Extra virgin coconut oil is comprised of medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs, that you could say are the most recognized ingredients of plant based saturated fats. The most recognizable of all the MCTs is lauric acid. Besides extra virgin coconut oil, lauric acid is found in breast milk. Rich in antioxidants, lauric acid and other MCTs, may help the body absorb important nutrients and minerals, eliminate harmful bacteria, and fight the signs of aging.
Professional athletes have long been using coconut oil as fuel to build lean muscle. Adding coconut oil to a smoothie, can increase your feeling of fullness and satiety for longer periods of time. Some people have even reported the ability to burn more energy and achieve greater workout results after the use of extra virgin coconut oil.
Mediterranean diets receive lots of attention for the connection between health and the use of olive oil. In tropical countries where coconut oil has been consumed daily for hundreds of years, similar reports of overall health are beginning to be reported as well.
Lastly, scientific research is further looking into the connection between extra virgin coconut oil and brain function. Over time, glucose inhibitors can limit the amount of energy to the brain, causing a decrease in cognitive function. Consuming regular amounts of coconut oil however, can lead to ketone production, and the brain uses ketones as energy when glucose is not present, helping restore brain activity.
Coconut Oil Versus The Alternative
Coconut oil is new to many people but it is much like olive oil. Extra virgin coconut oil is extracted from the meat on the insides of the coconut through a cold-expeller press. The coconut oil is a stark, bright white color and has a fresh coconut smell. The taste profile of coconut oil is light and sweet, with subtle hints of actual coconut. The flavor is wonderfully versatile in both savory and sweet dishes. What surprises most people is that coconut oil can change between a liquid and solid state very easily. Whenever the temperature is above 76 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil will be liquid. Below 76, coconut oil is a solid. Coconut oil differs from olive oil, in that most of the fats in coconut oil are saturated fats, such as lauric acid, but coconut oil benefits from not having trans fat or cholesterol.
The question must be answered, which is healthier for me: olive oil or coconut oil cooking? Well the answer isn’t clear cut. Both coconut oil and olive oil contain 120 calories per tablespoon. All of the calories in both oils come from fats. Neither of the oils contain trans fat or cholesterol. The one glaring difference is the saturated vs unsaturated fat contents. Saturated fat was once considered bad for you but research is now being conducted to suggest that plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, may not have the same negative effects of animal based saturated fats, like butter. Another smaller known difference between coconut oil and olive oil is the smoke point. Unrefined olive oil has a lower smoke point than unrefined coconut oil and thus isn’t the ideal oil for higher temperatures. Oils can break down beyond their smoke points which starts to change the molecular structure and integrity of the oil.
Overall, coconut and olive oil are very similar yet still very different. Don’t give up your olive oil but don’t ignore coconut oil either. Looking at the people who have been using coconut oil for generations can lead us to believe that there may be some link between eating natural unrefined oils and your health, ie the South Pacific and Mediterranean diets. While olive oil is good for cold dishes, like salads, coconut oil is great for stir fry and also for baking. How will you use coconut oil recipes in your kitchen?