I love all things coconut.
Coconut is super high in saturated fat. I’ve learned so much about saturated fat over the last few years—the nutritional scape goat villain of the last few decades turns out to be not at all what I thought.
Did you know that saturated fat studies (you know, the ones that concluded links between saturated fat intake and heart disease?) were often sponsored by organizations trying to sell margarine (trans fat), vegetable oils (high in Omega-6), or sugary products? Even when they weren’t, the problem with the studies done was that they didn’t control for any other dietary factors. What we’re learning now (and over the last decade) is that saturated fat does not cause heart disease—sugar, vegetable oils, and trans fats do. Additionally, dietary cholesterol and saturated fat do not negatively impact blood cholesterol—high sugar, vegetable oils, and trans fat intake do, though.
Saturated fat is extremely important for hormone function, white blood cell function, cell membranes, organ padding, and stabilizing functions (fighting tumors, immune system function, growth factor production, managing the fight or flight response, etc).
In studies, adding saturated fat to the diet and removing vegetable oils (excessive Omega-6) not only healed heart lesions in animals, but could reverse “age-related” decline in white blood cells.
Palmitic acid, stearic acid, lauric acid, and myristic acid—Saturated fat sources contain these acids, and are the catalysts for saturated fat actions in the body.
I haven’t done any studies on this topic—I’ve only read about them. I had an understanding of coconut oil benefits previously, and finally learned about the extent of the benefits of saturated fat this summer when I read Catherine Shanahan’s book: Deep Nutrition. At that point, I traced back to some of the studies, and read books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Maria Emmerich’s Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism.
I also changed my own health by adding saturated fat back into it.
I began having health issues three years ago—no one concluded anything, except that birth control pills had caused a weird skin issue—melasma (dark patches). I stopped taking the pill (and am really glad I did), and found out that I wasn’t actually all that healthy. My skin broke out, my cycle (sorry guys) was completely unregulated on its own. For almost three years I tried “cleaning” my diet more and more. I was not eating many animal products at all (essentially none). I had fatigue and brain fog issues, and my skin did not get better no matter what I did.
About the same time that I was reading Deep Nutrition, I also saw something in a research study about the role of saturated fat in hormone production. I was already planning on changing my diet, and that sealed the deal for me since my skin issue was most likely hormone related (self-diagnosed). If you’ve been reading since August, you know that when I cut grains from my diet, my skin cleared up, my digestion improved, and my brain fog improved as well. Simultaneously, I added animal products, including butter from pasture-fed cows, pasture-fed organic meats, farm eggs, aged raw cheeses, and more coconut oil. My fat intake went up to around 50%-60% of my caloric intake. My face wrinkles disappeared. My skin is 100% different (better). I haven’t tested the melasma in the sun yet (sun exposure makes it worse—it’s winter so I have to wait till later), but it has essentially disappeared (I was told and read that it was permanent). With increased protein and fat intake, I’ve actually lost a few pounds of fat and gained significant muscle—and I was no wimp before. :-)
I’m not a big fan of putting my health history out for everyone to see—but I think this can help demonstrate the importance of saturated fat in the diet. You probably don’t need to consume as much as I do (but who knows, maybe you’d like it!). Time and again, we’re seeing evidence that a traditional (good quality) meat-butter-eggs containing diet is leading to higher levels of health. The American way of vegetable oils-sugar-processed foods is what is really leading to chronic disease. I’m confident enough in this statement to say it to you and really mean it—I guarantee that anyone who cuts down/out sugar, refined grains, vegetable oils, and trans fats will improve their health. If, on top of that, a person increases their fat (including saturated fat) intake, diseases will reverse and said person will thrive.
Coconut oil specifically, is high in lauric acid, which is found in high amounts in breast milk, butter, beef, and coconut oil (great option for veggie people!). It has antimicrobial properties, and is also high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These MCTs cannot be stored in the body—they must be used. So a person consuming them experiences higher energy levels, and even a metabolism boost. It has been used therapeutically (3-4tbsp a day) to address mild and borderline thyroid issues.
Several decades ago, the midwest cattle farmers decided to feed their cattle coconut-based feed (it made sense—increase saturated fat intake and increase fatness of cattle). Their goal was to fatten the cattle faster—they wanted fat lazy cattle that could yield profits sooner. After a couple weeks of the coconut feed, however, they noticed the cows had actually experienced the opposite—they were all becoming more lean and active!
Quickly, they switched to corn and soy based feed, and then got the results they were looking for….what does this tell us?!
If you want to be sluggish and fatten up, eat more starchy processed crap. If you want to be lean and have energy, eat more coconut oil (and, IMO, more saturated fat in general).
How can you add more coconut oil?
Buy coconut oil and cook with it. It’s solid at room temp (melts at 77 degrees F) and has a very high smoke point. Cook with it and avoid consuming rancid oils as a side effect (please, don’t get me started on vegetable oils!). Use it in baked goods (in which you’ve reduced/cut out the white sugar and flour). Use coconut cream for puddings and smoothies, and coconut spread for a thickener and a spread on sprouted grain or whole grain toast.
Here’s what I’ve done with coconut cream lately:Chocolate mousse
Coconut Cream Mousse Version 1
8oz. coconut cream (I used the Wilderness Family Naturals – not from a can, but if you can find a non-BPA can that’s an ok choice too)
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used vanilla Jay Robb egg white protein)
2 droppers full of liquid vanilla stevia (you should probably do this to taste) or other sweetener to taste
2 tbsp or more unsweetened cocoa powder to taste (leave this out & add a splash of vanilla extract for vanilla mousse)
couple splashes of milk (whatever kind you like!)
Whip/Whisk this until it is blended, while you are simultaneously melting 1/4 cup coconut spread (you can make coconut spread—just dump unprocessed coconut flakes in the food processor and let it run till it turns into goo—nut butter consistency). Be sure to get the coconut spread really quite hot or it will not emulsify in the pudding. Drizzle it into the coconut cream mixture with the whisk/mixer on high, and mix until fluffy and thickened.
Store in the fridge. It will get thicker as it chills. Note: there might be little tiny chunks of the hardened coconut spread after it’s refrigerated. At first, I didn’t like that—but it’s almost like having tiny chocolate chips in it (only tasting like coconut and a little softer). This seems to depend on how hot you get the coconut spread (hotter=fewer or no chunks).Eat out of a measuring cup for portion control!
If you want it to be 100% smooth, then leave out the coconut spread. It will be a little thinner, a little lighter, and completely silky. The spread adds thickness and makes the texture really amazing!
Coconut Cream Mousse Version 2
With stand mixer or hand mixer:
8oz coconut cream (refrigerated, with the excess separated liquid poured off)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 droppers full of vanilla stevia (add more to taste)
This would be a great dessert topping or dip too!
Another great thing about fat is that it’s so satisfying that it curbs cravings and helps keep you full for hours! This is a good thing for me—especially working at home, because if I’m the slightest bit hungry or unsatisfied I go searching the fridge…
We have trained ourselves to have a fear of fat, when in fact, fat is essential to our health and our weight maintenance. I have clients who have lost significant amounts of weight just by adding fat back into their diets (and cutting out vegetable oils and sugar).
I don’t mean to say all those experts for all those years were (and are) lying to us—you can be very sincere in your work, and be very sincerely wrong.
How do you feel about fat?
Are you a coconut fan?