living underground in the real world

As I’ve been saying, coconut oil is a miracle food (and Omega is a great company to buy it from)

Great news!

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Remember when vegans of color was having that discussion on how palm oil and products containing it (hello pukey Earth Balance!) are destructive to the environment, and I chimed in and said that instead of palm oil, everyone should be using coconut oil? Then some people asked me about the environmental aspects of coconut oil, and I said I’d look into it, using my buying power as someone who buys it by the five gallon bucket.

So I contacted my source at Omega Nutrition, and to their credit it took them only six months and two emails to respond. As their response was the president and co-founder of the company, Robert Gaffney, calling me up and us having a great chat, I can’t complain.

As I suspected, coconut oil is a vastly more sustainable product than icky old palm oil, primarily because palm oil production entails razing entire fields and forests of trees—sadly, it is akin to slash-and-burn deforesting tactics used to clear-cut land to graze animals, which is one reason many of us became vegetarian in the first place. This process obviously destroys entire ecosystems, but it seems to have a particularly devastating effect on endangered orangutans.

Coconut oil production, on the other hand, entails harvesting the fruits of the tree and letting the tree live so it can continue to produce more coconuts.

Robert told me that he gets his coconuts from the Philippines, where he works with a guy who employs about 2,000 employees who sustainably harvest his organic coconuts. Apparently the coconut palms are wild and the guy who runs the business in the Philippines started it in order to fund an organic banana chip business on the same land, so I believe there is some sort of symbiotic ecosystem thing going on there.

We talked about the nutritive benefits of coconut oil as well, and I told him I use the refined variety so that I can fry with it and make pie crusts and baked goods that don’t taste coconutty. He told me that the most refined coconut oil is still healthier than the more pure canola oil, primarily because canola is an acid-producing food, and vegetarian diets tend to be high in acid-producing foods anyway. Yes, this is the owner of the company saying this, but it reminded me that I learned all this in cooking school, and he is spot on.

The one thing I forgot to ask Robert was about the working conditions of the people who are harvesting the coconuts. He did say he was happy that they were providing so many “good jobs” in this area, but I should have pressed him a little more (I didn’t have great cell phone service throughout the conversation, alas).

But the whole conversation cleared my mind a lot, and now I am free to love coconut oil with my whole heart.

If you still have qualms about coconut oil (perhaps little “saturated fats are bad!” thoughts niggling at you?), go read my coconut oil manifesto! If you have the Bloodroot books, you can read it there too, in Volume Two!

Vive la Coco!

12 Responses to “As I’ve been saying, coconut oil is a miracle food (and Omega is a great company to buy it from)”

  1. Eric Lee

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

    Reply
  2. Joselle

    That’s great that you were able to talk to the president of this company. I still haven’t bought coconut oil yet but I’d like to try it in my baking. I love coconut milk and I loved eating coconut ice cubes at my grandparents’ home when I was younger. Basically, I LOVE coconut! But, it still is high in fat so I would only use the oil once in a blue moon because I watch my fat intake and weight. Although I’ve heard from some sources that it is not as bad a saturated fat as animal kinds, I’ve also heard some sources say the opposite.

    I’ll check out your manifesto. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. johanna

    Yay, this is great news. Thanks for doing the investigative work!

    I wish coconut oil wasn’t so intimidatingly expensive — I don’t really have a good sense of how much one would use compared to Earth Balance for the same recipe, but every time I see coconut oil in the store it just looks super expensive for the size of the container!! Still, I will keep it in mind.

    Reply
  4. lagusta

    Heya Joselle and Johanna!

    Joselle: actually, coconut oil is a good oil to use if you are watching your weight, because it is composed of medium chain fatty acids that aren’t stored as fat in your body, they are used as energy. A lot of athletes and runners and people like that eat coconut oil because of the clean energy it provides. Though I have MANY problems with other aspects of this book, the book Nourishing Traditions talks about coconut oil and is pretty spot on. Just don’t read the crap about eating meat and drinking milk! ;)

    Johanna: I know!!!! That used to be a big problem for me until I just went ahead and started buying it by the bucket—now it’s my cheapest oil (compared with olive and grape seed, my other oil friends). Maybe you could go in with friends and order a 5 gallon bucket from Omega, or I bet if you’re in a food co-op you can get it more cheaply from there. If you lived near me I would sell you some at my cost!

    You do use less of it than EB though–you use about 75% as much as you would use of butter, because coco oil is all fat and butter has some milk solids in it. I believe EB is formulated to be about the same as butter, so if you replace it with butter in a 1:1 ratio, you would want to use about 75% that much coco oil.

    Also, remember to get the refined kind–it’s not super refined in a horrible way (the Omega site talks about their refining process), not the super super pricey “extra virgin” kinds, otherwise anything you make with it will taste like coconut. Also, you can’t really heat the extra virgin kinds, as they have a really low smoke point and become dangerously unhealthy at even medium temperatures. Before I used Omega brand (which is not usually sold in stores) I bought Spectrum refined coconut oil, and it was great.

    Continuing my coconut butter evangelical quest…

    Reply
  5. lagusta

    One more note! I use the terms “coconut oil” and “coconut butter” interchangeably. Just FYI.

    Reply
  6. veronica

    I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I love your coconut oil manifesto! It’s revolutionary!

    Reply
  7. Trey

    Hi, thanks for taking the time to investigate and report on this. What an eye-opener! I would like to read the manifesto, but the link appears to be down. Thanks again.

    Reply

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