Ingredient Comparison: Coconut Oil Versus Butter

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Are you ready to make the switch from butter to coconut oil? Whether you're going vegan or just interested in healthy living, coconut oil is a fantastic alternative to animal fats. Better still, it's easy to substitute coconut oil for butter in your baked goods!

At the beginning of the 20th century, coconut oil was a popular cooking fat. Then, saturated fats became taboo and coconut oil when out of style. Although butter and coconut oil consist of saturated fats, coconut oil contains more medium-chained fatty acids (specifically lauric acid). Coconut oil withstands higher temperatures than butter and doesn't turn rancid nearly as easily. Yet, the body actually processes coconut oil more efficiently than butter.

Switching out butter for coconut oil is simple-when a recipe calls for melted butter, melt the coconut oil or let it remain in a liquid state, when it calls for solid butter, cool the oil down until it solidifies. Make sure you measure the oil in the state in which it will be used. Remember, coconut oil does have a slight coconuty taste, so this substitution works best in recipes where that coconut flavor will be appreciated. Try making Whole-Wheat Sweet Potato Coconut Muffins using coconut oil instead of butter.

Curious about other cooking oils? Read Stocking Your Kitchen: A Guide to Oils for Cooking.

Photo: Veganbaking.net on flickr

The Celebrated Return Of Coconut Oil

Vegans and non-vegans alike are celebrating the return of coconut oil to shelves in health stores around the country. Coconut oil is a great alternative to dairy and animal fats, but it's flavor is a pleasure even for those who aren't avoiding animal products. Experts now recommend virgin coconut oil, but the less healthful hydrogenated form is what was popular with giant food processors a few years ago, giving any coconut oil product a bad name. Movie theaters were loading their popcorn with lots of the more processed type of coconut oil boosting calorie counts to that of several McDonald's Big Macs.

This confusion is a great example of the important differences between fats -- there are ones that are an essential part to  a nutritious diet, while more processed fats are contributors to clogged arteries and associated illnesses.

When contemplating use of coconut oil, think of olive oil, but more fruity. Coconut oil is good when used in moderation and works well as a shortening for everything from sauteing to baking. The flavor is subtle enough to make virgin coconut oil a versatile product, delicious to bring out the best of savory and sweet. Try out coconut oil yourself with this delicious recipe for Spiced Banana Donuts.

To read what the New York Times has to say about coconut oil, read the full article.