Food 1-1Published 2:07pm Wednesday, November 13, 2013
I hear a lot about coconut oil and its health benefits. What kind of benefits are there from using it in my cooking? Baking? Just eating a tablespoon?
Going Nuts for Coconuts
Dear Going Nuts for Coconuts,
You’re right – coconut oil is a very hot topic right now in the health and nutrition realm. There are claims that it encourages weight loss, and cures all sorts of diseases. In addition to being consumed, it can be used topically as a moisturizer, to repair hair damage, and to treat skin ailments.
All fat has the same amount of calories, but coconut oil has the most saturated fat (92% of its fat is saturated) of all types of cooking oils, butter, margarine, and even lard! Clinical research shows us that saturated fat intake is has a direct effect on cholesterol levels. However, more and more research is showing that plant-based saturated fats may have a neutral, or perhaps even positive, effect on our blood lipid levels. This is because of the unique fatty acids, MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), that coconut oil contains. MCTs do not get absorbed into fat tissue the same as long or short chained triglycerides, but rather burned for quick energy, hence the thought that they aid in weight loss. Coconut oil companies are suggesting people consume 1-2 tablespoon/day. Since each tablespoon contains 120 calories, something equal to that in your diet has to be subtracted, or no weight loss will be seen. It’s just basic math!
To be honest, I am not sure if I agree with the proclaimed nutritional benefits, as I am still trying to sort out the science from its marketing. I am always a little bit skeptical of products that explode on the market like coconut oil has done. But incorporating a small amount into your diet is not going to harm you either.
Are there any nutritional concerns that should be considered if you’re thinking of trying to eat vegetarian or vegan?
Meat Isn’t Green
Dear Meat Isn’t Green,
The most common concern that people have about switching to a vegetarian (no meat) or vegan (no animal products including meat, cheese, milk, eggs, etc.) diet is that they will be short on protein intake. However, the average American consumes 3 x their protein needs, and protein is readily available in all grains and many vegetables.
However, there are a few nutritional concerns for vegans since they are eliminating much more foods than vegetarians.
1) To avoid B12 deficiency, vegans should regularly consume B12 fortified foods such as some soy or rice drinks, B12 fortified nutritional yeast, or a B12 supplement.
2) To ensure adequate calcium intake, calcium-fortified foods should be eaten such as calcium-fortified orange or apple juice, ready-to-eat cereals, soy or rice drinks.
3) Especially during the winter, vegans should regularly consume vitamin D-fortified foods such as soy or rice milk, orange juice, or ready-to-eat cereals.
4) Vegans should regularly consume plant foods rich in the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, such as flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and soy products. It is also recommended to consume foods rich in the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, such as some soy milks and cereal bars.