Store cupboard essentials Indian Cooking Ingredients

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Using Coconut Oil in Indian Cooking

This is a white oil which is in a liquid form in warm climates but solidifies at cooler temperatures. It remains stable at high temperatures, making it a good choice of oil to cook with. Being indigenous to South India, this is where it is primarily used in cooking. It has a strong coconut aromatic so think about the dishes you use it in. If it doesn't feel right, don't use it. It has a number of other applications as well including being used as a skin moisturiser and an oil to nourish the hair.

There are many health claims surrounding coconut oil which still require proper research to back them so proceed with caution. Remember that it is still saturated fat and I would never suggest using it in large volumes because of the health reasons. Consume everything in moderation and use it for flavour where it makes sense. 

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut is known as a functional food, meaning that it not only provides you with nutritional benefits but other benefits that help on a practical and functional level too. The flesh and water can be consumed, the leaves are used to make furnishings, decorations and even disposable plates, and the husk is used to make coir to make rugs and to pad out mattresses and pillows. Even the hard outer shell is used and can be turned into charcoal and used as a fuel for cooking.

From a food perspective, the whole coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Coconut oil is an incredible source of goodness and is known to have some medicinal qualities too. many of these still require research to prove they are true:

1. High in healthy saturated fats - It has high levels of medium chain triglycerides which are metabolised differently in the body. They are burned quickly and provide you with a great source of energy as well as breaking down unwanted bad fats. These fats are also known to improve digestion aiding the way your body absorbs nutrients. 

These natural saturated fats also increase good HDL cholesterol, improving metabolic health and like other plant oils, it doesn't increase the risk of heart disease.

2. Its fatty acids kill harmful pathogens - In coconut oil, about half of the fatty acids are from lauric acid, which has been linked to antimicrobial, antifungal effects that may reduce the risk of certain diseases. Some claims state that it is known to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-parasitic properties too. It's thought that the oil may be used to treat issues such as thrush, athlete’s foot, thrush, fungal nail infections and dandruff.  

3. Reduces hunger - Coconut oil is metabolised in a specific way that suppresses your appetite and contributing the weight loss in the long term.

4. Stable fat - Coconut oil has a high smoking point like ghee. This means that when you cook with it, it doesn't burn at low temperatures and degenerate into free radicles which we know are harmful to the cells in your body. On the contrary, coconut oil is actually a powerful anti-oxidant and non-toxic.

6. High amino acid levels - This helps to regenerate the cells of the body and supports the immune system.

7. Moisture injection - Coconut oil protects the skin and hair improving the appearance of both, as well as helping with dandruff. As a child, my mum would always put coconut oil on my hair and scalp.

When used as a hand moisturiser, it's great for your nails too. Oil pulling or using coconut oil as a mouthwash is known to reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth and improve halitosis. Internally as an anti-inflammatory agent, it can also help if you have painful joints.

All in all, it's important to remember if you consume 1-2 tablespoons a day, all plant-based oils can help you to stay healthy. 

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