It's January, and my holiday indulgence has left me feeling sluggish and bloated. I recently read Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet, which culminates in a 21-day adventure cleanse. And being the adventurous type, I decided to give it a try.
This particular cleanse, as well as eliminating the usual evils such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar and gluten, emphasizes raw vegetables and fruits. I decided that would be the perfect opportunity to try out some of those raw recipes that I have been piling on the edge of my desk. But one thing that I noticed as I perused these raw recipes is the emphasis on fats, and one in particular.... coconut oil. Half a cup here, three quarters of a cup there.
I've heard so many people refer to coconut oil as a healthy food. They say it's full of 'good fats'. But is that actually true? Can we honestly say that coconut oil is good for us? With so many mixed messages in the media, it can be pretty confusing. But as a scientist, I needed to look at this from a scientific perspective.
Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%) acids. As a plant food, it contains no cholesterol, so in that way it seems better than other sources of saturated fat.
However, one tablespoon of coconut oils contains 120 calories, 14 grams fat, 12 g saturated fat, and no vitamins or minerals. That means that coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat!!
Saturated fats including that in coconut oil can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is an indicator of heart disease, and should be limited. I recommend that you check out Jeff Novick's evaluation of coconut oil. He compares coconut oil to the ultimate junk food, sugar, and claims that sugar actually has more nutrient value than coconut oil.
Being high in calories and low in nutrients makes this a food that can easily contribute to weight gain. So whether you believe it to be a source of 'healthy fats' or not, it is something that should be limited in the diet, based on it's calorie density alone.
If you want to replace the coconut oil in a baking recipe, you can use apple sauce, or prune puree or flax meal. I found these handy tips on fatfreevegan.com.
And while we're on the topic of coconut, did you know that 1 cup of coconut milk has 3 times the calories and almost 10 times the saturated fat as a cup of whole dairy milk? To replace coconut milk in a recipe try using almond milk with a teaspoon of coconut extract.
After 8 days on my adventure cleanse I am feeling decidedly less bloated. My clothes no longer feel uncomfortably tight and my complexion is clearer. I've dusted off my juicer and learned to make raw beetroot ravioli! I may even carry some of these new adventure habits on into the future!
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