To Coco or not to Coco?
Being that I just shared a recipe featuring coconut milk (which contains coconut oil), I thought it would be timely to share this recent article in the NY Times. (Forgive me if you have already read it–it came out on March 1). The article, titled ” Once a Villian, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World,” discusses the fact that coconut oil went from blacklisted beast to best-bud in the nutrition world. Coconut oil has LOTS of saturated fat, so it was automatically blacklisted when the first studies appeared [falsely?] linking saturated fat intake with heart disease. In fact, at work we have a chart that we used to use in classes (before I yanked it from our curriculum) that demonstrates how coconut oil has more saturated fat than virtually all other plant-based oils.
Then scientists looked over at our neighbors in the Pacific Islands region and realized they were using coconut oil regularly and — surprise– didn’t have the incidence of heart disease that we do in this country. Hmmmm, could coconut oil not be that bad for us?
The nutrition world is undergoing a pretty significant change as of late because there are now lots of doubts as to whether saturated fats really are the big bad wolf that they have been made out to be. (See this article to read more.) Perhaps, our replacement of saturated fats with refined carbohydrates and sugars are to blame for heart disease, high cholesterol and overweight?
Anyway, I found the NY Times article interesting because it comes right back to my food philosophy–stick to foods that we have been eating (and living from) for a while. Coconut oil, unlike trans fats, is a lightly processed fat that people have been eating for centuries. Trans fats (aka man-made partially hydrogenated oils), have only appeared in our diet recently (in the last 100 years or so). They have been proven to be extremely unhealthy, because, simply put, our bodies have a hard time “disassembling” them because they only occur in nature in trace amounts and scientists believe that man-made trans fats are much more harmful.
Does this mean slather all your meals in coconut oil? No of course not. But I think using coconut oil in your cooking is not as bad as what we thought, circa 1997.