As seen in Charm East Texas.
Coconuts inspire images of sipping fruity drinks while lounging on the beach in the ocean breeze. (Yes, please.) And let me just say that I am cuckoo for coconuts. They really are marvelous, delicious and versatile. Coconut products have been all the rage for a while from skincare to beverages, so let’s take a look at why people are going coconuts.
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Coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat, so it will be solid at room temperature. It is the highest natural food source of a special type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, and this is important because that specific type of fat can bypass the normal digestive processes for fats (which can take a while) and get absorbed quickly and easily for fast energy. MCTs are actually converted to usable energy about as fast as sugars, so if you need a quick yet healthy pick-me-up, reach for a little spoonful of coconut oil instead of that candy bar, lest you be “hangry.”
Coconut oil is full of saturated fat, and yet, it seems to be amazingly heart healthy based on the available studies. In previous articles I’ve discussed that the hate train on saturated fat is probably less than warranted by science, but in the case of coconut oil, this seems to be especially true. It has been observed that cultures that eat abundant amounts of coconut oil tend to have less heart disease than us lesser coconut-ivores. It is also true that coconut oil increases our good (HDL) cholesterol very effectively, which may be part of the reason it seems to be great for heart health. Another neat fact is that the fat composition of coconut oil likely reduces lipid peroxidation, which is a fancy term for damage to cholesterol particles. And damaged cholesterol particles are likely a leading cause of heart disease.
Coconut oil has been scientifically proven ability to kill, obliterate and annihilate several types of nasty bacteria, viruses and fungi. So eat it, rub it on your skin, bathe in it and make fruity drinks with it. Let’s stay germ-free, hydrated and happy (see aforementioned fruity drinks).
Speaking of hydration, coconut water has reportedly even been used as an IV fluid in a pinch, because it is such a great source of electrolytes, not to mention B vitamins, vitamin C and the nifty muscle-supporting antioxidant arginine. Instead of colorful, sugar and chemical-laden sports drinks, let’s imbibe the more natural and nutty alternative — coconut water. Plus, it’s just yummy.
Coconut oil is full of healthy compounds called antioxidants, which are the body’s clean-up crew against all the damage daily life, toxic chemicals, junk food, sun damage, and evil alien invaders can do to the body. So just eat it.
For cooking, coconut oil is a great alternative to highly processed (and thus, unhealthy) vegetable oils. Refined coconut oil has no flavor and is a perfect substitute for vegetable and canola oil in any cooking and baking application. Because of its heat stability and high smoke point, you can even use refined coconut oil for frying. Use the same amount of coconut oil as you would vegetable or canola oil required by any recipe. If liquefied oil is needed and your trusty jar of coconut oil has solidified, run your container of coconut oil under hot water for a minute and you’ll have liquid oil for easy measuring and cooking. Virgin coconut oil has higher levels of antioxidants and a coconut-y flavor which is great for cooking certain things. An energy-packed spoonful of virgin coconut oil can be a great addition to your morning smoothie. You can even use the same kind of virgin coconut oil on your skin as a nourishing lotion. Other purported uses of coconut oil include bug repellant, mild sun protectant and excellent slip-and-slide medium with the addition of a tarp and a water hose, though I haven’t personally investigated the scientific validity of those claims.
So, now that you know how great coconut is, you must be asking yourself, “Where can I get this glorious substance sent from above?” I’m glad you asked. Coconut oil can be found at your local Brookshire Brothers, usually in the same section as the other cooking oils and olive oil. Can’t find it at your store? Fill out our Product Request form and we’ll be happy to bring it in! The best type to choose is cold-pressed, and make sure to check whether you are buying “refined” for a flavorless oil or “virgin” for a coconut-y flavored oil. Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened shredded coconut and coconut flakes are also available!
In the world of healthy eating, it is prudent to remember to watch out — there are a lot of coconuts running around out there. In this case, that’s actually a good thing.
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.