SHERYL AFONSO e D’SOUZA
CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST (NORBERT’S FITNESS STUDIO) & ASST. PROFESSOR (POST GRADUATE DEGREE STUDIES, CARMEL COLLEGE)
The professed benefits of coconut oil have had everyone in the health profession as well as the layperson in a tizzy! “Good” one day and “Bad” the next is what we have been hearing about this once-upon-a-time economical oil, the market value of which has increased exponentially due to the charm that the Coconut Oil Debate has attracted.
Coconut oil is rich in artery-clogging saturated fats, which have been, ‘beyond doubt’, associated with cardiovascular disease. Hence, the earlier emphasis on discontinuing the use of this tropical oil in cooking. Research in the recent years, however, has indicated that saturated fats fall into several subcategories, with each having varied biochemical effects in the body – while some types of saturated fats are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, there are others which may actually be beneficial to health! And coconut oil has been proven to be of the latter kind.
The most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid (40%) – a type of fat that has been shown to increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The high degree of saturation in coconut oil also makes it resistant to oxidation when heated or exposed to light and oxygen – unlike polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower oil, which is very susceptible to oxidation and formation of health-destroying free radicals. This makes coconut oil most ideal for cooking methods that use high temperatures, such as frying. The chain length of saturated fats is another indicator of healthfulness – coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are used directly for energy, via the lacteal circulation, by the human body, thus decreasing (to some extent) its availability for fat deposition. In view of all the inherent components of coconut oil, this oil is now being propagated as a healthy oil for kitchen use.
My take on the subject ….. Being an indigenous oil, coconut oil can, and should, be used for cooking purposes – with an eye, of course, on total amount used per day (not more than 15 g of oil per day per adult is my recommendation). Make sure you do not allow the oil to ‘smoke’ when heating it. And store the oil under suitable conditions – preferably refrigerated, due to its tendency to become rancid quickly. Coconut oil has a very unique taste; so choose the types of foods you wish to use this oil for cooking in. alternate the oils in your kitchen – coconut oil for the first quarter of the year, followed by a polyunsaturated oil (sunflower), and then a monounsaturated oil (rice bran, groundnut) – that way you derive the ‘good’ from each oil variant!