"It increases HDL, which is a healthy type of cholesterol"
Coconut oil has been all the rage online, you can’t go on social media without seeing new and inventive ways of using it in your day to day lives.
Some of the most popular uses for coconut oil have been for hair and skin, and some people even swear by using it for shaving as well, but its benefits in food and cooking are numerous.
Coconut oil is an oil that is made from the dried fruit taken from the coconut palm tree.
Due to it having a boat load of benefits in addition to its popularity, coconut oil is used for cooking by many all over the world, and in particular, the vegan community.
Although traditionally you might cook with normal vegetable oil, or olive oil if you’re trying to be fancy, coconut oil in many ways is one of the best oils for cooking.
DESIblitz explores why you should use coconut oil for cooking.
Coconut oil is one of the richest source of saturated fats, with 90 per cent of its calories being saturated fat. Now before you scream that this is not a good thing, the saturated fats are naturally occurring and therefore get absorbed quicker.
Registers dietician, Lisa Young says: “This explains why, like butter and lard, coconut oil is solid at room temperature with a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures.”
The process of cooking has a lot to do with heat (naturally), and high levels of heat has a tendency of destroying the beneficial fats in oils.
Now usually if someone is looking to cook with a healthier oil they would opt to use olive oil – however, olive oil can’t handle high heat and really shouldn’t be used for high intensity cooking.
Go for coconut oil instead as it has a high resistance to oxidation at high temperatures which makes it perfect for cooking with.
Coconut oil also happens to contain a lot of lauric acid which is a type of saturated fatty acid which increases your HDL levels, which is a healthy type of cholesterol.
Lauric acid also kills microbes like viruses, fungi and bacteria.
The saturated fats in coconut oil are made up of medium chain fatty acids. These offer up certain health benefits because the chains are smaller are so it can be absorbed quicker and used for energy. This also means that the fat isn’t stored and can also increase the calorie burning in the body.
In layman’s terms, coconut oil will keep you energised for longer and has some weight loss properties due to the fat not being stored.
In a study which featured 40 women with abdominal obesity, they found that coconut oil was more effective in reducing waist circumference compared to soybean oil.
Coconut oil also has benefits for your heart health, virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols.
When the heart and blood vessels experience oxidative stress – plaque begins to develop in the arteries which can lead to many heart issues including heart attacks.
Antioxidants work by helping to reduce the chance of oxidative stress and generally lower inflammation, leading to a healthier heart.
In particular, studies have found that polyphenols work by reducing blood pressure in elderly people.
If you want an even better choice, some people opt to use coconut butter. It is made from whole coconut made from its flesh, and looks kind of like peanut butter.
The main difference between coconut butter and coconut oil, is that the latter is created through pressing coconuts but it doesn’t include the flesh, whereas coconut butter has the flesh and the oil.
Although you may need to warm up the butter before using it as it’s melting point is above room temperature, it is great for cooking and baking, or even a butter substitute in sandwiches or toast.
You can use it when baking to add a little coconut-y taste to your cakes and muffins alongside reaping the health benefits.
It’s also great to use when cooking curries as it can handle the heat and also make it a little bit healthier. Try making the Mangalorean Prawn Curry below or a classic Chicken Curry.
Mangalorean Prawn Curry
- 500g Medium-sized Prawns
- 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
- 100g Grated Coconut
- 3 tsp Tamarind Extract
- 7 Red Chillies
- 1/2 tsp Asafoetida (Heeng)
- 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 450ml Water
- Mix coconut, red chillies and tamarind extract together and grind into a smooth paste.
- In a pan, heat coconut oil and add Heeng and Turmeric
- Add prawns and gently stir until they are half cooked.
- Add the smooth paste with salt and water and cook for several minutes on a low flame.
- Serve with rice or naan while still hot.
Recipe adapted from Aditya Bal.
Coconut oil is a valuable addition to your food cupboard and a very flexible oil to cook with. There’s no reason why you cannot enjoy coconut oil as part of a healthy Desi diet.