One question I’ve been asked many times lately is: “Why is coconut oil suddenly good for you, wasn’t it a bad oil in the past?” The Earth may be round, but things do change, and that is extremely prominent, nowadays, with the improvements of technology in research and development. Coconut oil is one of those things that have evolved to become better and better by changing how it is made because it is no longer hydrogenated. You should have known from all the news circulating around the process of hydrogenating oil making it a trans-fat, which raises bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol and increases your chances of heart disease.
North America has been following the coconut oil craze for a few years now and Hong Kong is now on that wave. In a recent New York Times article, Thomas Brenna at Cornell University says past studies gave coconut oil its bad reputation because they were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil not with the virgin form we see now.
Can Coconut Oil Help You Lose Weight?
Although the new dietary guidelines suggest that less than 10% of your daily intake should comprise of saturated fats, which coconut oil is mainly made of, but not all saturated fats are considered equally bad. Since coconut is plant based, it is naturally cholesterol free, unlike animal fats. Although it is solid in room temperature it is mainly made of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), which is lauric acid in this case. In 2009, a study published in Lipids illustrates that coconut oil seems to reduce abdominal obesity, lowering waist circumference in women without elevating cholesterol levels.
How Coconut Oil is Processed Now?
There are 2 main methods of producing coconut oil, the wet process and a dry process where there are 2 ways to exercise the dry method and 3 ways for the wet method.
A) Dry Method
1) Expeller Cold Pressed (<170 degrees F) – fresh coconuts are dried with hot air within several hours of shelling and then cold pressed.
2) Refined Hot Pressed (<220 degrees F) – Sun dried or fire dried coconuts and then pressed, refined, deodorized and bleached to remove flavours and aromas.
B) Wet Method – fresh coconut meat is made into milk first
1) Centrifuged Cold Pressed (<113 degrees F) – milk is centrifuged within several hours of shelling and the oil is removed. This is the true raw oil.
2) Centrifuged Hot Pressed (140 degrees F) – milk is heated and centrifuged and oil is removed after several hours of shelling.
3) Fermented (Ambient temperature) – milk is stored for 10-24 hours until the water portion is fermented and the oil on top is skimmed off.
Which Type of Coconut Oil is Better?
The cold-dry expeller pressed, and both the wet centrifuged cold and hot methods will produce virgin coconut oil, but the oil properties are different, since the temperatures vary when the coconuts meat is processed. In a 2009 study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, the polyphenols in wet pressed virgin coconut oil showed higher antioxidant properties and can lower cholesterol more effectively than dry pressed coconut oil.
Another study published in the journal, Clinical Biochemistry in 2004 also illustrated that wet pressed virgin coconut oil was better at lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (bad type) and elevating HDL cholesterol (good type) than dry pressed coconut oil. Even though wet-cold pressed coconut oil may be more expensive, it is indeed a healthier option than refined selections.
Coconut Oil For Your Bones
A 2012 study published in the journal, Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine, suggests that virgin coconut oil is effective in preventing bone loss and maintaining bone structure.
Coconut Oil For Your Skin
Indeed coconut oil is used in many beauty products since it is a good moisturizer, but it may be more than just a moisturizer. In 2010, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology published a study to suggest that treating wounds with virgin coconut oil decreased healing time due to a higher turnover of collagen.
Cooking with Coconut Oil
You can substitute coconut for regular cooking like sautéing. For baking, you can basically use coconut 1:1 for what the recipe calls for. You can even substitute coconut oil for butter for some flaky crusts when you put it in the fridge to harden up a bit. Since the smoke point of coconut oil is around 350 degrees F (177 degrees C), a little higher than extra-virgin olive oil, I would not bake/cook anything above 175 degrees C with it, which is perfect for cakes and muffins. Cooking with coconut oil leaves a slight coconut aroma to your dishes, which some people may take some time getting used to.
Eating foods in moderation, controlling portion sizes and routine physical activity are keys to a healthy lifestyle. Healthy oils are a part of a balance diet, but there are still ~9 calories in a gram of fat. I am only stating the facts I see about coconut oil, but it does not mean I am telling you to throw away the other good fats like olive oil, which goes well with your pastas and salads or grapeseed oil and avocado oil with high heat cooking, since they have a relatively higher smoke point.