Welcome to the first post in my Small Steps/Big Changes series! As I mentioned in the introduction, this series is all about a non-intimidating approach to self-sufficiency and a healthier, Real Food lifestyle. When Big Man and I started this journey a few months ago, the first thing I started researching was cooking oils. I’d been seeing more and more recipes that called for coconut oil instead of the vegetable or canola oil with which I was familiar, and I wondered why. What was the big deal about coconut oil? Was it just the current “trendy” ingredient, or was it really superior to other cooking oils? Let’s find out*
Small Step: Replace vegetable & canola oils with coconut oil
Why: Vegetable and canola oils are full of polyunsaturatedfats (PUFA), are endorsed by the USDA and Big Food, and easily go rancid. Coconut oil is used in traditional cultures and cuisines, is minimally processed, has many uses beyond the kitchen, and is highly praised by Real Food enthusiasts.
Difficulty level: Minimal. Coconut oil is easy to find (grocery stores, warehouse clubs, Amazon, or sites like this), there are many different brands, and it stores in the pantry just like vegetable and canola oils. The only downside is that coconut oil ranges from somewhat to much more expensive. So far, I’ve been buying coconut oils in the mid-range of the price array (e.g. Spectrum brand). I feel that’s a good balance of decent quality and affordability. I’m not yet convinced that the “Gold Standard” coconut oil brands are worth their price tag for our family.
My results: I’ve had great success with coconut oil! It’s a little strange at first, because it is solid at room temperature so sometimes it must be melted before using but that is easy enough. I keep both virgin (unrefined) and refined coconut oil on hand. The virgin oil has a slight coconutty smell and taste, so I use the refined oil in cases where that taste would clash with whatever I’m cooking. I use it to coat the pan before cooking meat or veggies, and just substitute it 1 for 1 for vegetable oil in baking applications. Sometimes I also sub it in for half the butter in a sweet recipe to get nutrients from both types of fat. Coconut oil is also great in making stovetop popcorn! I appreciate that it is versatile both inside and outside the kitchen. It works nicely as a body lotion and is great to hydrate the ends of the hair to help prevent split ends.
Worth it? Definitely. I’ve been very happy using coconut oil and seeing how well it performs in many applications. I like knowing it is much less refined and processed compared with vegetable and canola oils. Plus, vegetable and canola oils are nearly guaranteed to contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), a.k.a. creepy science experiments I don’t want to eat. (In my research, GMO’s seem to be far less prevalent in coconut production, though I don’t know for sure that all brands of coconut oil are GMO-free).
Conclusion: After using coconut oil for a few months and researching its benefits, I’ve come to believe that coconut oil is a far better choice than vegetable or canola oil. I don’t believe it is a “miracle food” as is sometimes claimed, but I do feel confident it is a healthy choice for our family. Plus, it makes some yummy cookies!
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with coconut oil!