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Why coconut oil?

Why is it so popular now and why, exactly, is it considered to be a paleo food? I am having a hard time figuring out how my long ago ancestors from northern Europe got their mitts on it.

Is it really nutritionally superior? I use a lot of olive oil, scary lots to be honest. Should I incorporate some coconut oil into my diet?

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  1. Can't say why it's trendy or paleo but I have been using it for years when making popcorn and for certain baked items because tastes really good! It's also an amazing moisturizer. That said it would not be a replacement for olive oil in many dishes because of its distinct flavor.

    1. I dig it for curries and other dishes that won't mind a hint of coconut. I don't think it's any more or less paleo than olive oil- just depends on where your ancestors of choice lived.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Hobbert

        Using for curries is a good idea. I shall give it a whirl.

      2. Hi tcamp,

        I believe that it's considered paleo because it's a dairy-free oil (unlike butter).

        I can't speak to its nutritional superiority, but I do find that it imparts a definite "taste" (not bad, just coconutty) when I cook with it. I usually have four oils in my pantry--butter, olive oil, grapeseed, and coconut, depending on what I'm doing, I switch 'em up.

        My go-to's are the oo and the butter.

        Should you incorporate coconut oil? Why not try it? It's not good for everything (IMO)...for example, doesn't stand up to high heat, and for some, the taste is offputting. But try it!

        1. I could use some advice from those with coconut oil experience; my granola recipe calls for 1/3 c of olive oil. It also has coconut chunks in it. We love coconut, but would it be too much to sub c. oil for oo? Or 1/2 and 1/2?

          I've also seen various formulations of c. oil--any suggestions which I should buy for general cooking/baking?


          13 Replies
          1. re: pine time

            As for your granola, the thing that jumps out at me is that olive oil is liquid @ room temperature and coconut oil is not, not that necessarily is bad. I would experiment.

            1. re: zackly

              For baking I usually just place the jar in a bowl of warm water. It turns to liquid pretty quickly and is easier to measure and mix that way.

              1. re: zackly

                Coconut oil is definitely liquid at room temperature. In my kitchen. :P (I live in a tropical country...)

                1. re: LMAshton

                  My coconut oil is liquid at summer room temperature and a solid in winter. :P indeed.

                2. re: zackly

                  I pop it into the microwave and soften/melt it before baking with it.

                  To the OP, it would be a fine substitution for OO in your granola and and I don't think it would over power the other flavors.

                3. re: pine time

                  I prefer unrefined (aka virgin) coconut oil for both cooking and personal care. I have found cold pressed has a more pronounced coconut flavor but then again that could have just been the brand.

                  In terms of the granola if you love coconut go for it otherwise why not try it with just the oil? You can always add dried coconut later if it's not coconutty enough.

                  1. re: pine time

                    Thanks, all. Guess I'll make a 1/2 batch of the granola with only coconut oil (the only other liquid is 1/2 c of grade B maple syrup). Appreciate the help!

                    1. re: pine time

                      Made that granola w/ virgin coconut oil in place of the olive oil. House smelled great while it was baking. There's a mild "extra" coconut flavor, but not overwhelming. I'll continue to experiment w/ the oil for other uses.

                      1. re: pine time

                        That sounds fantastic. I've just started experimenting with coconut oil. Have to give this a try!

                        1. re: khh1138

                          I now also add 1 tsp of coconut extract, along w/ the coconut oil and coconut shreds. It's actually not overwhelmingly coconut-y, but delicious!

                        2. re: pine time

                          Because of the mentioning in this thread, I recently made granola bars for the first time, and with coconut oil instead of what the recipe called for. It was delicious and the whole batch was gone in no time - we all loved it as a grab and go snack.

                          I am not a big fan of coconut except in curries, but it worked very well with the other ingredients (honey, brown sugar, sunflower seeds and dried figs).

                      2. re: pine time

                        I ONLY make granola with coconut oil- and its amamaaaaaazzziiinnngg! The whole house will smell wonderful. Adds a light coconutty flavor. Just swap the coconut for the olive oil. Don't mix. Warm the coconut oil til its liquid to mix it in.

                        1. re: pine time

                          Coconut oil would be great in granola. I'd absolutely sub in coconut oil.

