It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
Does cooking vegetables cause
them to lose their nutrients?
How can I cook these mushrooms to be safe to eat?
Do you have any recipes that I can cook once a week and eat all week?
Do you have a spaghetti sauce recipe suitable for canning?
Why didn't you include salt content in your evaluation of hot dogs?
Is it safe to eat uncooked oatmeal?
Should I include the water when I calculate calories for soups?
I noted that in your information about which oils to use for cooking, you made no mention about coconut oil. I have read that coconut oil is much to be preferred when cooking because it is able to be heated to a much higher temperature than other oils.
Do you have a reason for excluding its use in such situations?
The "smoke point" is the temperature at which, when heated, an oil will begin to smoke. The smoke point of coconut oil is actually quite low by comparison to other oils. Unrefined coconut oil smokes in the range of 350°F. That's about the same as butter or lard. A more refined coconut oil would have a higher smoke point (just above 400°F), but for very high temperature cooking I usually use grapeseed oil or extra light olive oil. Here's information on the smoke points of various oils.
There's a lot of controversy about coconut oil because it is very high in saturated fat. A tablespoon contains about 14 grams of fat and almost 12 grams of that is saturated fat. Some recent research points to this not being as bad for you as saturated fats from animal sources, and it is certainly not the problem that trans-fats are. A recent Health & Nutrition Bite takes a closer look at the health effects of coconut oil: "Putting paid to the coconut oil myth once and for all".
Personally, I don't use coconut oil because I don't much like the flavor it gives to the finished food.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS