my coffee for 15 years, I ditched it. Replace milk and start your day with coconut oil, less than a teaspoon to start.
You may have heard of Bulletproof Coffee. A master of marketing observed Tibetan mountain goers thriving on yak-butter tea and figured out how to make a gazillion dollars from three ingredients: coffee, butter and MCT oil (MCT oil comes from coconut oil, after some processing).
I will never be adding butter to my coffee. Can't do it. Love butter. Love coffee. But they do not belong together in my world.
But coconut oil? Yes. I started with some Borneo Virgin Coconut Oil I picked up as a souvenir in Malaysia – it has an incredible coconut aroma and flavour. My coconut oil coffee was delicious.
After a while, I didn't buy any more. You really need to get a nice-flavoured oil if you are going to drink it 'straight' in the morning, and it was a bit too much trouble.
Did I get smarter? Notice an unusual burst of enthusiasm and energy mid-morning? Honestly, not really. But you might!
It was well worth trying – I have not had milk in my coffee since, and that's one less thing to worry about.
2) Cook popcorn with itCredit: DijutalTim, Flickr
Stovetop popcorn is simple to make, and the subtle flavour of coconut is so good on fresh, hot, buttery salted popped kernels. To make a batch:
- To a small saucepan, add enough coconut oil to cover the bottom of the pan (about 3 tablespoons) and heat.
- Test the heat by adding a few corn kernels. When they pop, add 1/3 cup kernels in one even layer and put the pan on the lowest heat with the lid on. If possible, open the lid a crack to let the steam escape.
- Give the pan a shake every so often and wait until the popping dies down – this should take only a few minutes.
- Put the popped corn into a bowl and cover with butter: Bulletproof Popcorn!
There is no worldwide standard regarding the preparation of coconut oil. However, the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (the Cocomunity) have published standards for virgin coconut oil as having gone through a process that does not 'lead to alteration of the oil'.
RBD stands for 'refined, bleached and deodorized'. None of those things sound particularly pleasing, and all of them can be done to coconut oil. Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined oil results in a bland and odourless oil.
Avoid hydrogenated coconut oil, whether virgin or refined. Some of the monounsaturated fatty acids become nasty trans-fatty acids during this process. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated coconut oil is often found in non-dairy creamers. Coconut oil that has not been through this process will become liquid at roughly 24°C.
MCT oils (of Bulletproof Coffee fame) are a fractionated coconut oil. There are different types and brands, but they usually contain only three types of medium-chain triglycerides, having removed the lauric acid and long-chain fatty acids.
Lauric acid is an MCT; it is naturally abundant in coconut oil and is also found in breast milk. However, proponents of MCT oil say that the lauric acid acts more like an LCT (long-chain triglyceride) – i.e. it takes more processing by the body and is more likely to raise cholesterol. So the Bulletproof people had it removed from their MCT oil.