One of the few vegetable oils that is highly saturated, coconut oil has been accused of raising cholesterol and contributing to heart disease. But coconut oil does not raise blood cholesterol in unhealthy ways. It does raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “the higher your HDL cholesterol level, the lower your chance of getting heart disease.”
In tropical countries where unrefined coconut oil is eaten liberally and the diet still consists of traditional foods, heart disease is rare. Coconut milk is also rich in lauric acid, the antiviral fatty acid found in breast milk (and required, by law, to be in infant formula), which gives newborns immunity.
Calories notwithstanding, coconut oil won’t make you fat. The body burns the short- and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil first, before long-chain fatty acids such as those in vegetable oils and fish oil, which it prefers to store.
Because it’s stable at high temperatures, coconut oil is excellent for cooking and baking. The coconut and chicken broth make this luscious soup the ultimate cold-and- flu therapy. A ratio of three cups of stock to one cup of coconut milk makes a perfect creamy soup, or you can make a lighter one by adding more stock. Don’t buy “light” coconut milk, which is diluted with water. If you buy ginger but don’t use it up quickly, keep a large root sealed in plastic bag in the freezer, and hack off a thumb-sized piece when you need it.
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger
6 c chicken stock
4 c (2 14-oz cans) unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp unrefined sea salt
cilantro, scallions, garlic chives, or Thai basil to garnish
1. Grate (but do not peel) the ginger on the smallest grater hole.
2. Juice the lemon to yield about 1 tablespoon.
3. Heat the chicken stock. Skim off any foam.
4. Add the ginger, lemon juice, coconut milk, chili flakes, and salt.
5. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season and garnish.
From The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks