Within the past four or five years the market has been flooded with coconut products ranging from water, kefir, ice cream, milk and oil, all made by using the largest seed in the world. Of those products, coconut oil has received the most scrutiny due to its high saturated fat content. Initially this oil was shunned by the nutritional community as a high fat villain and was to be avoided at all costs.
Thankfully, research has shown that not all fats are created equal – as coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) and are metabolized differently than fats from other oils. The fats in this oil are not completely absorbed by the mucus membrane of the small intestine as with other fats. Instead, medium chain triglycerides are carried more directly to the liver for processing rather than into the general circulation of the body. At the cell level, medium chain triglycerides are a preferred source of energy and are metabolized within the mitochondria (cell engine) more easily than long chain fatty acids.
Here are some other benefits of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s):
– The lauric acid found in coconut oil has shown promise of containing antibacterial properties.
– Shelf-stable fatty acid: Due to its make-up, coconut oil does not go rancid and is a great oil use in cooking due to its high smoke point.
– Helps promote healthy skin and hair
– Increases protection against heart disease (due to the lauric acid found in coconut oil)
– Easy to digest and helps boost thyroid and enzyme systems functioning
Yes, it’s true that most of the fat found in coconut oil is saturated, however almost 50% of that fat is in the form of lauric acid, the MCT that gives coconut its nutritional punch. In addition, coconut oil can actually raise your HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and LDL cholesterol (unhealthy) though it is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two. Coconut oil also provides the antioxidants found in dark chocolate, berries and grapes.
In the kitchen, coconut oil makes an excellent alternative to butter in baking, in smoothies or in any application that you would use other cooking oils, like roasting chopped sweet potatoes for example.
Try this week’s recipe to include coconut oil into your eating routine, but keep in mind that it still contains 120 calories and 14g of fat per 1 Tbs. so if you are following a calorie restricted diet please take this into consideration.
Choosing a quality coconut oil
There are two types of coconut oil to choose from and if you’ve never tried cooking with it before – it can be confusing to choose the higher quality oil. With many varieties and brands available here is how to make the healthier choice.
Refined Coconut Oil: Most of these oils are refined using chemical distillation processes or methods dependent on other harsh solvents. These products have a tendency to be bleached and deodorized in an effort to make the oil more palatable for the consumer. To extract the oil using less than optimal ingredients, the coconut is heavily processed and heated which creates a bitter or “toasted” flavor.
Unrefined Coconut Oil: Typical unrefined coconut oil will be labeled as “virgin” or “extra-virgin”. These oils are made of the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut without the addition of any chemicals. Remember when choosing coconut oil that true “virgin” or “extra-virgin” oil will have a mild coconut flavor and scent as opposed to the pronounced flavor and odor of the refined oils.
On to the recipe!
Yield: 2 Servings
3 cups Stir fry vegetables (broccoli, red peppers, carrots, baby corn)
1 Tbs. Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
2 ea. Garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 in. Ginger root, peeled and chopped
3 cups Shrimp, peeled and tails removed
1/2 tsp. Arrowroot starch
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups Brown rice, cooked
2 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce, low sodium
1/4 cup Orange juice
1/2 tsp. Crushed red peppers, optional
Method of Preparation
1. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbs. coconut oil, ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add shrimp and cook until bright pink, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add veggies to pan and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Mix teriyaki sauce and arrowroot together and stir until arrowroot dissolves. Add the teriyaki mixture and orange juice to the pan and heat until sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables and shrimp to pan and toss until well blended with sauce.
Serve hot with brown rice.
Nutritional Information – Per serving
The Fit Chef