I’ve been coming across information lately (not all posted by the coconut industry) about the brain benefits of non-hydrogenated coconut oil. Dr. Mary Newport has one of the most compelling personal stories. She discovered coconut oil while on a personal mission to help her husband, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and has written a book: Alzheimer's Disease: What If There Was a Cure? The Story of Ketones. I haven’t read Dr. Newport’s book, but she's the reason behind a new clinical trial exploring the use of coconut oil as an intervention for patients with dementia. I've tried substituting coconut oil for butter and canola oil in my diet. These are my discoveries:
1. Coconut oil loses a lot of its coconutty taste when heated to a high temperature, so it does not give fried chicken or anything else an unwanted Hawaiian flair. It’s good also for stir frying vegetables.
2. Although not quite as flavorful as butter, it behaves essentially the same way in baking—no small advantage to those of us who have tried substituting applesauce for butter: the result is Styrofoam.
3. It helps with typing. I’ve never been much of a typist. However, I was once gainfully employed as a secretary (albeit briefly, right after college) by claiming I could type 38 words per minute and failing to mention that this speed only applied to the one sentence I had practiced from a typing manual: The quick brown fox jumped lazily over a log. With other words and combinations of words, then like now, I struggled. I’ve noticed, oddly, that since making coconut oil a staple in my diet, I type more accurately. It cannot be a placebo effect that I make about thirty percent fewer mistakes and am less often tempted to beat my computer with a hammer.
4. Coconut oil is excellent for popping popcorn. It is also good on toast, and this is a much less expensive and more potent way to consume it than buying encapsulated supplements.
I have been working on a recipe* for chocolate chip cookies that could, without wild exaggeration, be termed “brain healthy.” Here it is, along with links explaining why most of the ingredients are scientifically correlated with optimum brain function. (Chocolate chip cookies are also correlated with happiness and friendship. No reference links needed.)
CREAM with a mixer until fluffy:
½ C extra virgin coconut oil
⅓ C light brown sugar
⅓ C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I like to use bourbon barrel-aged, available from Williams Sonoma)
1/8 tsp. almond extract
ADD and MIX:
1 large egg
SIFT and ADD:
1 C flour + 3/4 tsp salt (decrease by 1/8 tsp if you’re not from the South) + ½ tsp soda + dash of red pepper (ONLY a very small pinch; don’t get carried away)
BAKE: 12 to 15 minutes at 350. Don’t overcook. This recipe can easily be doubled, but it’s not brain-healthy if you eat too many.
* Disclaimer: I am a writer, not a cook, although I've been told I'm decent in the kitchen.