Not too long ago I was asked an excellent question concerning coconut oil, and “butter, butter”:
I know that butter is better than oil when you must use it. How about coconut oil though? It’s suppose to stay unchanged heated to high temperatures, right? And it’s not animal fat so I thought it would be the better choice. What’s your take on it? -Maya
Awesome question, and a tricky question, at that.
Both butter and coconut oil are saturated fats, which means that they are capable of standing up to higher temperatures, as opposed to Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats.
Examples of saturated fats are:
“fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk” –American Heart Association. It is also found in a few plant based foods, like palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconuts. One of the major differences between an animal-derived saturated fat, and plant-derived saturated fat, is that animal fats, contain cholesterol, and plant fats do not. Generally speaking, most saturated fats are grouped together, and thus, are all given a terrible reputation. (They should not be grouped together).
Really though, what it all comes down to, is HOW THE BODY BREAKS DOWN THE FAT. Whether it be an animal fat, or a cholesterol-free, cookie, made with soybean oil*, if the body cannot assimilate the nutrients, break it down, and get rid of the waste… then it will place unwanted distress on the body.
*I do not like soybean oil, which is a whole other discussion.
Saturated fats are not all created equally. There are short, medium, and long-chained saturated fatty acids. One short-chained fatty acid is butyric acid– it is commonly known to give butter its distinctive taste. Short-chained fatty acids are more easily broken down than longer-chained fatty acids. Butyric acid can also help the digestive system, as it fuels cells in the large intestine. Butyric acid is one of the saturated fatty acids, present in butter.
If interested in the further breakdown of fatty acids in butter, check out this cool chart, thanks to webexhibits.org.
Coconuts are mostly comprised of medium-chained fatty acids. So… technically speaking, it should be harder to break down than a shorter-chained fatty acid. Also, this means that they are capable of standing up to very high temperatures (higher than butter).
But! And there is a BIG but here… RAW coconut oil, can be much more readily broken down than:
1. a dairy product, and
2. a pasteurized dairy product (or heated fat)– so it can be difficult to compare the two. (and unless you are churning your own butter, it has already been heated, i.e. pasteurized).
High quality raw fats, in general, like those found in cold-pressed olive oil, flax oil, raw coconut oil, and coconut butter, are all significantly easier for the body break down than any animal fat, processed, pasteurized, or not.
Raw fat is easier to break down that any cooked fat. period.
However, when heat comes into play, I have found that some clients are better able to digest foods*, that have been lightly sauteed, in a small amount of organic butter, than they do when they have cooked their meal in coconut oil. This could be a combination of the butyric acids, aiding in the act of digestion, in addition to the fact that the fatty acids are shorter in length, than that of coconut oil, or coconut butter. It could also be that one tends to use more coconut oil, than butter, when cooking, which would increase the amount of cooked fat the body must process. (The more cooked fats you use, the more difficult it is for your body to breakdown, and digest).
*Often time, however, clients that like their butter, still eat a bit of fish (this was me), and thus, I find that butter and fish combine better, than a fish that has been cooked in coconut oil. If one is searing, or cooking fish, or an animal product, like chicken, or eggs, I would suggest using the organic butter over coconut oil. This is because, I find it best to cook with “like” products. Animal fat (butter) + Animal protein (Fish, Chicken, Eggs…), will combine better than a coconut oil (dense plant fat)… which I think should be used on other “plants” i.e. vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc.
Regardless, Coconut oil is always the more animal, and environmentally friendly, option. Additionally, when one starts to consume butter on a regular basis, skin problems, and digestion issues sometimes arise. I believe this is true of any excess of cooked fats (or proteins, for that matter). I am a big fan of coconut products. I highly suggest using a high-quality coconut product, that has not been refined, like the Artisana product line.
Additionally, I would recommend raw coconut oil/butter, as a much better substitute for, and a equally delicious way to to flavor steamed vegetables, baked sweet potatoes, etc. without having to use animal products. Spread it on, as you would butter (albeit, it is more difficult to spread).
I have given this tip before, but it is so great… that I am going to give it again…
HEALTHY TIP: This is my favorite sauteing tip… I lightly steam whatever vegetable, I am to be serving, in a pot with an inch of vegetable broth. When the vegetable is just barely tender, and al dente, if you will, I then toss them in their sauteing pan, along with the organic butter, or coconut oil. They need much less cooking time… sometimes even under 60 seconds… and your guests will never know the difference .
What is your opinion of cooking with coconut oil, vs. organic butter? Do you find your body like one over the other? What do you use when cooking?