Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Going Coconutty

In my quest for healthy things to eat I am finding coconut everywhere.  Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut flour and shredded coconut are all featured in many paleo and low-carb recipes.  I read three books to try to find out what's so good about coconut oil:  The Coconut Oil Miracle and Stop Alzheimer’s Now! by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and Alzheimer’s Disease What if there was a Cure? By Mary Newport, M.D.  


Mary Newport was the Director of Neonatology at a hospital in Florida when her husband, Steve, started having signs of early Alzheimer’s in his 50’s and the disease progressed fast.  When Steve failed to qualify for a trial of a drug that was showing a lot of promise, Mary researched the drug and the science behind it.  She found the drug has one active ingredient, a type of  medium-chain triglyceride, and a report she read stated that any MCT would give basically the same results.  Mary was aware that MCT oil has been used safely in the treatment of epilepsy for many years and in hospital feeding formulas and infant formula.  The drug’s patent application indicated the MCT was extracted from coconut oil, which is made up of 63% MCTs. 

So, long story short, she started giving Steve coconut oil every day.  Almost immediately he started acting and feeling more like himself.   Mary now says on her website that coconut oil gave her and Steve two extra years of normal life before Steve sadly began failing again with seizures and a fall.  She also shows pictures of a test Steve took multiple times where the patient draws a clock face.  The improvement after starting coconut oil is pretty convincing.

Bruce Fife is a nutritionist and naturopath who has written many books and is president of an organization called the Coconut Research Center, whose purpose it is “to educate health care professionals and the public about the positive nutritional aspects of coconut”.  I tend to be skeptical when a person is making money by touting a particular treatment or cure, especially when it can not only cure Alzheimer’s but also help in weight loss, fight infection and give you beautiful skin and hair.  Perhaps the word “Miracle” is a bit strong.  However, Dr. Fife does list studies and trials, as well as testimonials (I’m a sucker for testimonials), and for some of the folks in his examples, coconut oil has been pretty miraculous. 

According to Dr. Fife, medium- and short-chain fatty acids behave differently in the body than the typical long-chain fatty acids found in meat and vegetable oils.  The long-chain fatty acids are stored as fat tissue if not used immediately for energy, but short-chain (which are very rare, but some are found in butter) and medium-chain fatty acids are broken down and used predominantly for energy production and seldom end up as body fat or as deposits in arteries.  An article on the San Francisco online news website SFGATE also mentioned that medium-chain fatty acids go directly to energy rather than being stored.
An article on says some benefits of coconut oil may be due to the presence of lauric acid, a fatty acid present in breast milk that confers many of the immune and health benefits to breastfed babies.

Many sources warn that definitive studies have yet to be completed, although some are in the works.  Nowhere did I read anything actually bad about coconut oil other than its being a saturated fat with 120 calories per tablespoon.  Of course, don’t eat partially hydrogenated coconut oil that may be in snack foods and non-dairy creamer.  (Any partially hydrogenated oil would have trans fats, which are bad.)

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, I am using The Wahls Protocol, by Dr. Terry Wahls, as my main guide during this year of health.  Dr. Wahls recommends coconut oil and coconut milk, especially for those following her most drastic (perhaps I should say most advanced) protocol.  In “Wahls Paleo Plus” the goal is to be in mild ketosis, or burning fat for energy instead of carbs.  She says “Your goal is to have a source of medium-chain fats at each eating occasion.  You will get the most ketones from coconut oil as opposed to other kinds of fats.”  I am not even doing her most basic protocol fully as yet, and I’ll probably never make it to Paleo Plus, but I do eat low-carb, and I know I should eat plenty of good fat.

Whew – what a dense read without a lot of pretty pictures!  Here are some things I’m doing with coconut.

Breakfasts and stir-fries – I started cooking with coconut oil right after I wrote the post about what oils to cook with.  Since olive oil has a lower smoke point, coconut oil is a better choice for stir-frying and sautéing.  Here are a couple of my recent breakfasts sauteed in coconut oil.  (I'm experimenting with egg-free breakfasts - not easy!)

Sausage and veggies
Red cabbage, apple, greens and yam

Tea and coffee – ever since reading about how good it is for the brain, I’m putting a dab of coconut oil in my tea and coffee whenever I remember.  I don’t taste it at all, it just makes the surface look a bit shiny.  And any time Stan forgets something or has one of those Sometimer’s moments we all have, I resolve to sneak coconut oil into his food, too.

 If anyone wants to go really hard-core, you can check out the Bulletproof Exec’s Bulletproof Coffee.  It is “high-performance” low-toxin coffee blended with grass-fed butter and a coconut oil extract he calls “Brain Octane”.  The exact procedure and recipe are at the link.  I believe this is healthy, but it’s beyond me at this point.  Too lazy to track down the ingredients and too miserly to pay for them, not to mention I want my morning beverage to resemble my usual coffee with milk or half and half.

Have you tried the new coconut milk latte at Starbucks?  I had one a few weeks ago.  Gotta admit, it wasn’t quite as good as my favorite soy latte, but I know the soy milk is laced with sugar.  Well, guess what…  shortly after that I read an article on with a photo of the ingredient list purportedly on Starbucks coconut milk.  In addition to coconut and water, it shows sugar, 4 kinds of gums, corn dextrin and tricalcium phosphate (is that something we wash clothes with??).  Darn.  It wasn’t that great anyway.  I’m going to stick with my new favorite Starbucks – Teavana Jade Citrus Mint green tea.

Don't laugh but I also took some virgin coconut oil up to the master bath.  I'm going to check out its antibiotic, antifungal, anti-itch and beautifying properties on some of my imperfections  : )

I noticed many recipes in my new Against the Grain cookbook use coconut in some form or other, including the Banana Nut Porridge I made, as well as soups, scones, macaroons, ice cream, French vanilla coffee creamer and coconut whipped cream.  Yum!  When I've tried some of these I'll write a post on cooking with coconut!

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