Tropical Turnabout


By Jennifer Pirtle  |  

Although the humble coconut has long been a staple of traditional Southern Indian cuisine, in the West it’s been seen as a pariah: high in saturated fat and, therefore, bad for our hearts. But it turns out that the Indians may have been right.

While the fat in coconut is about 92 percent saturated, research has increasingly shown that not all such fats are created equal. The length of the chains of the carbon atoms in fats determines how our body processes them; the saturated fat in coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which raise blood cholesterol only slightly, if at all.

“Instead of storing them, the body transmits them straight to the liver, where they’re used immediately for energy,” says Peter Jones, a professor of nutrition at the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

One of the easiest ways to welcome coconut into your kitchen is by cooking with coconut oil. Its mild taste and buttery texture make it great for stir-frying vegetables and for baking. It needs no refrigeration and will stay fresh for a year or so. What’s not to like?