Lean and lovin' it: Coconut oil spread a healthier butter alternative

Posted4/2/2014 6:00 AM
  • Coconut oil and applesauce improve the nutrition profile of Almond Joy Bundt Cake.

    Coconut oil and applesauce improve the nutrition profile of Almond Joy Bundt Cake. Thinkstock

A single coupon did more than just save me money, it opened my eyes.

Looking at that $1 coupon for Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread I couldn't help but recall the days when I deemed coconut oil as the poster child for bad fats. At that time, not one single person gave me any grief, because coconut oil contains a high amount of saturated fat, the highest of all oils in fact. Olive oil, low in saturated fat, was touted as the good oil.

Over the years I've read about how different coconut oil was from other fats, especially compared to other highly saturated fat oils. Coconut oil is rich in what are called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides). Our bodies burn MCTs immediately as energy, similar to a carbohydrate, but without the use of insulin, which seems to indicate its calories are not stored as fat like insulin-processed carbohydrates may be.

All the negative words (including mine) written about coconut oil were based on the assumption that saturated fat and heart disease were linked. Cut the saturated fat, save your heart. That's why margarine, made with partially hydrogenated trans fat zoomed-up to replace butter. We know now that trans fats are so heart unhealthy that they are now close to be being banned in all foods. And saturated fat, like the fat in coconut oil, is not the villain.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 stated that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.

Since the saturated fat in coconut oil wasn't a clear and present danger, I decided to try that new, GMO-free organic coconut oil spread. The spread blends organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic palm fruit oil, organic coconut oil and organic canola oil.

I first used it as a spread on toast, going light with it since it isn't low in fat. It carried a definite coconut flavor and scent which worked well with calorie-reduced fruit jams. It can be used in cooking and baking, but remember that it contains a small amount of water.

I used it to make a chocolate bundt cake flavored with vanilla and almond extracts, because chocolate, almond and coconut go together so well (Almond Joy?). That Earth Balance spread worked just as well as butter yet delivered no cholesterol as butter does. Oh joy!

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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