By: Allison Tannis BSc MSc RHN

Use a Spoon or Knife?
In the kitchen, coconut oil is a great alternative to conventional fats, such as butter. Both butter and coconut oil contain saturated fat, but they’re made up of different types. Butter contains more of the saturated fats called long chain fatty acids, which have been linked to increased risk of certain diseases, including gallstone and cardiovascular disease. Hence, butter has been labeled by some as a ‘bad fat’ – a fat our bodies would be healthier without. Alternatively, coconut oil contains a different type of saturated fat, called medium chain fatty acids, which are considered to be healthier.

Dig into the Heart of the Matter
Coconut oil contains a fat profile that is argued as being a healthier choice.  Researchers have dug deeper into this agreement, tested it and found coconut oil to be a heart-healthy choice. According to a cohort study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coconut oil may beneficially affect cholesterol levels. The researchers investigated the types of fats in the blood of over 1,800 Filipino women (age 35-69) in relation to their consumption of coconut oil. They found an association linking coconut consumption with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol).  Coconut oil did not significantly increase low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). More research is needed before anything conclusive can be said, but it appears coconut oil is a heart healthy choice.

More On Your Spoon
There are three types of naturally occurring medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil: caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid. These fatty acids offer many healthy benefits. These fatty acids are required for proper cell structure and functioning. Plus, they have been found in research studies to offer your body some notable health benefits including: antimicrobial activity.

Tightening Up That Belt
Medium chain fatty acids are metabolized in the body differently. Simply put, when you consume medium chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil, they cause a shift in your body’s response. Medium chain fatty acids are metabolized in a way that leads to less body weight gain and fewer fat deposits than long chain fatty acids. In addition, research studies have shown coconut oil has an exceptional ability to give a satiable (full) sensation.  With the ability to cause fewer fat deposits and a sensation of fullness, some see coconut oil as a weight management product.

Making the Kitchen Switch
Considering switching your stick of butter for a healthier alternative – try coconut oil! It works great in most recipes, giving foods a slight coconut flavour. It handles heat well, so it’s great in a stir-fry.  In general, you can substitute coconut oil for butter or vegetable oil in your recipe. It might take a little fiddling but, it’s worth making the switch. To get you started here is a recipe we love from our kitchen.

Recipe:
Maple Morning Granola

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
1 ¼ cup pecans
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup dried organic apples (chopped)
1 cup organic apple juice
½ cup organic unsweetened applesauce
2 tbps coconut oil
½ cup maple syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine oats, nuts and flaxseed in large bowl and toss until oats are coated. Spoon mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven to 250 F. In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, combine apple, juice, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer mixture for 15 minutes to reduce. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients with the oat mixture and toss until coated. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes.

References:
 
Feranil AB et al. Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011;20(2):190-5.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21669587

Flock MR and PM Kris-Etherton. Diverse physiological effects of long-chain saturated fatty acids: implications for cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2013 Mar 16(2):133-40.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23037905

St-Onge MP and PJ Jones. Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in prevention of obesity. J Nutr 2002 Mar;132(3):329-32.

Tsai, CJ. Long-chain saturated fatty acids consumption and risk of gallstone disease among men. Ann Surg 2008 Jan;247(1):95-103.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18156928