What image does coconut oil conjure up? For most people that would be clogged arteries. And yet, evidently it's possible it ain't so. A few years ago I took a little impromptu nutrition class given by an retired nurse. Besides insisting that we cut out the sugars (duh) she introduced us to the coconut oil solution. At first the above mentioned clogged artery visions were dancing in my head. But she laid out various health benefits; the clincher was her husband, who had had a heart attack years before. But not after getting on the coconut oil train. At least I was clinched into giving the subject a further look.
I went to coconutoil.com to get the skinny (it's an informational site, not retail). Coconut oil is +90% saturated fat; however, it is a medium chain fatty acid that is turned into fast energy. It doesn't stick to our hips or veins. Animal fats have long fatty acid chains, and do make us fat and
clogged. In countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India coconut is a staple. Their heart disease rates are much lower than ours. In addition, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, an important component in mother's milk. It is also antifungal and antibiotic. Sounds great, huh?
I did use coconut oil for some time. I even ordered it from Tropical Traditions; their oil is extra virgin and organic. It's great for sauteeing and baking. The oil I have has a mildly sweet taste, which I like. Forget about using it in pie crust, however, it was too hard to work with. I stopped using it after a while; I was still haunted by visions of clogged arteries.
In a recent issue of my beloved Environmental Nutrition newsletter, almost a half page was devoted to coconut oil. The jury is still out on the health claims, but the recommendation was to "treat it as a neutral player" and to read your labels. Stay away from partially hydrogenated oils as always. My recommendation, should you wish to try it, is to buy an organic product, preferably extra virgin. It is carried in natural food stores. And be sure to consult your physician before trying anything like this.
My next batch of cornbread will have some coconut oil in it. I'll let you know how it goes.