Thursday, June 14, 2012

Coconut oil as the ultimate Paleohack

Strictly speaking, Coconut oil is not "Paleo"
I cant imagine a caveman pressing dried coconut kernels to extract oil. Inspite of that, Coconut oil gets a lot of good press from us paleo people.

Physically, it stands heating well, without undergoing much degradation. It keeps and stores well.
Biochemically, it is highly saturated, it is composed mainly of medium chain triglycerides and has anti inflamatory and slight anti bacterial properties

Where I live, south India, coconuts are abundant, and relatively cheap, so finding good, fresh and pure coconut oil is not much of an issue. I'm not sure how it is for people who don't live in the tropics.

Using Coconut oil as a Paleohack.
At some point you will achieve your desired weight on the Paleo diet. At that point, you might want to stop losing further weight. You might then struggle to get in enough healthy, Paleo calories to maintain your body composition  or improve it. That's where the coconut oil makes things easier
It is a good source of healthy fat calories. A few teaspoons of coconut oil can fill a big caloric deficit much easier than chomping through tons of veggies or a large quantity of meat.
Using meat as a calorie source, in my opinion, is wasteful. I don't enjoy veggies on their own, and the prospect of finishing a large bowl of okra and spinach is not very appealing to me, even if I grow them myself.

It is an excellent fuel for endurance events.
This is mainly because it is digested faster and absorbed directly via the portal vein instead of via esterification and transport via chylomicrons in the lymphatic system into blood.
Mitochondria can deal with the medium chain triglycerides(MCTs) easily, almost as easily as they deal with glucose. MCTs are preferentially oxidised in the mitochondria, rather than elongated and stored.If someone can find a way to mix BCAAs, glucose and coconut oil into a nice palatable gel/paste, it will be a hit. Who knows? maybe, someone is already working on it.

Coconut oil promotes ketosis.
Ketosis is what we want to get rid of body fat while preserving lean mass. If you still believe all Ketosis is dangerous, you need to do some reading. I'd recommend this link Ketosis explained by Mark Sisson

Coconut oil suppresses appetite.
Lke all fats, it does delay gastric emptying, leaving you feeling full for longer. Like all fats, it does impact the satiety center too. But, over and above that, in my experience it seems to work better at supressing hunger than other fats that I've tried.

How do you use Coconut oil?
Use it as the primary cooking oil. Scramble eggs with it, deep fry fish and vegetables in it.

Add it to the "safe starches"-
Coconut oil mixed with white rice will let me cut back on the rice necessary to make me feel satiated.
Coconut oil spiced up with red chillies and mixed with Tapioca is delicious
Potatoes are great, fried in coconut oil, or even mashed with coconut oil. I personally think, mashing potatoes with butter is far tastier, but coconut oil can make for a little change.

The "extreme" version
Add it to coffee and tea.
Coffee tastes better(than tea) with coconut oil (4 teaspoons briskly stirred into a medium sized mug)
Cardamom tea with a dash of honey and 4 teaspoons of Coconut oil is sinfully delicious
When pressed for time, or running out of stuff to cook and consume as calories, I can run a whole day on just one or 2 cups of this Coconut oil laced tea or coffee.

Other Paleohacks with  coconut oil.
Its pretty effective for Pink eye.
Its great for scrapes and bruises
Its brilliant for nappy rash on babies- my two sons have been guinea pigs for that experiment.
Its very good as a moisturiser for the skin.
Works very well for dandruff, when massaged into the scalp.
Fresh coconut oil can go rancid in humid climates, and needs to be stored in several small airtight containers instead of one large one. A pinch of salt in the container prevents the moisture fromreacting with the oil.

I'm hoping to put together a blog post on the science behind why coconut oil is so useful in improving our health. That hopefully, will be posted soon.
Please do let me know in the comments,if you use coconut oil in other ways in your day to day life. 

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