I was reading the Heavy on the Sorta post and when I got to the part about coconut oil, I knew that I had to write and share because coconut oil is awesome stuff and easy to get in the habit of using.
Coconut oil has great health benefits, and is virtually husband and kid proof (you usually can't tell when you substitute coconut oil in your cooking), and is shelf stable so you don't have to worry about it taking up room in your fridge or rotting with the kale that you were inspired to buy at the health food store last week (been there done that).
And yes, coconut oil is a part of the real food movement, also mentioned in the Heavy on the Sorta post. The real food movement is basically made up of a group of people who are noticing all the chronic health problems that have cropped up recently (obesity, hyperactivity, depression, autism, autoimmune disorders, type 2 diabetes, so much dependence on pharmaceutical medications) and thinking, "Hey! Something is getting out of control here, this can't possibly be normal" and then looking back at how our diet has changed from mostly whole foods with the occasional processed good 100+ years ago to what we have today.
Today our nation is eating more processed foods than foods in their natural state. Even what is touted as healthy is usually processed. Healthy carrots may be served with hydrogenated soybean oil and MSG (ranch dressing). The enriched and low fat, high fiber label on our crackers suggests that they're a healthy snack, but the vitamins that have been put back into the processed food are synthetic imitations of the real thing, and the added fiber likely is bad quality.
The real food movement is about hitting the rewind button and going back a hundred years or more, to where we recognized all parts of the food we ate. We eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. We eat real butter on our whole wheat bread. We cook our vegetables if we want and sprinkle on real sea salt. We eat what we like as long as it's a whole real food that comes from a kitchen, not a factory. And surprisingly, even without counting calories or fat grams or carbs, the vast majority of us will lose weight and feel better eating a diet like this. Jordan Rubin's book The Maker's Diet is my favorite real food book. He goes into a lot more of the specifics like why saturated fat is okay, the importance of eating whole grains, and how eating a good hamburger is actually healthy.
So where does coconut oil fit in? Coconut oil is considered a traditional food; it's been around for a long time, and it's easily made by cottage industries by hand, not in a factory. For those of us interested in traditional foods, it's a big part of our diet because it is a relatively inexpensive as far as good quality fats go, and easy to use to replace other oils in your cooking. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, which are thought to support metabolism, are easy to absorb, and are easily used by the body for energy.
I didn't start using a lot of coconut products until I was cutting dairy out of my diet to see if that would get rid of my infant son's eczema. Because I love cream in my coffee, I substituted the canned coconut milk found in the grocery store (Thai brand) and was surprised that instead of bulking up with this so-called calorie dense food, I actually lost my sweet tooth and my pregnancy weight. Later I read Sally Fallon's book Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats where it states that coconut oil not only helps keep your metabolism up, but it also increases satiety; you feel satisfied and full longer. That was true for me!
It was after reading about the health benefits of coconut oil in Fallon's book that I got serious about switching us over to including more coconut oil in our diet. I buy it a gallon at a time now, so that I always have plenty on hand. I've tried the coconut oil from the health food store, and even Walmart, and I've found that they're overpriced and/or over processed, so I order mine online. I like both Wilderness Family Naturals and Tropical Traditions.
(ed. note - Cara has a referral code for Tropical Traditions - #5682145 - and if you use this code to order from Tropical Traditions, you will receive a free book on the benefits of coconut oil.)
Coconut oil is naturally solid at room temperature, and ideally you'd melt it over the stove if you need to melt it, but if you use a microwave I'm fine with melting it in there to use in baking (just like you have to soften butter).
If you want to give coconut fat a try without having to pay shipping and handling, you can buy a few cans of Thai coconut milk (in the Asian section of the grocery store) and use a generous amount, half a can a day is about what I used, for a few days and see if you notice a difference. The coconut milk in the can is rich in the good coconut fats.
So, how do you use coconut oil?
I use it to replace the regular oil in muffins, pizza dough,and cake mix. I use it instead of butter in my cookies, or on top of veggies. I use it to grease my bread pans, to saute veggies in, and to fry eggs. Basically anywhere that I used another source of fat, I can use coconut oil instead. A tablespoon or two can be added to smoothies to make them much more filling.
(Read more here)
How do you use coconut milk?
I love to use coconut milk in homemade ice cream, as a creamer in my coffee, as a tropical addition to smoothies, use instead of water to cook rice in, and as a sauce with rice dishes.
Does this sound doable to you? I've found that on my journey to change our diet over to just about entirely real foods, switching to coconut oil from canola/corn/soybean oil was one of the easiest switches that I've made.
Want to learn more?
My journey from eating the standard American diet to real food
About The Maker's Diet
I don't eat all whole foods all the time - here are some confessions
Cara is a wife and has two kids so far. She enjoys learning about natural health, traditional foods, and strives to make a happy home. She blogs about food and homemaking at Health, Home, and Happiness and crafts and parenting at Natural Family Crafts.
Photo of coconut tree by Swami Stream
All Amazon links are my affiliate links