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Saturated Fat Benefits and Coconut Cream Mousse

by Lisa on December 17, 2011

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

Mix:

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)

Version 2 is my favorite! It thickens in the fridge, and you can also add a sprinkle of coconut flour to thicken it as well. I’d try it As Is first, and then adjust to your liking!

 

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?

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  • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

    LOVE this post! I often joke with my low-fat friends and say “Oh, I’m a high-fat vegan!” ;)  

  • http://mamasweeds.com Alison Spath

    First, I LOVE coconut oil, I have Brendan Brazier to thank pointing me in that direction!

    Second, when I lost a significant amount of weight in 2008, I stopped getting my period for about a year.  I was also training for a marathon and logging a bunch of miles, so I figured it was the long distance running.  But then when my mileage dropped and my period didn’t return, I started to wonder what was going on.  I was concerned about bone loss and stress fractures.  I too read about fat and it’s role in metabolism and body functions, and I immediately upped my fat intake (full fat yogurt, cheeses, etc.) and eventually my period did return (although my cycles were weird and long at first.)

    Here I am sharing a bunch of personal history in a COMMENT, but I could very much relate to your experience!  And I can definitely relate to your love of coconut oil!!

    I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 5 years now, I went veg because at the time I believed it was the healthiest diet one could eat.  Now I understand that it’s eating a lot of fresh foods that makes a difference in ones health and that meat is not the enemy.  I added fish back into my diet about a year ago, and since then I’ve been contemplated becoming a “mindful omnivore”… we’ll see.

    I enjoyed this post Lisa, thanks!

  • lauren@spicedplate

    YES.  Thank you for putting this out there re: saturated fat, the studies, etc.  It’s so important to eat a well rounded diet full of these good things…I know I’ve said this here before, but I eat more fats now than ever before and LOST weight dong so!  My friends who are on diets are shocked that I don’t eat just raw carrot sticks and celery all day.  What a delicious mousse– perfect for the holidays!

  • http://www.healthfulsense.com/ Lisa @ Healthful Sense

    This is such a great post Lisa!!  I find it so hard to trust studies now because of all the corruption. Anyhow I am working at getting more coconut oil into my life… I find it so sad that I grew up on margarine and vegetable oils.  What were we thinking  when everyone switched to margarine, shortening, white flour, packaged/microwavable foods (in plastic)…. it just makes me crazy.  All for convenience I guess… but it’s definitely backfiring as evidenced by the increasing rates of obesity and cancer, among other things.
    Have a great weekend!!

  • http://nevernotbeautiful.blogspot.com Laura @ nevernotbeautiful

     Love this post… so much information, I don’t even know where to start! I am not afraid of fat – I don’t know that I ever have been – but I’m sure I could stand to get a little more. Lately I’ve been trying to buy more butter, cheese and cream (so much better in my coffee than plain old almond milk!). I’ve also jumped full force back into the world of greek yogurt, always with at least 2% fat… and let’s not forget peanut butter, haha. I HAVE coconut oil and coconut butter in my cupboard but I don’t think I’ve used either of them in months… I’d love it if you featured some more recipes or ideas for what to do with them!

  • http://www.cottercrunch.com lindsay cotter

    i agree, we have learned to fear saturated fat and it saddens me. like you said, we gotta look at the source and its benefits. i’ve heard so much about coconut and thyroid and i am glad you are a walking billboard for it! just bought some vanilla coconut butter so i will be trying this!

  • Carrie (Carrie on Vegan)

    Interesting post, Lisa. I do use coconut oil on rare occasions when I need an oil (I normally consume my fats in whole-food form through avos, nuts and seeds). Here’s my problem with saturated fat: the connection to atherosclerosis. No matter the real or perceived benefits, there is no denying the connection between saturated fat and heart disease. Therefore, I would caution people to be very discriminatory in consuming saturated fats, especially in a non whole-food form.

  • http://twitter.com/ChefKatelyn Katelyn Block

    CAN YOU MAKE ME THIS ON TUESDAY (not kidding)

  • http://www.1970kikiproject.wordpress.com cathy@1970kikiproject

    wow! this was fascinating, lisa! (right on par with the blog post your wrote about baby’s first food, imo). thanks so much for including your personal examples – it really is convincing to hear of how you have benefitted from changing around your diet. everything you write makes a lot of common sense!
     i think you need to check out your progress with your skin issues by going to FLORIDA this winter, no?!!
    i really love peanut butter and avacado. i can’t believe i only first tried avacado within the last year or so! i have seen coconut oil around here but have never tried it. i do like coconut flavour, so maybe that will be my next culinary adventure!
    thanks again for sharing all the facts, studies, findings, but most of all, your own opinion.

