Coconut oil not a villain

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

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. Coconut oil’s saturated fat content is so high (87 grams per 100 grams) it makes pork fat (39 per 100) look downright healthy. 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!

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Almond Joy Bundt Cake
2/3 cup unsweetened, unflavored applesauce (for 1/2 cup drained)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup organic coconut oil, at room temperature (in spread form at about 68 degrees)
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sour cream
Confectioner's sugar for garnish

Place a wire mesh strainer over a deep bowl, add applesauce to the strainer (make sure strainer doesn't touch bottom of bowl) and set aside to drain for 15 minutes.
Place rack in the lower-middle position of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a vegetable and flour spray (such as Baker's Joy), lightly spray a 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Set aside.
Add coconut oil spread to a large mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until light. Measure 1/2 cup of drained applesauce and add it to the oil (the coconut spread will not be liquid); beat for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add the espresso powder, almond and vanilla extracts and beat for 15 seconds. One at a time, add the egg and egg white and beat 20 seconds between additions. Add the sour cream and mix at medium speed until well combined.
Add the flour mixture and mix at lowest speed until just moistened, about 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the surface and bake 45-50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out a touch damp. (Damp is better than clean, because the cake continues baking after leaving the oven.) Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the pan on a wire cooling rack and release the cake. Cool completely.
Generously dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving. Serves 16.
Nutrition values per serving: 226 calories (28.7 percent from fat), 7.2 g fat (5.2 g saturated), 39.3 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g fiber, 3.4 g protein, 25 mg cholesterol, 126 mg sodium.

Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at leanwizard@aol.com.