My good friend Richard was the first person to introduce me to the wonders of coconut oil. Originally from Columbia, Richard is an expert on Latin American cuisine and an all-around mago (that’s wizard to you) in the kitchen. He’s been cooking with coconut oil for years, whipping up traditional dishes like Arroz con coco and Rondon—a rich seafood dish made with a coconut base. In the span of a single delicious afternoon, Richard showed me how easy it is to substitute coconut oil for olive oil and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and benefits.
The fatty acids that make up coconut oil contribute to its unique cooking ability. In fact, a tablespoon of coconut oil contains almost six times the amount of saturated fat as a tablespoon of olive oil. With fatty acids that are upwards of 90% saturated, coconut oil is much more resistant to oxidation. This means that it doesn’t splatter when exposed to the high heat of frying. Oil spatter isn’t just messy, it can give you a bad burn, and it’s especially dangerous when it hits your face and eyes. When cooking with high heat, coconut oil is simply safer to use than the other widely-used cooking oils.
There’s a huge difference in the flavor of refined and unrefined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is often tasteless and odorless. It can withstand higher cooking temperatures due to the refining process and is great to use when you don’t want to overpower your meal with coconut flavor. Unrefined coconut oil, on the other hand, can go either way. The flavor varies depending on the level of heat that was used during the extraction process. Unrefined coconut oil that was extracted at a high temperature may have a stronger coconut flavor than a more raw version.
Thanks to its unique composition of fatty acids, studies point to a range of health benefits from coconut oil. Its use in your every day can contribute to the increase in “good” HDL (high-density lipoproteins) cholesterol and potentially lower the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the fatty acids in coconut oil have been linked to a reduction in appetite, and some swear by it as a weight-loss tool. It’s even been found to contribute to the reduction of seizures in children “because the fatty acids in coconut oil get shipped to the liver and turned into ketones, they are often used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis while allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.”
Now, how’s that for a superfood?