Let's Eat

Chanucah oil for health nuts

The nutritional benefits of coconut oil mean it might make a good choice for your festival baking


With an obligation to consume doughnuts, latkes and other deep-fried treats, Chanucah won't win prizes for the most healthy festival.

But certain oils, in small quantities, are positive for our health, and coconut oil is fast gaining a reputation for its benefits. The oil - extracted from the white pulp of the fruit - has become the oil of choice for many health conscious foodies.

Some nutritionists recommend it to help preserve a healthy immune system. It is also reported to have the anti-microbial properties that help to kill viruses and fungal infections, such as Candida.

But it must be the right type.

"Coconut oil was demonised over the decades as it had the reputation as a 'bad' oil," says nutritional therapist Elouise Bauskis of the Nutricentre. "This was a result of misinformation that coconut oil was an artery-clogging, saturated fat."

Bauskis explains that there are two types of coconut oil - virgin coconut oil (VCO) and the other is refined, bleached and deodorised (RBD). The oil currently in vogue is the former.

VCO is pure unadulterated, unprocessed oil extracted from fresh coconuts using a method that involves little or no heat nor any chemicals, which, says Bauskis, keeps it as natural as possible and retains as many nutrients as possible.

"As long as the oil is raw, organic and in its virgin state, that is, not refined, coconut oil will provide you with goodness. It should have a mild coconut aroma and flavour. RBD oil is made from copra which is dried whole coconut, that has gone through extensive refining, bleaching and deodorising so will not smell of coconut," explains Bauskis.

The nutritional benefits of VCO are partly down to the type of fat it contains.

"Lauric acid is the most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil, which is broken down into monolaurin in the body. Lauric acid and monolaurin can kill many bacteria, fungi and viruses, therefore having a protective effect against many pathogens," says Bauskis.

The good news has spread fast.

"We were selling 2,000 litres per month in the UK in January, and by July, this had reached 12,000 litres," reports Jonathan Newman, founder of Chi Ventures, which launched its coconut oil in September 2013.

Newman was a film director who fell in love with coconut water when on honeymoon in Thailand.

"When got back to the UK I kept on trying the coconut waters available in the shops, but couldn't find anything that tasted like the stuff from my holiday, so I created my own. Pure Coconut Water was the first product I launched and the range has grown since then to include our coconut oil and milks."

Petrina Grint of Lucy Bee, producer of KLBD certified extra-virgin, organic coconut oil, also reports a dramatic rise in sales as well as an increasingly wide market.

"When we first set up our users were predominantly in the fitness world and this is now changing to include all people of all ages who are interested in nutrition, fitness and a general healthy lifestyle."

Both Grint and Newman report that coconut oil is not just for eating. Newman recommends it for use externally to treat dry skin and eczema.

"It is so gentle, I use it on my children's skin."

Grint says: "I use it as a make-up remover and it is wonderful as an after sun moisturiser."

Lucy Bee coconut oil was inspired by Lucy, herself diagnosed coeliac at 18 months old, and who discovered its health benefits six years ago.

The nutritional benefits and its versatility have fuelled its popularity. It can be used in hot and cold foods, for sautéing, stir-fries or as a final garnish in soups and sauces, to which it adds a creamy and slightly coconutty flavour. It also works well for baking cakes and biscuits - such as the banana cookies, see recipe, right.

For those excluding dairy from their diets or wanting a natural, parev product, it can be used instead of butter in jacket potatoes or even on toast.

It tends to solidify when cold, so is best stored in a dry place, not the fridge, and as it does not oxidise or go rancid quickly, it has a long shelf life.

So this Chanucah, if you are thinking of your health, you may want to give coconut oil a try - for an anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle, parev, healthy and tasty product.

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