Ingredient of the Month 30: Coconut Oil
|Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. For cakes and pastry it should be gently melted.|
I can't quite believe I haven't already written about coconut oil-it's now become such as staple in our house. Not only is it a very versatile ingredient, equally good in savoury or sweet dishes, but it's also a very healthy choice for an oil.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point, which means it is safer than many other oils to use when cooking at high temperatures. (Once an oil gets heated to its smoke point and above, it becomes toxic.) Besides this, coconut oil also has many health benefits:
- Healthier fat: Yes, it is saturated fat, but a medium-chain saturated fat, which means that the body will use it rather than storing it.
- Chloresterol: Coconut oil can raise levels of good (hdl) chloresterol in the body. It contains no chloresterol itself, being a plant product.
- Aids the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
- Curbs appetite: You can take a spoonful before meals to prevent overeating. (I have never tried this, so I can't vouch for it.)
- Nutrition information: One tablespoon of coconut oil provides 117 calories, 13.6g total fat (11.8g saturated fat, 0.8g monounsaturated fat, 0.2g polyunsaturated fat), no protein or carbohydrates, and trace amounts of iron and vitamins E and K.
- Culinary uses: As well as in baking, you can use coconut oil anywhere you would normally uses a vegetable oil, such as in dressings and for frying.
- What about the price? Organic virgin coconut oil, which will carry the most nutritional and health benefits, is expensive; there's no getting away from that. But luckily, KTC brand (pictured above) which is available from Asian groceries, is unrefined even though it's not organic, and comes at a very reasonable price, significantly cheaper than its health-shop counterparts. We think it's the perfect compromise.
- Coconut oil also has external medicinal uses; to find out more about these, see this article: http://www.sunwarrior.com/news/50-of-the-best-uses-for-coconut-oil/