Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coconut Oil

I have been doing alot of research about fats recently. I have decided that my family can get everything that it needs from traditional, minimally processed fats like expeller pressed olive oil, butter, lard and now, coconut oil. Most people have some experience with the first three, but not the last. So I thought I would jot down some information about coconut oil for you.

Coconut Oil is a traditional oil of the tropics. It is over 80% saturated fat. But has the same levels of total fats as all the other oils I detailed a couple weeks ago in my article about Lard. Coconut oil will be solid at cooler temperatures, like the grocery store, but at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit it becomes liquid. Imagine my surprise when I purchased some as a solid, knowing it was such a saturated fat, and then the next morning went to use some and it was totally liquid! Because it is a saturated fat it is stable it will remain fresh even at warm temperature, whereas many other unsaturated vegetable oils can go rancid easily. Rancid oils are full of free radicals which can set the stage for cancer and many other degenerative diseases. There is a growing group of people out there that feel that all standard polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean, canola, safflower, corn and the like are all at some level of rancidity. Take a look at this site. The guy's picture is a little weird, but the site is worth a look. Part of the reason I am starting to think this bit about polyunsaturated fats might actually be true is that I first read this concept in Fallon's Nourishing Traditions (I know, I know..I can't shut up about that book!), but then I found it again while researching Coconut Oil and then I came across that last site when I google searched it. I am done with them all, corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, you name them I am done with them! When will our government stop subsidizing foods that are making us sick? NOTE: Olive Oil is a MONOunsaturated fat and does not fall prey to the same instability.

Coconut oil is also has known antibacterial and anti fungal properties from it's high lauric acid content. Lauric Acid is a a fatty acid that is a Medium Chain Triglyceride, or MCT for short. The only other significant source of MCT's in our diet is human breastmilk. And not many of us are really getting that in large quantities. I found some good articles at the website coconutoil.com (yeah, the internet is crazy amazing). Brian and Marianita Silhavy write in their article The Health Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil,

"When Lauric Acid is consumed in the diet either in human breastmilk or in coconut oil, lauric acid forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin, which has been shown to destroy several bacteria and viruses, including listeria monocytogenes and heliocobacter pylori, and protoza such as giardia lamblia. Some of the viruses that have been destoyed by monolaurin include HIV, measles, herpes simplex virus-1, vesicular stomatitis virus, influenza and cytomegalovirus. There is also evidence now that the MCTs in coconut oil kill yeast infections, such as Candida."

The Silhavy's also writes that most long chain triglycerides (such as those found in soybean and safflower oil) are typically stored in the body as fat whereas MCTs are burned for energy, and that MCTs raise the body's metabolism leading to weight loss. In nature, you would never have consumed pure soybean oil. The small particles of fat in soybeans would have been tied up in the proteins and fiber of the bean. How many soybeans would you have to eat as a whole food to get one tablespoon of soybean oil? If someone knows please alert me. It reminds me of all those old cereal commercials with the ridiculous number of bowls of somebody else's cereal you would have to eat... Whereas coconuts are a natural fat source whether you eat them whole or chopped. I feel that the fat in coconut is meant to be eaten because there is so much there! But that is simply me extrapolating, which I am prone to doing.

I highly recommend that you click on the links and begin to read the varied places where I have found positive information about coconut oil. I don't believe things that I only hear in one place anymore. If I feel that an idea sounds compelling, I look into it. If I can find many varied sources that all say the same thing I begin to see that such an idea might have merit. Coconut Oil seems to also have a healthy industry around it and it properties. While I am not anti-supplement, I definitely think food sources are better than supplements. So rather than pay good money for a lauric acid supplement (yes, they exist), just eat some coconut oil. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention how delicious it is. The oil is mostly flavorless, but I do notice some coconutty overtones. I shamelessly stole a friend's idea and am now putting coconut oil into my oatmeal (and yes I feed this to my children). I have used it to make muffins and it would be great if you are making some Asian inspired dish. I would absolutely stir fry chicken with curry and veggies in coconut oil. Yum. What other uses do my faboo readers have?? I want to know. I would rather not just take one spoonful of this stuff every day, but I will get to that if I can't think of what to do with it. Granola? What do you think? Anybody?


This article is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday!


  1. Okay COB - now you're messing with my head! I believe you about using lard, because I've seen that before. When you have mentioned coconut oil in the past I was not sure what to think because I though it was NOT a good oil. I did not click on your links yet, but the gist of what you are saying here (and maybe you've said it before but I didn't put two and two together) is that polyunsaturated fats are bad bad bad for us?? I should pay more attention. Or read Nourishing Traditions, which I was not planning to do because I was feeling a bit of information overload. Thanks for this post! All I understood before was that saturated fats were not as bad as the government has been leading us to believe over the last few generations. Now I see I have a lot more to learn.

  2. Hey I hear you. This information rocked my world. Saturated Fats are important to our diets as I have seen through my readings. I am getting the impression that Polyunsaturated fats are not typical in nature, and that is probably why they are so unstable, because they are out of their environment which lends stability, i.e. they have been seperated from the bean or kernel or whatever. I don't know enough to say outright that they are bad for you. But some of these others fats I think are better, and they are definitely more natural and less processed.
    Click on the links I provided and do your own reading. I can ask for nothing better than to make skeptics out of my readers. Nutritional science and experiments are all so complex, and as humans we don't get how food reacts in the body, how we adapt to a changing food supply,etc. And as I read more I see more and more nutritionists that feel that the old fashion foods are still the best! Not to get all religiousy, but I keep coming back to the concept that whatever we humans do to try and outsmart God and make his world better, we just keep screwing it up. But now I have gone and pissed someone off...

  3. I have co-workers that love to use cocnut oil in their hair. They say it softens it like a really good deep conditioning treatment. They really like it.

  4. @Lalabowers--what do they do?? I could use a conditioning treatment. Do they leave it in for a few minutes? do you know?

  5. Well... she takes about a tsp. at a time and gently softens/melts it in her hands and then she runs it through her hair. She likes to do it before bed and then braid her hair and sleeps with a towel on her pillow. Plus a side benefit, it smells really good! Also I've done by putting some in my hair and then wrapping a warm towel over my head and leaving it for awhile before washing my hair.

  6. Actually, olive oil is still an unsaturated fat and WILL go rancid, but it has protective qualities as well and IS beneficial. It should NEVER be heated as that damages the structure of the oil.

    Coconut oil is WONDERFUL. I use is for 90% of my cooking (I get it 40 lbs at a time at $1/lbs) and it can be "eaten" through the skin. I use it exclusively for my face and body now and it has helped my loose weight that has stayed off. I mix it with baking soda for deodorant. I make my own fries, potato and tortilla chips with it.