I first encountered some of the health benefits of coconut milk back when I was designing the drink that would become the Miracle Mocktail and looking for a dairy alternative. Almond, soy, and even rice milk had their detractors but coconut milk was just phenomenal in it’s many uses. I was amazed at how coconut milk (via the coconut oil content) was used to combat illness, including reducing the viral load of HIV patients! Ever since then I’ve appreciated Thai-style curries all the more, and when I needed a lactose-free option for heavy cream, coconut milk has worked a treat.
When I was given the chance to review the Complete Idiots Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet I was more than a little intrigued–after all, I thought I understood the healthy benefits of coconut oil and coconut milk, but an entire diet around a vegetable-based saturated fat? I wondered how that was supposed to work.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the simplest way of enacting this “diet” is just to replace the other vegetable oils with coconut oil where appropriate. It helps if you like the smell of coconut in your food (the flavor is often lighter, but since flavor is comprised of both smell and taste, it will obviously have an overall impact), but if you prefer a milder presentation, there are refined versions (designated RBD for refined, bleached, and deodorized). Aside from those smart substitutions, there are four more encompassing protocols presented in the book, each with a different take on how coconut oil–either through direct consumption or by cooking with it–can influence your health.
I admit, even as much as I enjoy food science, the in-depth chemical analysis and component-by-component play-by-play included in the book made my eyes cross a bit, but it’s great that they included it for those who want to know more about the Medium-Chain Triglycerides that make up coconut oil and how this variety of saturated fat can be healthful. They also discuss the earlier opinions about saturated fat in general and the rise it gave to soy and corn oils, for instance, and we all know how the trans-fat hydrogenated oils blew up in the face of our collective health.
The last third of the book or so is recipes that do a lovely job of showing how versatile coconut oil can be in day-to-day cooking. We tried out a few of these recipes with overall positive results.
We love going out for Indian food, almost as much as we like making it at home. The Lamb Madras can also be made with beef, and it’s spicy sauce is fabulous for cooler nights. Served over rice I also tried out the Paleo naan recipe that had been floating around–it worked, more or less, but it needed quite a bit more liquid using the coconut flour I opted for instead of the almond.
Pansit (Filipino-Style Pork and Noodles) reminded me a lot of Pad Thai with the mix of flavors and garnish of peanuts.
But it was the Vegetarian Butternut Squash Soup that really surprised me! What I though might be a run-of-the-mill squash soup really got a boost from the coconut oil and it made for the most velvety soup I’ve had that wasn’t roux-based!
Finally, the Luau Chicken was the only recipe we tried that didn’t quite live up to expectations. The chicken, itself, was fabulous lightly dredged in seasoned flour and pan-fried in coconut oil–that I would do again in a heartbeat, though I’d probably opt for boneless thighs over the bone-in whole chicken the recipe calls for–and even the sauce for it was tasty, but the amount of coconut milk called for both to finish the chicken and to cook the spinach in was excessive and made for a very messy, soupy dish. Still a great meal, as paired with the sweet potato you see above, but I’d definitely hold back on the coconut milk if I were to make this one again.
The book also includes recipes for personal care items using coconut oil–everything from conditioner to deodorant!
While I still maintain that “Diets” aren’t a good option for lasting change, I can definitely get behind the increased use of coconut oil in place of other oils. And with its increase in popularity leading to greater availability, the ease of that substitution is also increased. I consider The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet anything but idiotic.
***I was provided a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet for purpose of review. No other compensation has been received and all opinions expressed are my own.***