You may have noticed that I particularly enjoy using coconut oil in my kitchen. And before getting to my recipe today, I would like to share just a little bit about why I am so fond of coconut oil . . . beside the fact that it tastes great.
According to this article in the New York Times, “[C]oconut oil was supposed to be the devil himself in liquid form, with more poisonous artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising, heart-attack-causing saturated fat than butter, lard or beef tallow.”
How did the health community come to such a conclusion? Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data, So, basically, researchers hydrogenated their coconut oil, and then fed it to an obligate herbivore, who, unlike humans, does not have an omnivorous digestive capability, who, unlike humans, would never naturally have coconut oil in its diet, who, unlike humans did not evolve eating a high-fat diet. I bet it was unhealthy for those poor rabbits. So of course, I do not buy the argument.
Just as a refresher, partial hydrogenation creates those dreaded trans fats, which almost everybody can agree are unhealthy. It also destroys many of the good essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil. And while it’s true that most of the fats in virgin coconut oil are saturated, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the arterial villains they were made out to be. Coconut oil is about 92% saturated fat. Which is a very good thing; it doesn’t go rancid or oxidize, and it contains very few of the poisonous omega-6 PUFA’s.
So on to some observational evidence shows that coconut oil is not harmful, and perhaps even beneficial. Several indigenous cultures that are completely free of modern disease eat a large percentage of their calories from coconut oil. These include the Tokelau Islanders, who obtain about 50% of calories from coconut oil (50% of their calories from fat? And most of it saturated? What would the diet dictocrats say?) and the Kitavans, who get about 21% of calories from coconut oil. And they have an apparent absence of stroke and heart disease.
Coconut oil is made up primarily of medium-chain triglycerides. These fatty acids are preferentially metabolized in the liver in to ketones and burned for energy in the brain, muscle, and other tissues instead of being stored as fat. In fact, this study shows that consuming coconut oil rather than other oils might lead to lower levels of body fat.
And now on to the possible artery-clogging potential of coconut oil. I for one do not think that it exists, and it seems that even the Times writers might be in agreement: “The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two.” If it increases HDL (the good, protective cholesterol which reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack) and does not adversely affect the HDL/LDL ratio, which is a better indicator of risk than total cholesterol. The goal is to keep the ratio of HDL to Total Cholesterol above 0.3, with the ideal HDL/TC ratio being above 0.4. Last time I got my labs done, my ratio was .6. Hooray for coconut oil.
And now, on to the recipe! This dish is sweet, spicy, and tart, all at the same time! A great way to get your coconut oil, along with some carotenoids, potassium, and vitamin C.
4 yams, cut into chunks 2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika Salt to taste Juice of two limes (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic
Handful of fresh cilantro
Preheat your oven to 400. Melt your coconut oil and toss the yam chunks in it until they are coated. Sprinkle with cumin, paprika, and salt, then spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and place them in the oven. Roast them for about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes so that they roast evenly. In the mean time, prepare your dressing; grate the garlic cloves into the lime juice, and then finely chop the cilantro and add it to the mixture. When your yams are roasted to your liking, put them into a bowl, toss with the dressing, and serve alongside your meat of choice. At our house that often means steak. And yes, this T-bone was from a steer I knew by name.