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Foodie Friday: Cooking with coconut oil

Last week I popped into Turnham Green Health Food store and got chatting about healthy cooking options with the lovely Holly.

One ingredient that’s been recommended by a lot of nutritionists recently is Coconut Oil – so I was really interested to hear Holly extolling its benefits too.

Apparently it’s full of healthy fats, is just as versatlle as regular cooking oils and is even thought to speed up your metabolism.

Now, I’m not sold on coconut oil as a body treatment – there are much more beneficial ingredients around, but this was definitely worth further research…

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a medium chain saturated fatty acid (MCFA) – a healthy form of saturated fat which our bodies are able to metabolise and immediately convert into energy, rather than storing them as fat.

Coconut oil is also one of the most abundant natural sources of Lauric Acid, which has antiviral, antimicrobactrial and antifungal properties.

Pure coconut oil is around 50% Lauric Acid – to put it into perspective, the only other natural source with such a high concentration is breast milk!

Lauric Acid helps to support your natural immune system and is also thought to help lower cholesterol, for a healthy heart.

Amazingly, MCFAs have also been proven to help to increase the metabolism, helping you maintain a healthy weight or even lose excess weight when coupled with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

One 2009 weight loss study also found a link between women’s consumption of Coconut Oil and a reduction in abdominal obesity (fat stored around the waist and stomach area).

It is thought this weight loss is partly due to the ease of digestion, as well as Coconut Oil’s ability to optimise the body’s energy levels.

Cooking with Coconut Oil

Now I’m not saying ditch the Olive Oil for good – it’s still a fabulous fatty oil with great health benefits of it’s own. The problem is when we heat Olive Oil to cook, most of these benefits vanish.

Olive Oil is relatively unstable, and its healthy fatty acids appear to break down at temperatures as low as 180C.

More worryingly, monounsaturated oils such as Olive Oil are also thought to oxidise at high temperatures, creating free radicals which are then ingested.

Unlike Olive Oil, Coconut Oil is very stable and has a high smoking point, meaning it can be heated to much higher temperatures without the fatty acids breaking down.

While solid at room temperature it liquefies as soon as it comes into contact with heat – so you can use it in exactly the same way you would any other oil.

Have you already made the switch to Coconut Oil? If so please share your recipes in the comments section!

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