  • Gina (Candid RD)

    I do agree that saturated fat has gotten a bad rap, but I do think there are certain types of saturated fat that are worse than others (ahem, palm oil).  I think lauric acid has a neutral effect on LDL and HDL…right?  The story about the cows was super interesting.  I had no idea about that!
    Have you read the book Good Calories, Bad Calories?  It talks a lot about how carbs are really the enemy, not fat, and it talks about all the past studies that have been done.  It’s really eye opening.

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    YES :-)

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Best idea EVER—–Now I need to go search flights to Florida, after all, it’s totally justified since I need to do an experiment….I’ll just write it off as a business expense :)

  • http://www.love-life-project.com Stephanie

    So interesting.  I never leave your blog without learning something new.  I was fascinated by the cow anecdote.  I have an ongoing argument with my husband, because he tells me that he can’t eat coconut because he has high cholesterol in his family.  I keep telling him that he can and should.  That coconut butter is the best on I’ve ever tried!  I used to buy it a lot when I lived in the city.  If I want it now, I’d have to order it online, which is a bit pricy when ordering from the States.

  • Anonymous

    Huge coconut fan, and fan of fat in general. I have a story similar to yours that I like to share whenever someone comments that I’m using too much butter – http://findyourbalancehealth.com/2009/06/you-need-fat

  • Carrie (Carrie on Vegan)

    Here’s some research by the way, that shows the connection between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: 
    Coconut fat and serum lipoproteins: effects of partial replacement with unsaturated fats. Br J Nutr 2001 May;85(5):583-9. Psyllium husk fiber supplementation to the diets rich in soybean or coconut oil: hypocholesterolemic effect in healthy humans. Int J Food Sci Nutr 1996 Mar;47(2):103-10. Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998 Sep;52(9):650-4. Modulation of the regression of atherosclerosis in the hamster by dietary lipids: comparison of coconut oil and olive oil. Br J Nutr 1999 Nov;82(5):401-9 

    The bottom line is that saturated fats need to be consumed in moderation. 

  • http://www.pickyeatingrd.com Allison @ PickyEatingRD

    I’m a fan of coconut! The only problem I run into while cooking with it is the temptation to slather it all over my skin. Too much? It’s happened…

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    One time, I slathered my legs with coconut oil in the morning….and later when I was at work, I noticed that it had soaked through my khaki pants, zebra-stripe style. It was…funny, but not awesome!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Thanks for the references, Carrie. I’m definitely going to read them. I think this is a really interesting topic—I see so much conflicting information, and difficulty studying reductionistically (that’s probably not a word!) because it’s hard to control for other dietary factors too (like sugar/carb intake). I suppose in the end, moderation (in all directions) is key—and I hate to see people completely afraid of fat in their diets altogether. I’ve got a few clients who have been riding the “fat free” wave since the 90′s, and their health (and their children’s health!) have suffered because of it. The vegetable oils and out of control omega-6′s in the American diet have subbed in for things like butter and coconut oil, that when used in moderation, can provide benefit and protect health. You know, it makes me think about how everyone is so individual in their needs too, and how we all thrive on different things. It’s one of my biggest hesitations in my profession—even when I’m teaching I have students ask me what I eat/do, and I don’t want people to think if they copy my habits they will have the exact same effects!
    In the next 6 months, I’m going to have blood work done, and will surely be looking closely at my cholesterol levels (total cholesterol 2 years ago was 200-ish….on a very low fat diet).
    I hope we can discuss this more in the future—I know you are following Dr. Fuhrman’s plan, so I’ll read up more on that too :)

  • http://merigoesround.com meri

    Are you saying that for people with existing heart disease/ arteriosclerosis, that saturated fat doesn’t cause dangerous blockage? There are some family members of mine who are on a reduced saturated fat diet due to stents and heart disease, and I haven’t read much about it. For myself, I’m not really concerned at all about saturated fat, in fact I could probably use more.

  • http://alexiaku.wordpress.com Alexia @NamasteYoga

    this is such an interesting post! my boyfriend is a health and athletic trainer and keeps telling me how important it is to keep eating fats in order to get triglycerides. he used to train on a low fat diet before becoming a health and athletic trainer and completely destroyed his body and energy storages. i love coconut oil, i use it a lot for cooking and i often cook with coconut milk too. i love quinoa+coconut milk. i also always buy the full fat one and just use  a  bit less than i would of the light version.
    I really try to eat a lot more fats nowadays since i noticed a significant difference in hair, nails, skin and overall digestion. i personally feel more satisfied on a high fat and high protein diet. 

