Cooking with Coconut Oil?
Growing up in a Mangalorean (read South Indian) family in Bangalore, coconut oil was the most regular oil used at home. A head massage from my grandmother would definitely include copious amounts of coconut oil (and some serious scalp thulping!). Our Mangalorean curries and savoury dishes would have a healthy dollop of coconut oil. In fact there are certain dishes which do not taste the same without coconut oil. In my home food cooking with coconut oil was meant to add as flavour. It is usually added as a topping just before serving or while we are eating. However coconut oil is not appreciated all over the country mainly because of its strong over powering presence in food. Further one would think that using coconut oil is the most natural ingredient to be used in Indian households especially the South Indian ones, but it is not mainly because it is considered as being a source of high cholesterol. This quite a sad state of affairs when such a naturally good fat is easily available at affordable rates, it has been rejected for inflammatory poly unsaturated fats based on wrong Western beliefs and media.
With greater research and studies been done, coconut oil is now considered to be one of the healthiest fast to cook with. In London however coconut oil has reached another level. Considered as a superfood and hailed for its health and weight loss benefits, coconut oil is considered as one of the best ‘fats’ out in the market. I personally feel that calling any major source of fat as a superfood questionable. I prefer to call it a healthier fat or a good fat. Bottom line is any fat can make you…fat! The fat in your food however provides a lot of flavour. I personally found trying a fat free diet next to impossible and very difficult to maintain. I soon realized eating healthy does not mean that you need to follow a fat free diet, it means you need to avoid certain fats which cause problems to your body and include ‘good fats’ which can actually improve your energy, metabolism and good for your heart.
The Benefits of Cooking with Coconut Oil?
The benefits of cooking with coconut oil are that it is one of these good fats. This is because it is made up of medium chain fatty (MCTs) acids like lauric acid. Unlike other long chain fatty acids, when consumed and transferred to the liver, it easily metabolised into energy by the liver and created as a source of energy for the body without being stored as harmful fat deposits around the liver and other organs. Hence it becomes a source of nourishment, energy and healing. Studies have found that coconut oil has no negative effect on increasing the LDLs or the bad cholesterol level in the body. Lauric acid also boosts the immune system and has anti-bacterial, anti fungal and anti viral properties. 50% of coconut oil is made from lauric acid! Refined coconut oil is heat stable at 200C and does not oxidize at high temperatures. I will talk more about the negative impact of using cooking oils which are high in poly-unsaturates in another post. You can read more about its benefits form two well researched articles here and here. I think these are good enough reasons to start using coconut oil as healthy fat substitute, don’t you?
What is the Best Coconut oil to Buy?
There are a variety of coconut oil available in the market from virgin coconut oil to cold pressed coconut oil and refined coconut oil. Virigin coconut oil means that a majority of the nutrients and antioxidants of the coconut oil still remains. This however also means since it is in its purest form it also retains its strong coconut smell and flavour. I actually like this in most of my cooking as it also provides additional flavour. It might be too strong to people new to coconut oil and an alternative is the expeller pressed coconut oil. You can read all about the difference between refined coconut oil and unrefined coconut oil in my latest article here.
How to add Coconut Oil to your Diet?
Coconut oil can be easily substituted for your regular cooking oil. You can also use it as a fat substitute to some extent with your baking. I like to combine some nut butters along with coconut oil when baking just in order to get greater balance of good fats into my daily diet. You can try my Healthy Butter Chicken recipe where I have used coconut oil to make a healthy Indian chicken curry. It works as a great substitute and makes it as happier less guilty addition to dinner.