Cooking with Coconut Oil

If you go into a health food store and go to the oils section, you might be surprised to see coconut oil next to the olive oil. Many people are surprised at this, because it used to be that coconut oil was supposed to be very bad for your heart. Much of the bad reputation came in 1994 when a study was released that claimed that a large popcorn at the theater has tons of saturated fat, even without the butter.

However, as of 2012, coconut oil has enjoyed a big comeback in health food circles. Many scientists are now saying that coconut oil is not unhealthy. Another reason for its come back is that many vegans use it because it is a sweet vegetable fat that stays solid at room temperature. It may be used to make very tasty pastries with no butter, if you do not want to have dairy products in your food.

Coconut oil has a very interesting, nutty, vanilla flavor. It actually has a richer and milder flavor than butter, and it is sweeter and more textured than lard. And it is not bitter at all as some olive oils are. This oil is naturally sweet so is great for baked products, and it does really well with bitter green vegetables, which tend to get softer and more mellow. The saturated fat in this oil is a great choice for various pastries, if you are trying to stay away from animal fats.

Much of the bad PR for coconut oil goes all the way back to the old studies that used coconut oil that was partially hydrogenated. Virgin oil, which was not chemically altered, is very different when it comes to health.

Partial hydrogenation is what creates trans fats, and it destroys good fatty acids and antioxidants and the other good things that exist in coconut oil. It is still true that many fats in coconut oil are of the saturate variety, but they may not be as bad for you as people thought. One thing to keep in mind that all saturated fats are not really the same. The fact is that different sorts of saturated fats act in a different manner in the body. The major saturated fat in this oil is lauric acid, and it will boost your good HDL and also the bad LDL, but it does not seem to affect the ratio between them.

Also, while we do not know if coconut oil gives us the same health benefits as olive oil does, small amounts are probably fine for our health.

Coconut oil can give your pound cake a great texture and a fragrance that you do not get with other oils. Also, this oil can be whipped like a cream and also has a wonderful vanilla odor. Many people use coconut oil for cooking when they or their family have allergies to eggs, nuts and dairy products. Many vegan like it because so many recipes have margarine or Crisco, which few people today want to eat.

Virgin coconut oil seems to always have a coconut flavor that stays with it even after a good deal of cooking. Refined coconut oil does not seem to have the same coconut oil flavor and smell, but it will work better for your deep frying and stir frying.

As you can see, you may want to consider opening up your kitchen to coconut oil again. It seems to be very good to cook with and gives you a great deal of flexibility in the kitchen. But it also is probably not nearly as unhealthy for you as people once believed.

Lawrence Reaves writes for Proctor Silex, a kitchen appliance company offering skillets and deep fryers. For more information on Proctor Silex and their products, go here.

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