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Hi Meri,
    For people with existing heart disease, the facts are different (and depend on the specifics of their condition). Once damage is done to the blood vessels, it is important to be more careful—the example I can think of is about plaque build-up. Once you have microscopic tears in your blood vessel walls (generally caused primarily by Advanced Glycation End Products‹AGEs‹that are a byproduct of eating a crappy diet with vegetable oils, sugars, simple carbs, etc.), then the cholesterol starts to get caught up behind the tears…voila, build-up and potential blockage. At that point, the dietary needs are different because the game has changed based on current damage. My best advice in that case would be to find a doctor who practices functional medicine, who is educated about how to use nutrition efficiently for conditions like heart disease. The Institute for Functional Medicine is my fave place to start… http://www.functionalmedicine.org/findfmphysician/index.asp

  • http://purplebirdblog.com Christin@purplebirdblog

    Thank you for this post!  I knew about the medium chain triglycerides thing, but I wasn’t necessarily aware of the other benefits, I just knew it was good for me!  I have to trick my brain sometimes because it will fall back into old thinking (that I shouldn’t have too much fat in these healthy forms), and I have to remind myself what crap that thinking really is.  An 88-year-old lady in the salon I was doing chair massage at on Saturday asked me what country I was from.  I was baffled by the question, and she went on to say “Your hair is just so healthy and shiny, I didn’t think you were from here.”  I told her I thought it was from my avocado/peanut butter/coconut oil consumption, and she just went on and on about how beautiful my hair and skin were.  Made me feel completely justified and grateful I’ve found the health I have, and that I can continue to expand my knowledge!  :)

  • http://fitnessfoodandfaith.blogspot.com Sam

    you always have such great info! i have been adding butter and other fats back in and really like it. first of all it just tastes better!! 

  • http://www.pure2raw.com/ Pure2raw Twins

    “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?!” –> haha too funny! sad that they changed it too :( oh when will they learn that healthy fats are great! 
    we love our coconut oil!!! 

  • Anonymous

    I am most definitely a coconut fan and now I want both of these items in my Christmas Stocking! lol
    I definitely am not afraid of fat thanks to you Lisa! I eat nuts like they’re going out of style and love full fat yogurt now! I totally agree that fat keeps you fuller longer, and for me personally when I combine healthy fat and protein it always leaves me satisfied for hours!

  • http://blissfulbritt.wordpress.com/ Brittany

    LISA! You culinary goddess!! This is amazing..I LOVE coconut oil and this would be amazing to make a mousse with. I have to do this ASAP. I love me some healthy fat..PB..avocado…coconut oil…nuts..bring em on! 

  • http://anediblemosaic.com/ Faith

    You are my hero!  I’ve been trying to eat  more coconut lately (mostly coconut oil & desiccated coconut) for the health benefits, and this mousse looks like the best thing sliced bread (scratch that, much better than sliced bread ;) ).  That cattle study is amazing!

  • Lauren George

    Every time I read your blog I learn something new. I am so going to read those three books you recommended. I definitely fit in quite a bit of healthy fat into my diet, but I haven’t tried coconut oil yet. I’ll have to give it a try next time I hit up Whole Foods.

  • http://www.pickyeatingrd.com/ Allie @ PickyEatingRD

    hahah… sounds like something that would happen to me.

  • http://www.leafynotbeefy.com/ Kelly @Leefy Not Beefy

    I’m not sure what I think of saturated fat….  Since reading “Eat to Live” a few years ago and then “The China Study” this past year, it just kind of reaffirmed my not eating too much fat or animal products/dairy…  (though I do love coconut stuff!)  :) But definitely things to think about :)

  • http://www.thefitnessdish.com/ Laury

    I was just reading this on my feedler on my phone and had to run over to my comp to comment!

    I am a BIG fan of healthy fats and coconut! I have a layered coconut mousse pie recipe I just made too! I didn’t use coconut cream, and never thought to. I will have to try it! I have the flakes, maybe I’ll try making it.

    I love putting coconut oil in my oats and before a workout I fill a couple of dates with coconut oil…it gives me the energy I need for my workouts!
    However, like you said about you, I knew about the benefits of coconut and the medium chained fatty acids but not all THIS! Wow! I learned so much fro your post! You ROCK!

    How interesting about the cows and the coconut feed. WOW WOW WOW!!!!

    Thanks for this!! I always try explaining to my family about saturated fats and whole eggs how they are not as bad as once thought. I never knew that the margarine companies were fronting the studies, but it makes sense…just like everything else (like the dairy industry sponsoring calcium ads).

    Happy new year to  you!

  • Liz

    Just a question. Is the coconut spread different from coconut oil? thanks

  • elansunstar

    Aloha I have been opening and using fresh coconuts from the locales her ein Hawaii. i ahve opened and use over 75,000 coconuts in the past 50 years i am a 100% raw food vegan and have been making a gallllon of fresh coocnut yogurt a day since the late 60′s..that’s tens of thousands of gallons of coocnut yogurt…The medium chain fatty acids are fantastic for the brain and even more so when fresh i have planted over 20,000 coconut trees ….especially the early bearing dwarf trees that bear at kinee high level……The reason that topical traditions and Qualiity forst and Living tree coocnut oil is best is that it is made with a water seperation ferment process to seperate the fat from the liquids.. It has a fruity taste it is not heated and not pressed so you dont get the rough cooked taste of normal coconut oil. Elan Sun Star
    kailua Hawaii
    elansunstar@gmail.com

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