The jury is somewhat contested on whether moderate consumption of butter is good or bad for you. In the Anderson house, we try to limit butter and dairy consumption in general because of its overall inflammatory effect on the body. Those counting calories or interested in weight loss will also want to moderate butter consumption, because a single tablespoon has a whopping 100 calories and 11 grams of fat, yuck!
With respect to butter’s ugly step sister margarine, there is really no excuse for using it in cooking or baking anymore. Margarine is a chemically contrived food and generally terrible for you. Science has shown that the trans fats added to margarine (to stabilize the vegetable oils and make it solid at room temperature) are one of the most dangerous things to consume.
Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides that are digested differently than most of the other fatty acids in our diet which are long-chain fatty acids. These medium chain triglycerides have shown proven health benefits such as increasing energy expenditure (aka boosting metabolism and weight loss!), and increasing the amount of healthy cholesterol in our systems. Coconut oil also contains health boosting antioxidants and is said to have both antiviral AND antibacterial properties.
Coconut oil is also better for cooking than the other healthy alternative of olive oil. This edge is due to the fact that coconut oil’s higher saturated fat content gives it a higher smoke point. When oils are heated beyond their smoke point, the fats actually break down and release dangerous free radicals which are associated with aging, heart disease and cancer. Coconut oil still has a rather low smoke point at 350 degrees fahrenheit, so it is not suitable for frying or high heat cooking. (Although we would never suggest eating fried foods in any case, so in our kitchen this is not a problem!).
You will want to make sure you buy extra virgin and cold pressed coconut oil to ensure the maximum amount of nutrients were maintained during extraction, and that trans fats were not added during processing. Do not be concerned if the oil turns liquid at warmer temperatures, pop it in the refrigerator to get it back to a solid state. Coconut oil has a shelf life of almost two years which is even higher than olive oil, so don’t be afraid to stock up; we buy our coconut oil from Costco in a giant tub!
You may also be confused by the difference between coconut oil and coconut butter, we were too at first. Coconut butter also contains some of the coconut pulp or meat, adding a small amount of fiber and nutrients versus the all-fat coconut oil. Coconut butter also has a thicker texture than coconut oil, sometimes making it better as a spread.
We swap coconut oil one for one when baking or cooking, and it also tastes great on things you would put traditional butter on like toast. One of our favorite swaps is replacing coconut oil for butter in our banana bread recipe, adding a delicious boost of flavor and moisture.
Finally, we do have to caution you against overuse of coconut oil. At the end of the day, fats and oils are still something we generally try to minimize in our diets. While fat performs a very important function in overall health and nutrition, as with anything, moderation is key. Coconut oils and butter are still heavy in calorie content, and should be consumed sparingly.
Give this easy substitute a try! Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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