It's summer and the temperatures are soaring here in Seattle! In the Pacific Northwest we pride ourselves with the mild temperatures seen through each season. Yet right now we are experiencing a heat wave that many of us are unable to handle. Anything about 90 degrees and we are complaining. I wish I could go outside and lounge in the sun, but the heat is so potent that I just hide away in the darkest corner of the house, antsy, annoyed, and wanting something cold. All I wish I had right now is a frozen treat and a swimming pool. That would be the life! Since a pool is out of the question, I decided to make the other wish come true with Gingered Coconut Banana Popsicles. Yum!
One of the great things about the coconut is its unique fatty acid make-up, as it is made of 65% of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) as opposed to long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in other plant based oils. Interestingly, these fatty acids do not require further breakdown before they are absorbed compared to other fatty acids (1). This makes MCT oils a great option for those with various GI disorders as it is able to bypass normal fat digestion and can be absorbed within the mouth directly into the bloodstream. Furthermore, lauric acid, the most abundant MCT in coconut oil, has been found to have potent antimicrobial properties, and is able to disintegrate and kill microbes including fungi, protozoa, and even viruses (1). In a 2008 study in the journal Dermatitis, researchers found that topically applied coconut oil was useful in the proactive treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) by eliminating Staphylococcus aureus colonization in all but 1 of 20 subjects that were previously tested positive. Virgin olive oil on the other hand did not see the same drastic results (2).
Also, MCT oils have been shown to support weight loss due to their increased ability to be utilized as energy, giving them less opportunity to be deposited as fat. In a study released in the March 2008 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that MCT oil consumption did in fact increase thermogenesis and lower fat deposition more so than olive oil. As part of a 16 week weight loss program, 49 overweight women and men, aged 19-50, consumed either 18-24 g/d of MCT oil or olive oil. MCT oil consumption resulted in a lower endpoint body weight than did olive oil, with an average of 3.7 lbs more lost than those consuming olive oil (3).
Besides its antimicrobial powers, and its ability to support weight loss, coconut oil has been shown to decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase HDL cholesterol levels (1). Although it does have a high saturated fat content, newest research has found that there is no association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease. In a 2010 meta-analysis of 21 epidemiologic studies, researchers found no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is indeed associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease (4). Researchers further suggest that perhaps the replacement of fats with refined carbohydrates, may more be the issue of concern.
Finally, coconut oil is also great for high heat cooking, as it is more stable and less prone to oxidation at high temperatures, than is olive oil. Therefore, when frying or grilling, coconut oil can be a great addition to any meal. Leave the extra virgin olive oil for low heat sautéing or even just for cold dishes such as salad.
I especially like coconut in frozen treats…so here is the recipe for the delicious and cooling vegan and gluten-free popsicles. This recipe can easily be doubled as you will have enough ingredients to make a second batch.
Gingered Coconut Banana Popsicles
Makes 6 popsicles
3 ripe bananas
1 can of full fat organic coconut milk
½ bar of Green & Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate with Ginger
½ tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
Hemp seeds as garnish (optional)
Cut the bananas in half and poke each half with a wooden popsicle stick (I used thick wooden skewers because that was all I had at home). Place them onto a parchment covered baking sheet and put into the freezer for an hour.
Open the can of coconut cream and make sure it is thoroughly stirred. Dip each frozen banana into the coconut milk and place back onto the baking pan and return to the freezer for half an hour. Repeat entire process one more time. (If you would like them a bit sweeter you can sprinkle coconut sugar onto each before putting them into the freezer the first time around.)
While the bananas are freezing for their third time, create a double boiler by filling a small saucepan with a little water and placing a small ceramic bowl inside. Make sure the water level doesn’t overflow into the bowl. Heat the double boiler on medium. Meanwhile cut the chocolate into thin small pieces and pour into the small ceramic bowl in the saucepan. With a small spoon stir until completely melted. Add the ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and stir until fully incorporated.
Remove the bananas from the freezer, and generously drizzle the chocolate over the bananas and sprinkle with hemp seeds as a garnish. Return to freezer to harden for about 10 minutes. Enjoy as needed!
1. Jacob A. Coconut Oil—Learn More About This Superfood That Contains Healthful Saturated Fats. Today’s Dietitian. October 2013;15(10):56.
2. Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis. December 2008;19(6):308-15.
3. St-Onge MP, Bosarge A. Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. Am J Clin Nutr. March 2008;87:621-626
4. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:535-546.