NRNM: Go Cuckoo for Coconut (Oil)

In fierce opposition to the ADA’s National Nutrition Month, I’m doing my own advocacy with National REAL Nutrition Month. Throughout March, I’ll post ideas and tips for something you can do to improve your own health habits, along with stuff you can do to painlessly share what you know with the people you love. (All the posts thus far are right here, or click the “National REAL Nutrition Month” label below.)

NRNM: Go Cuckoo for Coconut (Oil)

The first time I experimented with coconut oil, I didn’t know anything about it, so I got a big bargain tub in the baking aisle of my local run o’ the mill grocery store. I was very skeptical and intimidated. It sat in the cabinet for months until I finally opened it, felt overwhelmed by what I saw inside, and tossed it in the trash.

I know! That’s totally lame.

Everyone I respect at the gym and online kept talking about how much they loved coconut oil, so I decided to try it again. But I did some research before my next attempt. Here’s what I learned:

1. Organic is best because that means that no chemicals are used during growing or processing.

2. Unrefined is a must. It’s less processed than refined, and it’s approved for cooking at higher temperatures.

3. Because coconut oil is a saturated fat – it’s 92% saturated – it’s solid at room temperature. If you’re accustomed to liquid oils for cooking, this can be weird at first.

4. Coconut oil is great for cooking at higher temperatures. Our dear friend extra-vigin olive oil (EVOO) oxidizes at 200-250F degrees… which means it turns into something that’s not so good for you. Unrefined coconut oil is A-OK even at 350F degrees.

5. It tastes mildly like coconut but had less coconut flavor than I thought it would. To my olive-oil-saturated tastebuds, my first spoonful tasted like butter, and I was delighted. DELIGHTED!

6. Coconut is like that seemingly perfect over-acheiver we know who we’re grateful to have in our life because they’re awesome, but is also annoying because they seem to be good at everything. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, coconut oil has been shown to help with thryoid wonkiness, has antiviral/antibacterial properties, helps protect against liver and kidney damage, helps manage blood sugar and insulin, and dang! it tastes freakin’ awesome, too.

So now, we go through about a jar or so of this kind of coconut oil every week:

Tip For You
Start using coconut oil as your primary fat for cooking. Just about every meal I eat begins with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon melted in a saute pan. You can also drop a dollop on top of hot steamed vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts – tastes like buttered broccoli!

But don’t retire your EVOO! You need it for your giant salads… and it’s lovely drizzled on top of already cooked food. I’ve yet to find a piece of grilled meat or pile of vegetables or homemade soup that wasn’t made even more delicious by drizzling a teaspoon or so of EVOO over the top.

Extra Special Bonus Tip: Make Fat Bombs
Dave doesn’t like scooping the coconut oil out of the jar, so we found a kickass work-around. Heat the glass jar in the microwave – without the lid! – until the oil melts to liquid. It takes about 20-30 seconds, depending on how cool your house is (temperature-wise, not decor style). Then measure the oil into a plastic ice cube tray; I make ours with 1 tablespoon servings. Place the tray into the fridge until the oil solidifies, then pop out into a ziplock bag. Fat bombs!

(Humongous thanks to the darling person with a giant brain on the Whole30 blog who first posted this idea. I’ve forgotten who suggested it, so if it was you, please post to comments below so we can honor you!)

Tip For Your Near & Dear
Coconut oil got a very bad rap in 1994 when the Center for Science in the Public Interest blamed movie popcorn’s terrible nutrition profile on the fact that it’s popped in coconut oil. And most people have been told over and over and over that saturated fat will kill them.

That means that the new message that a saturated fat like coconut oil is actually very healthful can be difficult for most people to swallow.

Proceed gently.

Perhaps cook a saute for your dear ones in coconut oil, and have this article from The New York Times handy for dinnertime conversation. Note that the Times article doesn’t yet wholeheartedly embrace coconut oil as a primary fat source, but it does start to remove the previous stigma.

And here’s a juicy quote that exorcises the demon of saturated fat:

“I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong,” said Dr. Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University.

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  • AllieNic @ Frisky Lemon says:

    Fat bombs are such a good idea! I usually heat up my coconut oil every time I use it. I have a ton of unused ice cube trays so fat bombs will make my life so much easier!

    I've actually been craving coconut lately-I splurged on some Artisana Coconut butter, which I have been eating by the tablespoonful!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love, love, LOVE coconut oil! Like you, I was skeptical at first, but now I'll never go back. Thank you for shining some much deserved light on it 🙂

    The fat bombs sound like a great idea – I'll have to whip some up soon!


  • Allison K. says:

    Since going paleo/primal in November I've been having a full on love affair with coconut. I buy the same kind you do, and ever since my first go-round using it…I haven't looked back. I was skeptical to cook eggs with it at first..thinking the coconut taste would make the eggs taste wierd (I only recently did this for my Whole30)….um…wrong. Coconut oil once again proved to me that it is the best.thing.ever.

  • Marcy says:

    We do something similar for stock, but we use silicon ice cube trays instead of plastic ice cube trays. Each cube is 1 oz which is more than 1 Tbsp, but we can measure out tablespoons if we want to.

    I actually reduce my stock down to 1/4 or less of the original volume, then when I need stock I can melt 1 or 2 cubes and make up the volume with water, which makes melting the cubes easier.

  • Shelly says:

    Well! I would've just let you say you invented fatbombs yourself but if you're going to call me a darling-giant-brain I guess I have to speak up and take the compliment! 🙂

    I like your real nutrition series! How did anyone get away with demonizing saturated fat in the first place?

  • Kim says:

    FAT BOMBS!! I'm making some. Thanks for the idea.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    AllieNic –> That Artisana coconut butter is really good. I'm taking a few weeks off from coco butter 'cause i was having a little control problem 🙂

    Kim –> I'm definitely cuckoo for coco oil; we might need an intervention.

    Allison K –> Eggs in coconut oil are my FAVORITE. OMG. I wish I had some right now, actually.

    Marcy –> LOVE that idea. I'm trying my hand at homemade stock for the first time very soon… will definitely steal your stock cube idea!

    SHELLY –> GENIUS EXTRAORDINAIRE! Look at how you're helping people manage their coconut oil needs! Thanks, again!

    Kim –> I just really like that I've got everyone saying "Fat Bombs!"

  • Shelda says:

    Oh, the fat bombs sound so helpful. I get annoyed digging it out of the jar with a spoon and then trying to get it off the spoon into the pan. This sounds like just the thing. Thanks to all!