You knew it would happen eventually. Coconut oil has been making headlines again — and this time it’s not playing the part of a villainous saturated fat. The New York Times ran a piece on the nutrient-rich hero of vegetable fats last week, and (wonder of wonders!) decided it was good for you, in addition to being downright tasty.
It seems the mainstream media is finally catching up with the science. Check out these choice tidbits from last week’s piece.
From the article:
According to Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University who has extensively reviewed the literature on coconut oil, a considerable part of its stigma can be traced to one major factor.
“Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data,” Dr. Brenna said. “Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn’t so bad for you after all.”
Imagine that! Studies done with fake saturated fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils (READ: “trans fats”), are finally being distinguished from studies done with real saturated fats. Let’s hope this trend continues so that all saturated fat can finally be publicly cleared of its maligned name.
The article even goes so far as to quote Dr. Brenna’s conclusion about saturated fats:
“I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong,” Dr. Brenna said.
In your face, Dr. Oz.
Last week he had Gary Taubes on his show (author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat). It was an entertaining bit of television since they disagree so radically about saturated fat. Sadly, Dr. Oz was still spouting 20 year old, poorly-done science as the last word when it came to saturated fat. Like most doctors, he doesn’t realize that he’s fallen behind modern nutrition science. (And why should they? It’s not their fault that Nutrition is such a fundamentally small part of their curriculum and literature.)
Anyhow, watch this segment of the show, in which Dr. Oz and Gary Taubes go head to head on saturated fats.
How long do you think it will be before the Dr. Oz’s of the world catch up with publications like The New York Times, which is only just now catching up with contemporary nutrition science? (And contemporary nutrition science, by the way, is still just in its infancy. Hence the reason I keep spouting the “Food, Not Nutrients” adage.)
The New York Times article concludes by raving about how wonderful it is to cook with coconut oil.
I also like coconut oil for sautéing vegetables and aromatics, especially onions. They absorb the sweetness of the oil and pass that lovely nuance on to the whole dish. In one memorable meal, I sautéed scallions in coconut oil, which managed to perfume an entire pan of plump, juicy shrimp spiked with garlic, ginger and coriander.
And I may never go back to olive oil for roasting sweet potatoes, not when coconut oil enhanced their caramelized flavor while adding a delicate coconut essence.
But my favorite new way to use coconut oil is for popcorn. The oil brings out the nutty sweetness of the corn itself while adding a rich creamy sensation, without having to pour melted butter on the top. Of course, the movie theaters knew it all along.
Of course, I’m a fan of coconut oil and use it liberally in my cooking, along with butter, bacon grease, tallow, and ghee. If you want to try some but don’t know where to get it, please check out the listings on my Resources page.
Interested in the environmental impact of coconut products?
You may want to read more about coconut sugar production.
(photo by muhawi001)