Death in a Jar

As I poured myself a cup of coffee, a woman I know who is a dietitian walked up to the counter. Although I knew that most professionals hate being asked for curbside advice, I just couldn’t help myself. After giving her a friendly greeting I said, “I hear that coconut oil is the new wonder food. What do you think about that?”

My acquaintance didn’t seem to mind the question, but she did seem to have a major problem with coconut products. With a grimace she exclaimed, “Coconut oil is very bad for a person’s cholesterol. I don’t think a person should even eat coconut flakes in baked goods!”

I looked concerned and nodded. After exchanging a few pleasantries, we turned and went our separate ways.

What I hadn’t told my dietitian acquaintance, was that I’d recently seen a nutritionist who recommended that I start using coconut oil for baking. Being given two such opposing instructions is unnerving. Which one is right?

When I was a child all foods were considered good. We ate cracklings from rendered pig fat. Lard was used in baking because it was readily available and tasted good. Sultz, sweet and sour heart and tongue, liver and onions were foods we ate regularly. Mom made almost all of our meals from scratch. I knew that eating too much food would make me fat, but in those innocent days, quantity was the only food restriction I knew of.

In the 1960’s I began to hear studies being done on such things as coffee, salt eggs and chocolate. We were told these studies showed that it was very bad for our health to eat these foods. For years since then, guilt and health worries washed over anyone who ate healthy servings of these delicious, but black listed vittles.

Coffee, we were told, would make us jittery, keep us from sleeping and give us high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Now studies have shown that caffeine helps to fire up our neurons and makes us sharper by improving memory. It also is being looked at for boosting metabolism, preventing diabetes, Parkinson’s and dementia.

Table salt was another item to eliminate because it raises blood pressure, leading to premature death. Newer studies show that the high sodium of processed food is the real culprit. Unrefined salt, such as Himalayan or raw sea salt contains valuable trace minerals that supports thyroid function. Researchers are also finding that raw salt speeds up metabolism and the elimination of stress hormones. It’s a natural antihistamine and aides digestion.

Eating chocolate was bad for us, containing too many fat calories in it, causing obesity and pimples. Now, dark chocolate is recognized as being loaded with antioxidants. Like other formerly vilified foods, researchers are finding that there are health benefits in eating chocolate, such as lowering your blood pressure and your possibility of having a stroke. Researchers have also found that people who eat chocolate often are thinner than those who don’t.

For many years, eating eggs was akin to slowly committing suicide. We were told eating cackle-berries would raise our cholesterol so high we were certain to have a heart attack or stroke. Doctors told their patients to eat no more than four eggs a week. Some even insisted that the eggs used in bakery had to be figured into this limit.

Even doctors had to live under this egg ban as they aged. Apparently, they weren’t any happier about the restriction than anyone else. I once overheard a physician in the lunch room sarcastically complaining to his table companions, “If I don’t eat eggs, will they expect me to be able to jump rope in the nursing home?”

Eggs from happy, healthy chickens are now considered a perfect food. Findings show they actually raise our good cholesterol numbers, prevent the bad cholesterol from hurting us and keep our eyes healthy.

Is coconut oil a deadly cholesterol bomb? Despite the new studies showing that coconut oil is an antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering food, many dietitians still recommend people avoid it like the plague. In this information-overload age, who do I believe?

I have a pint jar of coconut oil next to my stove. I’ve started to use it for sautéing vegetables, frying eggs and in some of my baking. Unfortunately, many people still consider it, “death in a jar”!



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