                        2. I don't know about its virtues as a paleo food but it's a non-dairy fat (as in, no lactose, casein, or whey) that's FAR superior to vegan margarine for cooking and baking. (For eating, such as atop toast--that's another matter.) Virgin coconut oil retains some coconut aroma and flavor; refined is neutral smelling and tasting.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Erika L

                            Virgin also is significantly more allergenic than refined.

                          2. The Paleo lifestyle is often intended to combat diseases of modern civilization, thought to have their roots in inflammation, blood sugar metabolism, intestinal permeability, toxicity, etc.

                            Oils high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are commonly associated with inflammation, so, anytime you can replace them with a saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, or omega-3, that's a win. Omega-6 fats are technically essential, but, they're easy to get without any special effort - better to use something like coconut oil when given the choice.

                            Coconut oil is comprised of a lot of medium chained triglycerides (MCT) which can be easily converted by the body into ketones for energy. Ketones can be as good, or better, as an energy source for most bodily functions. Ketones can even be produced in the presence of moderate amounts of glucose if the MCT intake is high enough.

                            Parasites can often be a factor in intestinal permeability, and they can be weakened by feeding them MCT. Coconut derivatives are often used for treatment (I am not a doctor).

                            Refined coconut oil is suitable for cooking at high temperatures without creating a lot of toxic byproducts.

                            Personally, I am using animal fats for higher temperature applications, but, I don't cook anything really hot anymore. I never heat olive oil, and don't use many other vegetable oils at all. I have some red palm oil, nut butters, tahini, and that's about it. I have more beef tallow than I can use, and it comes from a clean, grass-fed source. I don't keep *refined* coconut oil in the house.

                            Virgin coconut oil is to be used cold or with gentle heat. I'm not afraid to use it to bake vegetables, but, I wouldn't get up to roasting temperatures.

                            Sometimes I make some fat snacks that are mostly coconut oil with a little butter (ghee) and almond butter.

                            I am also of Northern European heritage, and I think it is significant when considering my genetic makeup. I don't give it a lot of weight, though. It's a small piece of a much bigger picture.

                            Edit: I should add that I eat a fair amount of coconut fat in the form of coconut milk. With berries, it serves as my ice cream substitute. The berries have plenty of sugar, for my taste, and the fat slows down the digestion. I have good blood glucose regulation (allegedly). I just had an A1C test, yesterday, so, we'll see what that says. Doctors have never indicated any sign of a problem, but, I'm not finding much comfort in that, these days.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: johnseberg

                              My A1c came in at 5.7. I consider it a yellow flag - cause for dusting off the glucometer, and buying some supplies to see how my A1c corresponds to *reality*. My fbg has always been in the 70's.

                              I tend to eat low carb the majority of the time, and have some carb benders. I think those benders can be particularly damaging, because I am not adapted to metabolizing carbs. Any symptoms I may attribute to damage by glycation have decreased since I've been low carb.

                              I'm not going to stop eating berries, yet, but, I might increase the coconut milk ratio, and eat them with the protein meal, instead of a snack.

                              I've done very little with my glucometer. I noticed I could get my bg up over 200 (1 hour), eating a lot of pure starch - no protein or fat. But, it comes right down, 2 hour reading looks good. Again, that's not how I typically eat, and I am adapted to burning fat, so, no big surprise that I'm not handling a one-off bolus of carbs well.

                              1. re: johnseberg

                                YOUCH, good idea to get serious about seeing what's going on.

                                1. re: johnseberg

                                  This is interesting. I got the results from my first ever A1c test today, and it was 5.6 - the very top of the normal scale. I too eat mostly LC with the occasional carb bender, and I was wondering if that was the reason for the high-ish number.

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    Well, your test came out a little better than mine. It's still a single data point of an imperfect test. I wish I had more to add. My best answer to your question is in my prior post.

                                    I'm not freaking out. I'm going to be a little more careful, and research small steps to improve insulin sensitivity. So far, I finding the usual things - diet, exercise, stress management.

                                    If you're worried, maybe you could get a glucometer or possibly order a fructosamine test.

                                    1. re: johnseberg

                                      I'm not particularly worried, but I will definitely request that my doctor include an A1c test in all of my future physicals, just to keep an eye on it. And perhaps I'll think twice about my next carb bender :)

                                      1. re: johnseberg

                                        Don't forget that different labs use different ref ranges, it's not a straight out percentage standardized in all labs. You have to compare to your own lab's ref range on your report. Some top out at 5.6, some at 6, or 6.7, etc.

