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Nuts About Coconut Oil? Know the Facts

By Jennifer Benedetto MS, RD, LD at LMC

Dietary recommendations regarding fat intake seem to change with the decade. A recent report continued to question the “healthiest” type of fat. A March 2014 article in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that decreased saturated fat intake did not result in a decreased risk of heart disease. Following this surprising report, the media began to report that there was no harm in unlimited consumption of saturated fats like coconut oil, animal fat, and butter. If decreased amounts of saturated fat didn’t help, what’s the harm in eating more?

shutterstock_219001327Highly saturated coconut oil, in particular, is now being promoted as a cure for various health conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and obesity. But is coconut oil actually beneficial?

Coconut oil contains high levels of saturated fat, higher levels than butter. Ninety-two percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated compared to 15% saturated fat in olive oil and 62% in butter. Unlike other oils, coconut oil can be solid or semisolid at room temperature due to the multitude of saturated chemical bonds. Conventional coconut oil is made from dried coconut that is pulverized, cooked and treated with chemicals. It is used in candies, coffee creamers and movie theater popcorn. Relatively new to the scene is virgin coconut oil which is extracted from fresh coconut meat. Virgin coconut oil is promoted as being healthier than conventional coconut oil. So should we be switching to coconut oil?

In regards to heart health, coconut oil like other saturated fats increases “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. High levels of LDL contribute to heart disease. Liquid vegetable oils (olive, canola) do not increase LDL. On the other hand, coconut oil, like liquid vegetable oils, also increases “good” (HDL) cholesterol. But is this elevation in HDL beneficial? That is unclear.

For now, most experts agree that coconut oil is a better choice than butter or trans-fats but there is no evidence to suggest coconut oil should be substituted for liquid vegetable oils. People who regularly eat extra-virgin olive oil in place of saturated fats have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke—and lower cholesterol.

As far as the other coconut oil health claims go, there is no solid science to back them up. More research is needed to support coconut oil’s purported therapeutic benefits. So for now, stick with the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and choose unsaturated/beneficial fat sources and limit saturated fats to 7-10% of calories.

Bottom Line: saying something is not harmful does not mean it is good for you.

Holiday Eating

by Morgan Robbins, RD, LD at LMC

The holiday season is upon us and with that comes food, parties and more food. According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans gain around one pound during the holiday season. While one pound may not seem like much, it will add up over time. Don’t let the temptation to overindulge throw you off track during the holidays! Here are some tips to enjoy the season to the fullest while being mindful of your waistline.

cookies1. Plan Ahead- If you’re going to a holiday party and you know there will be treats, plan on eating an extra healthy breakfast and lunch that day. Focus on vegetables and whole grains to help you feel full and skip any treats during the day to account for the goodies you’ll have at night.

2. Exercise- If you’re exercising regularly then great! The holidays tend to be busy, but make it a part to keep up with your exercise routine. The endorphins released during exercise will help empower you to make better choices. Not exercising? Now is the perfect time to start!

veggie tray3. Fruit and Veggies First- When at a party or buffet, fill your plate with fruit and veggies before heading to the sweet stuff.

4. Mindless Eating- Don’t waste your calories on things you don’t truly enjoy, skip the snacks and focus on foods you love and don’t get the opportunity to have everyday.

5. Portions- All foods should fit into a healthy diet, just be mindful of the amount. Take small servings of not-so-healthy items and really check-in with yourself before going back for seconds. Give yourself time to assess if you really want to take a second serving and how you’ll feel after doing so.

beer6. All it takes is One Good Party- Leaving a party after eating well and still enjoying yourself is an empowering feeling, the next outing you have may be a bit easier to face knowing you can still eat healthy while at a holiday function.

7. Remember Alcohol- Yes, it has calories. The average calories in a beer are 153, 125 for a glass of wine and 168 for a margarita. That’s about 35 minutes of walking at a brisk pace to burn off just one drink!

Quinoa Shrimp Salad

Lexington Medical Center has begun to host a new diabetes support and wellness group called “D2 & Me” for type 2 diabetes patients and their caregivers. The meetings, which are open to the public, help diabetics manage the disease by offering helpful information, including healthy recipes. Here’s one from the class. It looks delicious, doesn’t it?

Courtesy: www.cookingandcooking.com

Courtesy: www.cookingandcooking.com

Try this healthy, delicious and light Quinoa Shrimp Salad. It can be served warm or cold.

Serves 5

Ingredients
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup (about 160 g) grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
340 g shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 celery stalks (about 1 1/4 cups), thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (you can add more, depends on your taste)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt & black pepper to taste

Preparation
In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and give it a quick stir. Cover the saucepan, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-17 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork. Allow it to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the celery. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, pepper and salt. Set the dressing aside.

In a large bowl, combine the celery mixture, shrimps, grape tomatoes, parsley and basil. Stir in quinoa. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or cold.

Source: www.cookingandcooking.com

“D2 & Me” classes take place on the Lexington Medical Center hospital campus, at the hospital’s community medical center in Lexington, or off site for special events. Clinicians and experts who have special training in caring for people who have diabetes lead the classes and meetings. Our next classes are coming up!

December 9 & 17
Diabetic-Friendly Holidays

Laura Stepp, MA, RD/LD, CDE
December 9th class will be in the Lexington Medical Center hospital campus inside Lower Level Classroom 3 from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
December 17th class will be at Lexington Medical Center’s community medical center at 811 West Main Street in Lexington inside the first floor conference room from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
Free and open to public