Coconuts and coconut oil have had its fair share of bad press in the last few decades. It’s still a common misconception that the saturated fat in coconut oil raises cholesterol.
There are no scientific studies which have been published, that indicate the consumption of coconut oil increases blood cholesterol or leads to heart disease. There have however, been numerous reports [1-6] that have shown that coconut oil cannot be held responsible for the development of coronary heart disease. Other studies have pin-pointed populations that regularly consume coconuts, such as Polynesia and Sri Lanka and show that “dietary coconut oil does not lead to high serum cholesterol nor to high coronary heart disease mortality or morbidity” [7-9].
Ok, boys and girls – here’s a little lecture about fats, oils, triglycerides and fatty acids.
Fats and oils are technically all triglycerides. Triglycerides are made up of separate molecules known as fatty acids. Each triglyceride molecule consists of three fatty acids. Fatty acids can be separated into three categories: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All of the oils and fats present in our diets consist of a mixture of these fatty acids. An increased intake of saturated fat can in turn increase the amount of cholesterol that is produced by your liver and thus in your blood. It is well documented that high cholesterol is linked with the increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Fats are further classified as short-, medium- or long-chained, based on the number of carbon atoms in their structure. Nearly ⅔ of the saturated fats in coconut oil consist of medium-chained fatty acids. This makes the saturated fat in coconut oil significantly different to that found in meats and other vegetable oils. Short- and medium-chained fatty acids are easily absorbed directly through the portal vein in to the liver, where it becomes accessible immediately; this bypasses the necessity of being emulsified by bile salts before being able to be utilized by the body.
There are numerous benefits of eating coconut oil. Nearly half of the fatty acid content in coconut oil is Lauric acid, which is converted to Monolaurin by the body. Monolaurin is an antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by mammals to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, influenza and various other pathogenic bacteria , it is also a main component in human breast milk. If you didn’t think this was enough, almost another 10 % of the coconut fat content is Capric acid – this stimulates anti-microbial activity.
To conclude, eating coconut is completely healthy, an immune-enhancer and generally beneficial to your health, that does not cause heart problems.
Ok, now that I’ve clarified that coconut is healthy and safe to eat, I can take off my science hat and put on my foodie hat …
Every week when I did my grocery shopping at the natural market, PCC, I would drool at the Artisana Raw Coconut Butter. I had no idea what coconut butter tasted like, and I wanted to try it. But I just couldn’t get myself to part with $10 a jar. Thanks to Heather, I no longer need to. I simply bought a 227 g (8 oz) packet of Organic, unsweetened coconut flakes (for $2.50-ish) and blitzed them in my food processor. The result is delicious and creamy coconut butter! It’s a little grittier/coarser than the Artisana stuff (so I’m told), but to me, it’s delicious. The simple blitzing of the dehydrated coconut flakes, creates a wonderful, sweet, coconutty spread that’s like heaven on a spoon.
And what do you do with a piece of heaven on a spoon? Anything you fancy. I’ve served it with fruit, dolloped it into soup, spread it on fresh bread and carrot-cake muffins and I’ve even eaten it straight out of the jar – it really is THAT good!
Makes 200 g (¾ c)
Adapted from Heather Eats Almond Butter – Coconut Butter
- 227 g (8 oz or 2 ⅔ c) unsweetened coconut flakes
1. Place the coconut flakes into a food processor and blitz for 12-15 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, if and when necessary.
2. Pour the coconut butter into a jar and store at room temperature. Enjoy!
NOTE: The coconut butter will eventually set at room temperature, to make it spreadable again, heat for 5-10 seconds in a microwave.
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- Hashim S. A., Clancy R. E, Hegsted D. M., Stare F. J., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 7:30 (1959)
- Bierenbam J. L., Green D. P., Florin A., Fleishman A. I., Caldwell A. B., J Am Med. Assoc., 202:1119 (1967)
- Sundram K., Hayes K. C., Siru O. H., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 59:841 (1994)
- Tholstrup T., Marckmann P., Jespersen J. Sandstrom B., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 59:371 (1994)
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- Prior I. A., et al., Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 34:1552 (1981)
- Kurup P.A., Rajmohan T., Coconut Development Board, India, 35 (1995)
- Enig M. G., Presentation at AVOC Lauric Oils Symposium, Vietnam (1996)