Tune into any cooking show and you will see that the three main ingredients used in a majority of recipes are typically meat, fat and salt.
The focus of this post is fat.
But not all fats are equal.
Although somewhat controversial, coconut is my oil of preference when it comes to frying food. It is a saturated, medium-chain triglyceride.
Its controversy comes from its saturated state. Saturated fats have been attributed to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood and are considered unhealthy.
I believe the science behind coconut oil and its impact on the body need further examination. For that reason, I don’t use it often or much of it when I do use it.
But I do choose it, and here, in short, is why…
Fats/oils are made up of molecules called fatty acids (also referred to as triglycerides).
Fats are categorized in two different ways.
One is based on its molecular size or its length of carbon chain – small, medium or long.
The other is by its saturation – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Fats consist of molecules of carbon atoms linked into chains. As mentioned above, these chains are categorized into short, medium, and long fatty acids or triglycerides.
Long-chain triglycerides (LCT’s) contain the most carbon atoms, take longer for the body to assimilate, get stored in the cells and are the prominent source of fat in most American diets. Examples include meat, hydrogenated and processed foods. Not all LCT’s are harmful. Nuts, seeds and olive oil are healthy examples of these triglycerides.
Coconut oil has an abundant supply of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Because of the shorter chain length, they provide greater health benefits over the LCT’S. They are quickly and easily assimilated by the body, are delivered quickly to the liver resulting in instant energy and have minimal storage in the cells.
A naturally occurring saturated fat, coconut oil can reach high cooking points without turning into a trans fat.
Trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils are unsaturated vegetable and seed oils that have been artificially manipulated with hydrogen atoms. When heated, these oils are converted into a saturated thickened state. These oils are used in many packaged foods, have been banned in many food institutions, increase the risk of developing heart and stroke complications and should be avoided.
Coconut oil is my choice for frying because of the the undisputed science – its low impact on the liver and the digestive system, ability to provide instant energy and minimal storage in the cells.
Carrot Cumin Puree
Tastes like sweet potato pie!
10 good sized carrots, about 1 1/2 – 2 lbs peeled and cut into 1/2 in pieces
1-2 tbsp coconut oil, heat to produce a liquid state if necessary
2 tsp cumin
1/8 – 1/4 tsp sea salt
cracked pepper to taste
1/2-1 cup almond milk, depending on your preference of thickness
1/2 tsp juice from a lemon
dash of cinnamon
optional: 1 tsp coconut oil/butter, but only if you really enjoy the taste of coconut… beware!
Combine carrots, oil, and cumin together and roast in 450° oven for 20-30 minutes or until carrots are soft.
Puree in a vitamix or high-speed blender with salt (start small, add the remaining ingredients, purée, taste and adjust), pepper, almond milk and lemon.
Stir in a dash of cinnamon.
Optional: reduce the amount of almond milk and add a little coconut oil/butter (1 tsp) or Earth Balance (2 tbsp) for a creamier texture. If you choose to use Earth Balance, beware of that ingredient label. And yes, I do use Earth Balance from time to time as a treat on popcorn!
The impact of certain foods on our health is an inexact science. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. I do the best I can with the information I have and move forward. If I consume boat loads of veggies, a little fruit, a legume here and there and a little fat (the healthy LCT’s – nuts and seeds, especially hemp seed) during the day, I’m a happy clam. How do you handle all the contradictory information? Please leave a comment…