THE HEALTHY RESURGENCE OF TROPICAL OILS: Coconut Oil.
Coconut oil has traditionally been used in a wide range of food products because of its considerable stability and adaptability. Coconut oil is ideal for industrial uses because of its stability under most conditions including temperature. For example, coconut oil does not require refrigeration and is naturally solid at room temperature (up to 76?F). It has a shelf life of three years or 18 months once opened. Coconut oil also has many uses in its natural state. It has a slightly sweet flavor and is wonderful in baked goods or as a spread. It is a vegan, dairy-free replacement for butter, shortening and lard. It is also a healthy alternative to refined and hydrogenated vegetable oils for saut? cooking and stir-frying. It combines readily with other ingredients, has a neutral flavor and can be used as the oil of choice in almost any application.
Misinformation on Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been the undeserving target of negative publicity generated by the food oil industry and other consumer activist groups. For example, in 1988 the Center for Science in the Public Interest published a booklet called the “Saturated Fat Attack.” Section III is entitled “Those Troublesome Tropical Oils,” and it includes statements encouraging pejorative labeling. According to Mary Enig, Ph.D., “There were lots of substantive mistakes in the booklet, including errors in the description of the biochemistry of fats and oils and completely erroneous statements about fat and oil composition of many of the products” (Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century). According to Dr. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States “the coconut scare is foolishness. . . To get the word to commercial interests terrorizing the public about nothing is another matter.” Moreover, forty years ago researchers gathering data from rats fed hydrogenated coconut oil falsely concluded that it raised blood cholesterol levels (Enig, On the Effect of Coconut Oil on Serum Cholesterol Levels and HDLs). The result of hydrogenation is a poisonous molecular distortion of the fatty acids, turning them into harmful trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids are mutated forms of naturally occurring fats that impede cell functionality when they become part of the cell wall.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Research conducted over the last few decades has recognized an enormous amount of health benefits that set the record straight on coconut oil. Lauric Acid, the major fatty acid found in the fat of the coconut, has long been recognized for its unique properties that it provides to nonfood uses in the soaps and cosmetics industry. More recently, Lauric Acid has been recognized for its unique properties in food use, which are related to its antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal functions (Enig, Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century). Almost 50% of its fatty acid content is Lauric Acid, a disease fighting fatty acid. Lauric Acid, also found naturally in human milk, keeps the body from being infected by many diseases. Recently published research has also shown that natural coconut fat in the diet leads to a normalization of body lipids, protects against alcohol damage to the liver, and improves the immune system’s anti-inflammatory response. Furthermore, coconut oil and palm kernel oil only have 3,910 kilocalories per pound compared to soybean, cottonseed, or corn oil which have 4,010 kilocalories per pound (Enig, Know Your Fats: 169).
Food Uses of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has a unique taste, texture, and an incredibly long shelf life. Not only is coconut oil lower in calories than most other fats and oils, less coconut oil is required when baking or cooking! You can replace butter, shortening or lard with three-quarters the amount of coconut oil to obtain the same results. Coconut oil can be used in baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, muffins, pastries, pie crusts, waffles, and pancakes, candy bars, chocolate coatings, candy coatings, protein bars, meal replacement products, and many other products.
Recently coconut oil has been receiving an increasing amount of recognition for its amazing health benefits. Recent reports from the US Food and Drug Administration about mandated labeling of the trans fatty acids will put coconut oil in a more competitive position and may aid its return to the baking and snack food industry.
Some Interesting Web Sites
Enig, Mary. “Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century,” presented at the 36th session of the Asia & Pacific Coconut Community, 21-25 June 1999.
Enig, Mary. “The Effect of Coconut Oil on Serum Cholesterol Levels and HDLs.” www.ospc.com/coco.htm
Enig, Mary. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol. Bethesda Press, Silver Spring, MD, 2000.