                                      2. re: biondanonima

                                        It's a sloppy and often inaccurate measure of mostly the most recent three weeks, not 3 months as often stated.

                                        Other things that skew the result are stuff like your rate of blood cell turnover, certain familial hereditary conditions, anemia, lots of things.

                                        Testing pre and post meal at 1 and 2 hours tells you what's up with accuracy.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Good to know. I will definitely test the next time I'm with any of my friends with meters (using a sterile lancet for the prick, of course).

                                        2. re: biondanonima

                                          Interesting to me too - I recently got my first A1c test as well, and it was also a 5.6. I have already been loosely following the Paleo diet for a while, going moderately LC (it is not easy). Maybe that explains why I get excessive night sweats if I eat even eat a small serving of rice or pasta for dinner.

                                    2. It's used in paleo because it's non dairy. There's a lot of good research pointing to benefits (including weight loss promotion) of its medium chain triglycerides.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/artic...

                                      1. As fate would have it, coconut oil was on the end cap at Costco yesterday evening so I bought a (gigantic) jar. I used it for an eggplant saute and liked it. Trying to figure out where to stash it so spouse does not notice this addition to my already extensive oil stash.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: tcamp

                                          Break it down into two mason jars and keep one in the bathroom. So good for your skin! Plus he might not notice the other smaller and generic looking mason jar in the cupboard!

                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I use it as a moisturizer too - it also works well as an eye makeup remover.

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  Me too. Love smelling like a big macaroon after showering.

                                          2. Trader Joe's Coconut Organic Virgin Oil is fantastic and the best for a myriad of uses. .$5.99

                                            For one, it is fantastic as a moisturizer..
                                            I don't have wrinkles yet but everyone swears that it has helped their crows feet and overall appearance of their skin.
                                            Also, it has medicinal properties that help if you have a cut and great after a shave for men..

                                            I take a spoonful and swish it around my mouth for optimum clean and believe it is called 'oil pulling'.

                                            I have yet to use it for my curry dishes.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                              I wanted to believe in oil pulling. The articles I've read, placing it in a favorable light, do not cite studies. And an article dismissing its efficacy mentioned the absence of any studies.

                                              I still think it could be worthwhile, but, very difficult to justify adding the 20 minute exercise to my daily routine. Here is the point of view of one dentist who seems relatively open-minded. The oil pulling question is asked / answered in the comments after the article.


                                              I also get [some] coconut oil from Trader Joes. It's $1 cheaper than the store brand of my local "natural" market (Sprouts). I like the taste of Sprouts' product a little better, and find all brands to taste a little different. So, if you don't like one brand - try another. Trader Joes also wins for best reusable jar.

                                            2. Personally, one of the main reasons I include it in my diet is because it is supposed to be a brain food that helps to combat dementia and Alzheimer's. I went through some concussions and it is known that they increase the odds of those conditions. There seems to be some evidence that coconut oil may help.

                                              Any thoughts on this?

                                              1. Coconut oil is delicious in certain types of dishes. I cook a lot of Sri Lankan and other curries (my husband is Sri Lankan and my mother in law taught me how to cook her dishes), so I use coconut oil a LOT. It adds a lovely subtle flavour to curries.

                                                I even use it for deep frying when I have easy access to it. Chicken fried in coconut oil? So. Delicious.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: LMAshton

                                                  Since posting and buying a massive jar from Costco, I've been using it for curries and stir fries. I particularly like the flavor with eggplant, which in abundance right now. I did try it out as a hair treatment too! Worked but I smelled like dinner.

                                                2. Another couple of great uses for coconut oil:

                                                  1) fry pumpkin seeds in it, along with a crumbled dried hot pepper, curry powder, smoked paprika, S&P. Mouth burningly delicious - I think it was a dried habanero from last year.

                                                  2) thai basil pesto - like regular pesto only use coconut oil, cashews, thai basil, and thai peppers to taste. I heard this today on Splendid Table and came right home to try it.

                                                  1. Ok, I'm officially a coconut oil convert. Made zucchini bread over the weekend substituting coconut oil for the vegetable oil called for and added some flaked, unsweetened coconut as I had it on hand. Absolutely delicious - family and friends all raved. However, the bread is decidedly not low carb so I had only a small taste.