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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Coconut Oil: Friend or Foe?

Sorry to keep you all waiting! I just finished my first year of graduate school! By this time next year, I will have a masters in nutrition and completed a didactic program in dietetics. Then I will have to complete a 9-month dietetic internship and pass an exam to become a Registered Dietitian (RD). In plain English: it will take about 3 years in total to become a "nutritionist" (or 4 if you count the year I spent doing pre-requisite course work). In the meantime, I'm glad to pass on some of the knowledge that I am learning in school and on my own to you :-)

I wasn't cooking as much as usual during the spring semester (and my recipes were been pretty unimaginative - salads, soups, and the occasional Trader Joe's frozen meal during a study session). I've decided to focus more of my blog posts on super foods - whole foods that offered vitality to ancient civilizations and have stood the test of time. In my last post, I blogged about chia seeds, which were used by the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incans and remain a South American staple today. I've been on a coconut kick the past few months - coconut butter, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and of course - coconut oil. A high saturated fat content has given coconut oil a bad rap in the past. However, coconut is seeing a renaissance in the health food industry these days.

Coconut oil in its "pure" form - organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed - has numerous health and functional benefits. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which are believed to function differently than other types of saturated fats in the body. It can be used as a cooking oil, as a butter replacement in baking, in smoothies, etc. It does have a slight coconut flavor and aroma, but this complements some Asian and sweet dishes. It has been used in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart disease, IBS, thyroid conditions, etc. I keep a separate jar in my bathroom to use as a face and body moisturizer, conditioner for dry hair, or lip balm. Coconut oil is also used both internally and externally for its antimicrobial properties. This promotes immunity and healing.

I usually purchase Nutiva or Nature's Way organic extra-virgin coconut oil in bulk on Amazon. If you really want a decadent treat, try Artisana's coconut butter!

Still not sure what to do with coconut oil? Here are 122 uses for your body and home!

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