Coconut Oil and Cooking

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Many smart, health conscious people are becoming more selective about the oils they use, not only for eating, but also for cooking. This is important, since otherwise “good” fats like olive oil can become susceptible to oxidative damage when brought to high temperatures due to their chemical structure.

For cooking safely at higher temperatures, one alternative worthy of a closer look is coconut oil. In many coastal tropical regions where the coconut grows in abundance, its products have been important staples for centuries. So much so that it has come to be called the “Tree of life.” The reason virgin coconut oil─naturally free of trans fats─is ideal for cooking is because it’s stable enough to resist heat-induced damage.

Though coconut oil does contain saturated fats, they consist of medium chain fatty acids which differ from the saturated fats found in animal products like meat, milk, and eggs. According to a study in the Ceylon Medical Journal, medium chain fatty acids like lauric acid─which makes up 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil─do not undergo degradation. Your body doesn’t have to emulsify coconut oil with bile salts since it is absorbed directly from the small intestine to the liver where it is immediately converted into usable energy.
According to studies of coconut-consuming populations such as those in Polynesia and Sri Lanka, dietary coconut oil does not lead to high serum cholesterol, nor to high coronary heart disease mortality. In fact, a study in the journal Clinical Biochemistry states that coconut oil may even help to reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, due to its biologically active polyphenol components.
Some fats like flaxseed oil should never be heated, while others like olive oil are suitable for cooking at low temperatures. However, for cooking at temperatures higher than a gentle sauté, virgin coconut oil may well have a place in the healthy pantry.

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