October 2010 archive
I am always surprised at the food items people declare as healthy. Fiber1 bars, canned soups, light ice cream, and so on. In both talking with clients and scanning the supermarket shelves, it seems that Coconut Oil is the latest health food. My gut reaction is to scream What!? WHY?? But, it seems that these days, coconut oil wears the health halo. Is this valid?
Is coconut oil a healthy food? Is it even a nutrient dense food?
In a word, no. Coconut oil is fat; 90% saturated fat and nothing else. It provides calories and no other nutrients. This is also true with most junk foods, like sugar. Sugar and other sweeteners provide calories and nothing else. The problem with coconut oil the fact that it’s pretty much straight saturated fat. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t make it a healthy option, and in comparing it to other empty calorie foods- coconut oil is a junk food.
When we look at population studies of those who live the longest, it’s the low-fat vegetarian diet that wins. But notice the key words: low-fat. Now, I’m not saying that your diet should be devoid of fat. Fat is essential to our bodies and needed in vitamin absorption (of A,D,E,K). I believe that the main benefit of a vegetarian diet is not consuming the harmful items that are mostly found in animal products: namely, saturated fat and cholesterol. Coconut oil is just a fancy name for saturated fat.
And that’s definitely not a good thing. An interesting observation is what happens when you consume just one high saturated fat meal. Both blood flow and the anti-inflammatory action of HDL (“good”) cholesterol are significantly reduced. Now, some of you may be saying that yes, you know that coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but it’s a healthy type of fat, and therefore good for you.
And that might be true. Might being if you have malabsorption problems like in liver disease, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis ect. This is because coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride and therefore digested easier than other fats. But, like I stated previously, unless you have malabsorption problems, the fact that it’s a medium chain triglyceride is a mute point.
In comparing high tropical oil consumption in certain cultures it is imperative to look at all aspects of the lifestyle and environment. I say this because there are some studies that show Polynesian cultures to have relatively low rates of heart disease despite high intake of coconut oil. But the lifestyle should be analyzed, not this single focus. Physical activity and other foods have more of an impact on the big picture than a single fat source. And it still doesn’t make coconut oil a health food in my book.
Take home message? Oil is still oil. Just because one is touted healthier than the other doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a fat source and little else. Oil should be used sparingly, with only <5-7% of your total calories coming from saturated fat.
I’d love to hear your comments,
Everyone has their own version of what chili should be. I added sweet potato to my usual chili recipe and I was glad I did! Yum. It was so perfect; sweet and filling. With a loaf of wheat bread, this was the perfect night-before dinner for B’s half marathon. No wonder he did so well! Feel free to adjust the heat, it’s pretty tame. Enjoy.
DK’s Vegetable Chili
1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 large can or box diced tomatoes, drained
1 carton vegetable broth or homemade broth
1 sweet potato, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
3 stalks celery, minced
4 carrots, diced
1 onion, minced
2 clove garlic, minced
2 cups bulgur wheat, cooked
1/2 cup textured vegetable protein, re hydrated, optional (you could also use tempeh if you wanted)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt
Sweat the onion, garlic, and salt with a dash of oil or broth in a heavy-bottom sauce pan. Add the cayenne pepper, oregano, chili pepper, and cumin. Stir to combine. Add the celery, carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato. Combine with seasonings and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the bay leaf and vegetable broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring to the bottom so the seasonings don’t stick to the bottom. Turn the heat to medium/medium high and cook 10 minutes until sweet potatoes are just fork-tender. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the tomatoes, beans, bulgur, and tvp. Cover and allow to cook for 30-40 minutes.
Serve hot with your favorite corn bread or baked bread! Fall is here!
Most people I know have a handful of dishes that are constantly in dinner rotation. The minute the weather gets crisper, I crave this simple pasta and bean dish. It’s filling, comforting, and delicious. Don’t be misled by the few ingredients, it’s a winner. Ditalini pasta is pretty easy to find now, you might find it labeled as pasta salad noodles. Try to find it if you can, I can’t imagine this dish with any other type. Again, sorry that the picture isn’t very clear, my blackberry isn’t high-resolution! I’m still debating what camera to get. Any suggestions?
1 small onion, chopped
Olive oil to cover bottom of pan
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tsp. crushed hot pepper (or more for extra kick)
2 large cans regular,plain tomato sauce
1 bunch parsley, chopped
4 cans northern beans (Cannellini), rinsed or 1 lb. beans, soaked
1 lb. Ditalini pasta
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion , garlic and red pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomato sauce, parsley and beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook 1 lb. ditilini pasta in salted water. Once the pasta has become al dente, drain but reserve 2-3 cups pasta water. When ready to serve, add pasta to tomato and bean sauce and thin with pasta water. You will probably not use all 2 cups. Add 1/2 cup at a time, stir, and add more if need be. It should thin the tomato sauce out so it is thin like a soup broth.
This taste even better the next day. If you have leftovers, add a little more pasta water before refrigerating.
Looking for a fun way to try collards? Try these, a Indian twist on a southern favorite.
3 medium potatoes, diced
Bunch of collards, chopped
1/2 onion, sliced into half moons
2 tbsp cornmeal
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. garam Masala
1 tsp. cumin
1 small lemon, juiced
1 small piece of ginger
1 chili, diced
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup frozen corn (I use TJ’s frozen fire roasted corn)
Steam or roast the potatoes until tender, set aside. Boil or steam the collards until tender. In a blender or food processor, place the greens, ginger and salt and puree. You may need to add a little water to form a thick puree.
In a large saucepan, combine 1/8c olive oil and the cornmeal. Stir together and heat over medium-med/high heat for a few minutes until a thick paste forms. Add the potato, frozen corn and onion. Cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the green blender mixture, curry, cumin, garam masala and lemon juice. Cover, turn to a low heat and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes.
Serve with Naan bread or over brown rice.