Going nuts for Coconut Oil!

Why coconut oil should be in every Singaporean household.

Working with coconut oil – either as an addition to your daily beauty routine or using it in the kitchen – can be an experimental affair. While coconut oil is just as versatile as olive and canola oils, many may be put off by its strong scent and taste. It can also seem daunting to try and incorporate the oil, butter or milk into your recipes because of health concerns. The benefits of coconut oil are becoming increasingly obvious in Singapore’s food climate.

Coconut oil has a robust flavour, slightly nutty, slightly sweet, which makes it a perfect addition for everything from sweet to savoury in the kitchen. This means you can consider replacing your regular canola oil or olive oil with coconut oil. Coconut Oil can also be drizzled lightly onto salads to lend a refreshing taste to the greens. Or, if you’re adventurous, you can cook up a storm using coconut oil. 

While Singapore works its way to embrace the benefits of coconut oil in the dressing room as well as the kitchen, retailers (as usual) have taken complete advantage of the situation – I am increasingly finding department store shelves piled with rows of coconut products, most popular of which is coconut oil. We may already have unlimited access to all that is coconut in the form of coconut milk –the rich taste (especially in the traditional Malay Lemak or Laksa, not forgetting the cholesterol content. But coconut oil might still be largely foreign territory.

There are two main types of coconut oil available in Singapore: Virgin and Refined. These two differ due to their extraction methods.

Virgin – virgin coconut oil refers to oil extracted from the first pressing of the coconut’s white flesh. Don’t be fooled by the term ‘extra virgin coconut oil’ – there’s no such thing. Virgin coconut oil also has a high smoking point, making it perfect for high-heat cooking such as pan-searing meat or wok-frying. For a breakdown on various fats and smoking points, check out this link!

Refined – manufacturers use heavy machinery and chemicals to extract additional oil from the already dried coconuts, to ensure maximum shelf life. Sounds like something most people would want to stay away from, huh? Not really necessary – you see, coconut oil is pretty sturdy, so chemical additives and high-pressure extraction procedures have little impact on its nutritional benefits.

Storage – Coconut oil stays liquid in Singapore’s hot and humid weather, and can keep up to two years if stored properly in a cool, dry place in the pantry. You can also store coconut oil in the refrigerator, but leave it out for a while before using it.

Uses and Benefits of Coconut Oil

There are several uses for coconut oil, both in the kitchen and on the skin. But since we are primarily foodies here, let’s get straight to the good stuff: cooking and baking. Coconut oil is a healthy substitute for vegetable or animal fat in baking recipes, as well as for stir-frying and sautéing purposes. When baking, use ¾ portion of coconut oil for 1 portion of fat in your recipes. You can also use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil when preparing food at home. However, bare in mind that coconut oil, like extra virgin olive oil (link 8), has a strong and intense flavour. You must take into account how this might affect your completed dish before using coconut oil. A good way to go would be to mix (1:1) coconut oil with flavourless oils, such as rapeseed or canola.

If you’re worried about cholesterol when consuming coconut oil, coconut oil does not contribute to your body cholesterol level and functions just like regular vegetable oil (of which most are cholesterol free, too!). Populations that have included coconut oil as a large part of their diet have shown signs of little to no heart diseases, according to a recent survey conducted. Coconut oil can also help with the absorption of calcium, proving to be highly beneficial for women above a certain age and women who are premenopausal.

Coconut Oil (and milk) is also great news for the lactose intolerant. While lactose allergies can act up in individuals who consume dairy products, coconut butter, oil and milk are all lactose free-products. Using coconut products in your food as a substitute for dairy products is a good way of managing a lactose intolerant diet while achieving a rich and creamy texture or taste in the final dish.

In the beauty department, coconut oil serves as fantastic hair oil, working as a conditioner or even a hair mask. If you’re into running out of the house in rush every morning, comb two or three drops of coconut oil through your mane and you’ll have silky hair all day. Coconut Oil also has several benefits for your skin including helping to heal acne and give you a glowing complexion. 

There you have it! A complete (well, almost) breakdown of coconut oil. Looking for more information on coconut oil and its benefits, or how to use it in the kitchen? Food52 has done an amazing job in breaking down the coconut and its many facets. Here’s what I’d like to know though – have you started using coconut oil in the kitchen? I’m about to go bake a cake with coconut oil – incidentally, a coconut cake. More on that later!

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