I LOVE THURSDAYS! Mainly because they are a rest day for me. At this point in the week, I am pretty positive my body cannot physically endure another day of constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement. This means I get to spend a lot of my time doing what I love most- vegging out with my hubby as we take in some Netflix. We are currently into Grey’s Anatomy Season 7; gotta love some McSteamy and McDreamy drama. But before I become prisoner to my couch’s plush comfiness, I am usually forced to tackle my “to do” list, which gets saved for rest days as well, unfortunately. This list usually consists of chores, errands, and things I like to put off…like grocery shopping.
So, as I head to the store, list in hand, I notice that this list seems to be the same every week. We are creatures of habit, so to some extent this is pretty typical. In our house, we buy in bulk (shout out to CostCo) for the major items that seem to disappear the instant we get them in our kitchen. But some very crucial items aren’t carried there-sad story. So I must brave the 5 pm Kroger chaos and get the final, ever so elusive items: coconut milk and coconut butter.
Let me just say these are NEW items in my diet, since about 3 months ago, and ‘ll tell you why. Feeding off of my last post in which I mentioned the controversy surrounding fat in the American diet, this is going to perpetuate that same point. Given my textbook learn-ed nutrition background, I (like most other Americans) have been taught that fat is the do all end all of our diet. Especially saturated fat; he’s a REAL monster. For those not savvy in nutrition lingo, a saturated fat is a solid fat at room temperature. They are most commonly associated with increased cholesterol and consequently, heart disease (though other factors also contribute). So I thought avoiding this dietary faux paw was in my best interest. However, though educating myself, I learned there is a certain untold side to saturated fat.
With all this being said, let’s get to the issue at hand: coconut products. Basically coconut contains a fat that is ~92% saturated fat! “ How can this oil be good for you?” you might ask. Let me just impress the heck out of everyone by supporting this point with some SCIENCY evidence…
One word: MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (MCT) (ok that’s 3 words)…this is a type of fatty acid you find in various foods.
Coconut oil contains ~ 64% MCT. This is more than any other food in existence! Research has clearly shown that MCT’s are thermogenic (aka fat burning) and that less is stored away as body fat. These types of fat are rapidly absorbed from the intestines directly and are quickly used for energy much like carbohydrates. Yay!
A common reaction as this point….“OK, so that’s all great and fine, but what about MY HEART…won’t saturated fat raise my cholesterol and cause a heart attack?!”
On the contrary, despite the fact that coconut oil is mainly saturated (“artery clogging”) fat. What is more impressive is that if there was ever a healthy saturated fat, this is it! Research has shown coconut oil does not increase risk of heart disease and in some research it actually lowers risk! Our bodies make cholesterol…and if we lack it in diet, we will only produce more to make up for the deficit. If you increase you intake of coconut fat products you will raise your overall cholesterol, but getting the benefits of raising your HDL (healthy) and getting MCT benefits….it’s a win/win situation!
NOTE: Coconut got its bad reputation in part because of its use when hydrogenated. Remember the trans fat ban I mentioned? Hydrogenated oils and trans fats are especially unhealthy because they both raise our LDL or “lethal” cholesterol while lowering our HDL or “healthy” cholesterol. If you purchase coconut oil, look for labels that say “virgin” and make sure it’s not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and contains no trans fats.
No people, I’m not telling you to go out and drink gallons of melted down coconut oil, so please don’t. That’s gross. I’m simply saying, including these sorts of fat in a well-balanced diet or whole foods is a champion choice for your health. If you want or need some direction on how to incorporate this practice into your lifestyle, please contact me J
If you have always wondered why coconut was the exception to the saturated fat rule or maybe have never tried such products before, I hope maybe you’ve taken something from this post. Since I have discovered these products I have fallen in love, felt more satisfied including them in my diet, and never looked back. So pardon me as I as I head off to stock the pantry with these items- I encourage you to do the same.
So this has been an ode to coconut (oil, butter, milk, you name it), you delicious, delicious treat. I raise my spoon to you. I will forever argue the benefits of your presence in a healthy diet profile.