Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Superfood above all Superfoods

Coconut Oil is a superfood above all superfoods. It’s one of the best things you can eat. I discovered this in my efforts to learn more about foods that help the immune system. When my son was first diagnosed with Alopecia Areata I had never even heard of coconut oil. If I ever ate it, it was by accident. I never liked coconut much because of the texture, but I never knew about coconut oil and coconut milk. Now I find all kinds of ways to sneak coconut oil in to our diet.

Coconut oil is nature’s best source of lauric acid, an essential fatty acid that boosts the immune system and protects us against viruses, yeasts, parasites, and other pathogens. Lauric acid is used to make baby formula. It also occurs naturally in mother’s milk. It is a fatty acid with antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Here’s what I read in the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon:

Demographic indications are that countries whose populace consumes large
amounts of coconut have very low incidences of coronary diseases. In one study
of two groups of Polynesians, those consuming coconut oil as 89% of the fat
intake had lower blood pressure than those whose coconut oil intake was only 7%
of fat intake. In Sri Lanka, a major coconut producing and consuming nation, the
1978 rate of heart disease was 1 per 100,000 contrasted with a rate of 18 to 187
in countries with no coconut oil consumption.
As heart disease surpasses cancer as the leading cause of death in this country, we might all be wise to find ways to add more coconut to our diet. The more I’ve read about Coconut oil the more convinced I am that it can have a huge impact on our health, and not just the immune system. Here’s another tidbit from Fallon’s book:

Coconut oil protects tropical populations from bacteria and fungus so prevalent in their food supply; as third-world nations in tropical areas have switched to polyunsaturated vegetable oils, the incidence of intestinal disorders and immune deficiency diseases have increased.
Here’s a partial list of other benefits found in medical research and clinical observations (if you're already sold on the benefits of coconut oil and want to skip to the recipes below, feel free):

- Kills viruses that cause mononucleosis, influenza, hepatitis C, measles,
herpes, AIDS, and other illnesses
- Kills bacteria that cause pneumonia, ear ache, throat infection, dental cavities, food poisoning, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, and dozens of other diseases
- Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites
- Provides a quick boost of energy
- Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose
- Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes
- Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of
strong bones and teeth
- Helps protect against osteoporosis
- Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers
- Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Supports tissue healing and repair
- Supports and aids immune system function
- Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers
- Is heart healthy; does not increase blood cholesterol or platelet stickiness
- Helps prevent heart disease and stroke
- Helps prevent high blood pressure
- Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay
- Helps to protect the body from harmful free-radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease
- Is lower in calories than all other fats
- Supports thyroid function
- Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate
- Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward off infection
- Reduces symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis
- Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots
- Promotes healthy-looking hair and complexion
- Is resistant to oxidation so has a long shelf life
- Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperatures like other vegetable oils

Wow! If only half this list holds water, then we all need to be consuming more coconut oil. I’m sure you’re already headed out the door to get your own case of the stuff, so here’s a few things you should know. Coconut oil is pretty expensive, about as expensive as good olive oil. It’s worth every cent. Look for coconut oil that is non-hydrogenated, otherwise you’ll lose out on some of its benefits. Good quality coconut oil tastes like coconut. It is semi-solid in cooler weather and liquid oil in warmer weather. Here’s some ways to get more coconut oil in your diet:

Use coconut oil in cookie recipes and other baked goods.

It can also be used to sauté if you keep the temperature from getting too high. I suppose what you use it in depends on how much you love the taste of coconut oil. I substitute half the butter for coconut oil in all my cookie recipes and my kids don’t notice it. When I used it to cook their eggs, they turned up their noses (although I happily ate all the eggs they didn’t!).

We use it in waffles, pancakes and breads and nobody knows the difference, except that they taste REALLY good and seem really decadent.

You can also use coconut milk in soups and cooking dishes.

I love, love, love the recipe for coconut rice found in the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook and also Cooking Light’s Coconut Shrimp. Those recipes can be found below. There is also a recipe for a Coconut crust in Nourishing Traditions that I haven’t tried yet, but think would be divine as the base for a banana cream pie.

The last thing I’ll say about coconut oil is it is a great for your skin. When I finish scraping out a jar for cooking, I use my fingers to gather what’s still in there and rub it in to my arms and hands. I wouldn’t waste an ounce of that precious stuff. I once had a health professional tell me that if I used coconut oil on my skin every day, I’d look 10 years younger. I don’t know if that’s a comment on how powerful the stuff is or how old I look for my age!

Enjoy these recipes and consider developing some of your own!

Coconut Rice
(adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

2 cups long-grain brown rice
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cardamom pods (critical – don’t leave this out!)
2 Cups Chicken Stock
2 Cups Coconut Milk
½ teaspoon sea salt

In heavy pan, melt butter and olive oil. Open cardamom pods and add seeds to the pan. (Note: I open cardamom pods by rolling my rolling pin over them a few times). Saute rice in butter and oil, stirring constantly, until rice begins to turn milky. Pour in liquid, add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until water has been reduced to the level of the rice. Reduce heat, cover tightly, and cook for about 45 minutes or until done (you can cook longer, the original recipe calls for cooking up to 3 hours!).

Spicy Shrimp in Coconut Sauce
(Cooking Light)

½ Cup coconut milk
1 T fresh lime juice
1 t bottled minced ginger
1 t low-sodium soy sauce
1 t honey
½ t cornstarch
½ t chile paste with garlic
½ t bottled minced garlic
¼ t salt
2 t canola oil
1 ½ lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T chopped green onions
½ t crushed red pepper
2 cups jasmine rice (I serve this over coconut rice – WOW!)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl – set aside.

Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Add green onions and red pepper; cook 1 minute. Add coconut milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until shrimp turn pink. Serve immediately over rice.

Yield: 4 servings (1 cup shrimp mixture and ½ cup rice), 310 calories per serving

(Latest Version of) A Little Bit Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ cup butter
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup sucanot (or 1 cup white sugar)
1 cup brown sugar (or 1 cup rapidura)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup organic white flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup almond meal (optional)
¼ cup ground flax
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (I use celtic sea salt and increase it to almost 1 teaspoon)
2 cups grain sweetened chocolate chips (or use a good chocolate chip like Ghirardelli’s – cheap chips cheapen the cookie in ways other than price)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Cream butter, oil, and sugars. Add vanilla, eggs, and flaxseed. Beat well. (If it’s cool out and I’m using coconut oil it will be kind of hard, so I beat it much longer than if I do when it is warm to ensure that it is evenly spread through the batter.)
3. Mix together flours, almond meal, baking soda, and salt with whisk. Add to batter. Beat until mixed well. Add in chocolate chips.
4. Use mini ice cream scoop or melon baler to drop small tablespoons on to pan.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies and whether you heated the pans. It also depends on your oven, so watch your cookies carefully the first few times.

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