What It Is
Didn’t we just go through this with eggs? They’re good for you, they’re bad for you and now they’re good for you again? Well, it’s the coconut’s turn. We were leery, but now we’re in love, so if you’re not already nutty for coconut oil, it’s about time you made room in your pantry for this healthy fat! Coconut oil is a flavorful, tropical oil sucked out from the meat of matured coconuts. It’s full of island-conjuring flavor and has been demonized for its relationship with movie theater popcorn and melt-in-your mouth chocolate. Now, with some science and research, we’re looking to shed some light on the truth behind the creamy white oil.
The Dirty Deets
Coconut oil is full of saturated fats and is solid at room temp (think butter, cheese and the fat on your steak). We in the biz say that if it’s solid at room temp, it’s more likely to be solid in your blood, raising your risk of excess bad cholesterol and heart disease. While we still stick to that belief most of the time, because it is accurate for most solid fats, coconut turns out to be a good fat in a bad fat costume. Make room on the shelf next to the olive, avocado and grapeseed oils, because the calorie and fat nutrition 411 is similar in all: One tablespoon of coco-oil has 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat (12 grams of which are saturated fat).
- Millions with healthy tickers in tropical cultures where coconut is a staple cannot be wrong. Accused of contributing to heart disease due to its high cholesterol and saturated fat levels, research finds coconut oil doeselevate total cholesterol but it’s because of the heart-protecting kind… HDL, which is the good fat that protects your heart.
- The molecules in coconut oil are medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT’s), that may be solid at room temperature like their sinister cousins the long-chain-triglycerides, but they are actually helpful: They break down quickly and put out fast energy. MCT’s are protective for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. Couldn’t we all use a little help under the cap?
And, we need to give credit where it’s due — the tough nut to crack is a killer:
- It kills bacteria and prevents infection.
- It helps you eat less by killing your hunger and speeding up your metabolism.
- It kills frizzy hair when you rub it into your locks, and it can even improve your skin and teeth.
How To Chow Down
A little bit goes a long way. You don’t need a heaping spoonful when just a drizzle will do.
- Coconut oil has a very high smoking point, making it an ideal choice for high-temperature cooking. The next time you make a stir-fry, swap out your conventional oil for coconut oil and be prepared for a new twist on your old standby.
- If you’re more into reaping your coco oil benefits on the go, try adding one tablespoon of it to your fave smoothie recipe instead of your flax, peanut butter or usual fat.
- It’s almost impossible to get coconut oil-cooked popcorn at the movie theater anymore, so make it yourself and conjure your childhood: Use two tablespoons of coconut oil with 1/2 cup popcorn kernels.
- Drizzle a teaspoon of coconut oil over your oatmeal or quinoa and a tablespoon of shredded coconut for an island-style breakfast or side dish that satisfies.
In The Know
It’s hard to say the word nut without bringing up allergies, but before you prosecute our beloved coconut for being an allergen, know this: The coconut is actually a seed. While it has been classified as a tree nut, it is not actually in the same category as other nuts. So there are now no excuses to keep it off of your pantry shelf. Feel free to feel good about sentencing coconut oil to a long, healthy and loving relationship in your life. No hard feelings from the coconut itself for believing the worst. It has a tough shell.