For many years, we believed that eating foods high in cholesterol & saturated fat increases the blood levels of cholesterol which in turn can spell trouble for the heart. So, butter, ghee, coconut oil, egg yolk (yellow), red meat, cheese, and other foods that contained either cholesterol or saturated fat were deleted from the shopping lists of many homes.
Then came studies that showed egg yolk didn’t raise blood cholesterol levels, in spite of containing high amounts of cholesterol. Of late, there’s a lot of talk on whether saturated fats raise blood cholesterol or not. Many studies are indicating that ghee, coconut oil and other sources of saturated fats are not as harmful as thought earlier. Trans fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, maida, white bread and white rice) are the ones to watch out for.
Cholesterol is not a bad thing. It is an essential item and has many functions in the body. So, if you have any fear about cholesterol, please remove it from your minds.
Two days ago, I was listening to a talk by a very senior Swedish professor who basically trashed the information that cholesterol from foods and saturated fats can be harmful. He said that refined carbohydrates are the culprits causing damage to our health. He felt sad that many Indians have stopped using ghee, coconut and coconut oil. He encouraged the use of these foods. He also said that we use too much sunflower oil and should reduce it’s use. Increase protein intake through foods, include lots of vegetables and fruits, leave refined carbohydrates, was the advice given.
I agree with most of the points given by the professor. But we need to be careful of the quantity of fats that we use. Also whole grains like brown rice, atta, millets, are an important part of our meals.
I’ve been asked “how much cholesterol does coconut oil contain?” countless times. And I repeat here – there is no cholesterol in coconut oil. There’s no cholesterol in fresh coconut, dry coconut, tender coconut or any other coconut product! However, coconut oil has been maligned in the coronary circles because of its saturated fat content.
The latest thinking is that trans fats do more damage to the heart and blood vessels than saturated fat. Also, nutrition science has always allowed small amounts of saturated fat in the diet and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the usage of coconut oil has not completely died down in India.
On the positive side, coconut oil contains a type of fat that is found to be beneficial, particularly for those who cannot digest fats easily. Blenderised feeds given to patients in hospitals often use coconut oil because it can be digested and assimilated easily without causing any damage to health. Also for those who require high calories, coconut oil is a good source. Coconut oil oxidises slowly compared to the high PUFA oils. This results in lesser amount of free radicals.
Despite its positive effects, if you decide to switch to coconut oil for cooking, restrict the quantity. Remember that all oils must be taken in limited quantities.
Virgin coconut oil is now available in the market. A young Bangalorean, Kaavya Nag, has started to make 100% virgin coconut oil without using any enzymes, chemicals or heat. Completely natural, Coconess (that’s the brand name) coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut milk in the traditional manner. Check it out if you wish.
Try to use coconut oil in your cooking once in a while……you might end up loving it!
Membership to the Food Lovers Club run by Kripal Amanna, brought us a lovely hamper of some edible goodies and lots of dining privileges. One of the items in the hamper was virgin coconut oil with a salad dressing recipe which I have reproduced here with minor changes.
Coconut Oil Salad Dressing
Virgin coconut oil – 2 teaspoons
Water – 1 teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Crushed peppercorns – 1/2 teaspoon
Honey – 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice – 1/2 teaspoon
Method of preparation –
Mix salt in water. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. The dressing is ready. Use it while making a salad.
Note – Coconut oil does not contain cholesterol. It can be used like any other edible oil in small quantities.