You don’t have to look too far to see the word ‘superfood’ these days. It refers to foods that are deemed to have supreme nutritional qualities, often heightened levels of phytonutrients and/or antioxidants but can also be part of Marketing and advertising dreams. Some of these superfoods are costly, not always easily available and aren’t necessarily able to be used easily on a regular basis.
But I believe there is one superfood that really does live up to the name. It’s readily available, versatile in cooking, suitable for daily use and doesn’t cost the earth.
Aside from fresh produce and heapings of greens, coconut oil is probably one of my most used pantry items. It’s full of health benefits, you can buy it in supermarkets and it’s been used in traditional cultures for centuries. Populations in the Pacific Islands who traditionally eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts are in excellent health with no evidence of heart disease!
Coconut oil has been on ‘the naughty list’ in the past because it contains saturated fat. Nutritional science is always evolving as we learn more about the body and the short of it is, despite previous concerns, eating saturated fat does not cause Heart Disease, diabetes or cause obesity or weight gain. Coconut oil actually stimulates your metabolism and promotes healthy thyroid activity, which is a huge win for people with Hashimoto’s or any underachieve thyroid condition like me!
While it contains saturated fat, it doesn’t contain the usual saturated fat that have been demonised in the past. Coconut oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) which as the name suggests, are fatty acids of a medium length which are metabolised differently to the long chain fatty acids found in animal products. They get into cells easily being of smaller nature, right into the cells mitochondria which is where we produce our energy.
A lot of people are concerned about cholesterol and would avoid things like coconut oil because it’s high in fat and particularly saturated fat. Well there is good news, coconut oil does not harm the blood lipid profile like once thought. Saturated fats in coconut oil improves the risk factors of: Total cholesterol, HDL (the good cholestorol) and LDL cholesterol which is great news for anyone at risk of heart disease.
MCT’s go straight to the liver from the digestive tract where they are used as a quick source of energy and not stored as fat. They are not digested in the digestive tract and are used as energy right away. They are burned as energy straight away, and it’s a long burning sustainable fuel too, perfect for dancers!
Coconut oil does not make you fat. Eating coconut oil has been shown to be particularly effective in helping to reduce abdominal fat, which is the most dangerous type of fat that sits around your internal organs not matter how slim you are on the outside. It is an all around excellent metabolism and energy booster.
In the same way, coconut oil provides an excellent source of sustained energy for the brain and has been studied in the use of relieving symptoms and increasing energy to the brain cells in various brain conditions.
Coconut oil is also high in Lauric acid, which has a whole host of benefits. Laurie acid is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and known to be effective in killing Candida Albicans, the most common source of yeast infections like thrush and athlete’s foot.
Coconut oil being rich in fat, not only gives you more energy but the fatty acids can significantly help maintain a steady appetite. Next time you’re hungry, have a spoonful of coconut oil and watch that hunger disappear – this is an excellent trick for the afternoon crash a lot of people face each day. Instead of grabbing that muffin or extra coffee which will make your blood sugar rocket and crash, try coconut oil and see the difference, just a steady stream of energy.
It can reduce your sugar cravings by making you feel full and satisfied, that’s why when we remove fats from our diet in an effort to stay slim, you are always chasing that feeling of satisfaction. Even more importantly, we need fats for our brains to function and for our cells to be protected by healthy cell membranes, which are literally made of fat.
If you have been following a low fat, high sugar diet in an effort to maintain your weight, you aren’t actually fuelling your cells with the energy they need and this can often result in diminished mental and physical performance in spite of your efforts. I eat good fats every day from sources like coconut oil and I have only noticed an improvement in my metabolism, brain function and quality of my skin. Eating coconut oil made me lose the extra weight I had gained when my thyroid was completely out of whack.
I must insist, I am never going to be here telling people how to lose weight or weight loss tips for young people. This is not what The Balance Point(e) is about, it’s not what I believe in and I do not endorse in any way crash dieting or fad diets. The body needs to be nourished holistically and only then will you be living in your optimum balance. I speak here of coconut oil in regards to ‘weight’ only to blow the myth out of the water that I know a lot of people, including dancers who are highly focused on their appearance, that eating good fats do not make you fat!
So how do I use coconut oil?
- Like butter, on toast
- Cooking/frying – it’s stable at super high heats and will not oxidise like olive oil
- Quick stir frying of vegies
- Roasted vegies in Coconut oil
- Baking – again stable at high heat like when you cook in the oven
- Lining baking trays or muffin trays
- Making home-made chocolate freezer treats (coconut oil goes solid in cold temperatures)
- As a simple dressing on steamed greens
- Added to warm porridge, tastes great and helpful to balance a high carbohydrate meal
- In coffee – slows the blood sugar spike + sustained energy
- As shaving ‘cream’ – yes this works and ultra moisturising too, just don’t slip in the shower!
- Hair treatment – to treat dry ends
- Oil pulling – a kind of mouthwash treatment
- Body scrubs – mix coconut oil and raw sugar and exfoliate!
- It can also be used as toothpaste of deodorant but I haven’t quite gone there yet!
Pick yourself up some coconut oil from your local grocer, supermarket, oriental supermarket or health food shop. Always look for Certified Organic extra virgin or virgin cold pressed coconut oil, preferably in a glass jar not a plastic container.
In hot weather, coconut oil becomes liquid so don’t be afraid – it doesn’t mean it’s gone off. In colder weather, it retains its solid but spreadable nature and is best kept in the pantry not the fridge. It lasts for a good while but not in my house!
Some of the brands I like are –
- Nakula Organic Cold Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
- Niugini Organics Raw 100% Virgin Coconut Oil
- Indah Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Raw Superfoods Coconut Oil
- Loving Earth Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
- Organic Road Coconut Oil