Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Coco-nutty Goodness

Whenever I see or smell a coconut, I think of lounging on a sandy beach, the sun shining down on me pina colada in hand. Oh if only! All fats are not created equally and it is important to set the record straight about which ones are good for you, which ones should be used sparingly, and the fats that should be avoided at all cause.  Let’s start with the bad and get them out of the way.

Saturated fats! Saturated fats can raise total blood cholesterol levels and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. A saturated fat is easily identified by its solid form at room temperature. Examples include mainly animal sources such as red meat, pork fat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Butter, margarine, and shortening are also types of saturated fats that are used in cakes, cookies, and many baked goods.

Trans fats! You want to avoid trans fats like you try to avoid telemarketers. Trans fats occur naturally in some foods in small amounts. BUT most trans fats are made from oils through a food processing method called hydrogenation. This alters the chemical composition of the fat, making it easier to cook with and decrease the chance of spoilage. Why do you think Twinkies have such a long shelf life? YUCK!  Trans fats impose the same health risks as saturated fats and other countries actually place a legal limit to trans fat content.

On to the good fats J Good fats are referred to as unsaturated fats and are liquid at room temperatures.  Monounsaturated fats are found in a variety of foods and oils including avocado, nuts, olive oil and peanut oil. These fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels, may benefit insulin levels in addition to helping control blood sugar control. Polyunsaturated fats are mainly vegetable oils such as sunflower, sesame, soybean, safflower, and corn oil. They are also the primary fat in seafood. They have the same health benefits as monounsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat and are found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel) and shellfish (oysters). They are also found in soybean and canola oil, walnuts and flaxseeds. Research shows they are especially beneficial to your heart and could decrease your risk of coronary artery disease.

But what about coconut oil? It has become very popular and is used for dietary purposes as well as skin, hair, and even medical purposes. Coconut oil is a type of saturated fat made up of mostly medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs)  but remember…not all fats are created equal! Unlike butter and margarine, coconut oil is not artificially manipulated by hydrogenation. It is also, depending on room temperature, can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid and it does not contain cholesterol like other saturated fats. There are many health benefits to coconut oil but as with most things, moderation is key, for it is still a saturated fat.  

Health benefits of coconut oil include (and there are many more):  

Supports immune system
Promotes healing and tissue repair
Hydrates and improves skin tones
Reduces psoriasis and eczema symptoms
Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
Has anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties
Boosts metabolism and aids in weight maintenance

Provides a quick source of energy

Why not give it a try? It is a delicious alternative for cooking and baking (perfect example is the recipe below)

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