A treat from the tropics

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer


In all of my travels, nothing seems to relax me quite as much as the sight of a palm tree gently swaying in the tropical breeze. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath…can’t you practically smell the coconuts?

As it turns out, coconuts can do more than just jazz up a pina colada.  There are numerous studies extolling the health virtues of coconut oil, despite the fact that it is relatively high in saturated fat.  Unlike butter, the fats in coconut oil are largely medium-chain triglycerides; as such, they are fats which serve the body more like a carbohydrate in terms of energy, and do not promote the synthesis of cholesterol.    Scientists reported in the October 2008 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition  that subjects fed medium -chain triglycerides as part of a 16-week weight-loss program experienced decreases in total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations.

Speaking of weight loss, this delicious and versatile oil can specifically aid in the reduction of abdominal fat, an abundance of which has been associated with a myriad of health risks.  Furthermore, coconut oil is not stored in the body like other fats.  As the medium-chain fatty acids are quickly broken down in the liver to dispense immediate energy, the body’s metabolism receives a boost.  When this occurs, cells can function more efficiently.

According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil is classified as a “functional food” due to its medicinal benefits.   A majority of the fatty acids present in coconut oil are in the form of lauric acid and capric acid, two compounds which have demonstrated powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoal properties.  Including coconut oil as part of a healthy diet can therefore provide a nice spike to the body’s immune system.

Armed with all of this good news from the tropics, what is the best way to begin incorporating coconut oil into your daily meal plan?  To ease into the transition, coconut oil can be substituted for any other oils commonly used in baking.  It is also an optimal choice for frying, due to its higher smoke point of 360 degrees. As such, unlike other cooking oils, it can be heated to high temperatures without forming trans-fats.  

If cooking isn’t quite your area of expertise, simply add 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil to your favorite smoothie recipe, and blend yourself up a tropical vacation in a glass!  Cheers!

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT is a Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.