Coconut Oil

This week’s topic brought to you from the family dinner table last weekend.

It seems like coconut oil is everyone’s favorite oil right now. It is encouraged by the recently popular clean eating, paleo, and ketogenic diets. Why is it so popular? There may be some great health benefits of coconut oil, but there are still some fuzzy areas that need more research. When asked, most coconut oil users can’t tell you why they use it or why they think it is healthy, so I thought I would share some insight.


There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is considered the bad kind of fat which increases our LDL (bad) cholesterol. Unsaturated fat is known as the good or healthy kind of fat, which can decrease LDL cholesterol. Both saturated and unsaturated fats can boost your HDL (good) cholesterol a tiny bit, too.

Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat (which is more than the 65% saturated fat in butter!). Therefore, coconut oil, just like other saturated fats, increase that bad LDL cholesterol (not good!). However, coconut oil is unique in that it seems to give your HDL a little extra boost compared to all other fats.

This is where it gets confusing. Right now, when you go to the doctor, they test your blood for the amount of LDL particles and the amount of HDL particles in your blood, but they don’t look at the size of those particles. There has been some new research showing that the size of these cholesterol particles might be a more accurate measure of heart disease risk rather than the number of particles.

Here is where coconut oil comes in…while coconut oil increases the number of LDL particles (just like other saturated fats), it might increase the size of these particles, which could mean good news for your heart disease risk (the bigger the better!). But remember, this is still new research and we don’t consider this 100% fact yet.


Then there are the infamous MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) that coconut oil is known for. MCTs don’t need to be digested the same way as other fats and are a readily available energy source for your cells. For this reason, they have historically been used as a therapeutic agent in people with fat malabsorption, cystic fibrosis, and epilepsy.

Most fat digestion requires the fats you eat to be transported to the liver via triglycerides in order to be used, but because MCTs don’t go through the normal digestion process, there are some studies showing they can decrease triglycerides and aid in weight loss. MCTs also have some anti-inflammatory properties, which is also good news from a health perspective.


While all of this sound great, I would still be a little skeptical. Much of this is just preliminary research, there are few research studies, and the results are inconclusive. So while coconut oil is fine every now and again, choosing oils high in unsaturated fats, like olive, sunflower, and avocado oils, are definitely the best choice as far as we know.

Kodiak Cakes

Since school is out and I have plenty of time in the mornings to make a big breakfast, I thought I would share one of my favorite grocery finds: Kodiak cakes.

Kodiak Cakes is a company that makes all sorts of pancake & waffle mixes, dessert mixes, oatmeals and granolas. While I haven’t tried many of the products, the two pancakes and waffle mixes I have tried are delicious!Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.35.10 PM

The two I have tried are the Protein Packed Flapjack Mix and the Protein Packed Peanut Butter Flapjack Mix. Why Kodiak Cakes over the other pancake mixes?

  • The protein packed kind I buy has 14g of protein per serving!
  • The mix only has whole wheat grains (including whole grain wheat flour and whole grain oat flour).
  • I can read and pronounce every single ingredient in the mix (and there are only 7 of them).
  • There is no bleached white flour or artificial additives in the mix.
  • They only have 3g of sugar per serving.

In order to have a healthy and balanced meal, we need a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat at each meal. Because pancakes are typically all carbs, they can get a bad wrap for being too much like dessert for breakfast. That is why I love this protein packed mix. It takes care of the protein that is typically missing in pancakes.

Now, since Kodiak Cakes has our carb and protein needs covered, all we need is a little healthy fat. That’s where I turn to my beloved nut butter collection. Just drizzle some nut butter on your pancakes and you are good to go with a balanced breakfast.

Still aren’t convinced these pancakes can be healthy?

Lets take oatmeal, for example. Many times, the little instant packets of oatmeal have just as many (if not more) carbs than a serving of regular pancakes mix, with no fat or protein. We often make oatmeal out to be some much healthier than pancakes when really they have almost the exact same nutrients (almost all carbs).

I will say that oatmeal typically has more fiber than regular, white flour pancakes, but neither makes for a very balanced meal because there is no fat or protein. Now, oatmeal can be made into a balanced meal by added protein (egg whites or greek yogurt) and healthy fat (nut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, etc.) just the same way that protein and fat can be added to pancakes.

My point is that we just have to be aware of what is in our food. Oatmeal may seem healthier than pancakes, but they are really quite similar. By adding protein and fat to either oatmeal or pancakes, you will have equally healthy and balanced meals.


My Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes with banana slices and cashew butter

I happen to love mixing up my typical morning oatmeal with a big plate of pancakes every now and then so I always turn to my Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes for a balanced breakfast.

Want more info on Kodiak Cakes?

Say Ta-Ta to Trans Fat

New research is always coming out telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat. From red meat giving us cancer to avocados making us skinny, the information we get about food can be confusing. One thing that hasn’t changed is the research regarding trans fat (the type of fat in partially hydrogenated oils). Trans fats are the worst of all the fats in our food and are strongly linked to causing cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, just about one year ago, the FDA removed partially hydrogenated oils from the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list. That means, from that date, companies have three years to remove all trans fats from their products. Currently, trans fats can be found in products like margarines, fried food, non-dairy creamers, cookies, and crackers.

Until 2018 when trans fat is removed from our food, you should still be checking food labels and preventing consumption of trans fats. It is also important to make sure the ingredients do not include any partially hydrogenated oils. That’s because companies can legally label their product as having zero grams of trans fat as long as they have less than .5 grams per serving. Meaning, there can still be trans fat in a product even if the label says there is none.

Read more about the ban on trans fats here.

Read more about how different types of fat affect the body here.

Avocado Toast

Throughout middle and high school I was never much of a breakfast person, but over the past few years I have discovered how important breakfast really is. It took a while for me to get use to eating food so early in the morning, but it is nice to not be starving by the time lunch rolls around. Over the past year, oatmeal has always been my go-to breakfast, but in the spirit of trying new things (and after drooling over foodie Instagram posts), I decided I would give the avo-toast trend a try.

Want to make my favorite avocado toast breakfast sandwich?

  1. Toast a piece of whole grain bread (or use a piece of homemade spelt bread)
  2. Mash half of an avocado on the toasted bread
  3. Layer on some smoked salmon
  4. Top it off with a fried egg

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This sandwich combo may not be as fast or easy as oatmeal in the morning, but it definitely makes for a more complete meal. It has healthy fat (avocado), protein (smoked salmon/egg), and whole grains (bread) to keep you full and energized all morning.

What is your favorite avocado toast combination?

Decoding Dietary Fat

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.58.41 PMEver look at a nutrition facts label and have no clue what it means? Is trans fat going to kill you? Should you avoid saturated fat? Which is better: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats? It can be confusing, but I’ve got you covered. Get ready for a crash course on fats.

Some background:

There are four different types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA).

The main factor that determines “good” vs. “bad” fats is their contribution to the development of cardio vascular disease (CVD). Cardiovascular disease can develop as a result of various things, but the most common is cholesterol build up in the arteries. The two main types of cholesterol carriers that influence cholesterol levels are HDL and LDL. HDL is usually called the “good” carriers that removes cholesterol from the body and brings it to the liver. LDL does the reverse; it takes cholesterol out of the liver and circulates it throughout the body where it can get trapped in the artery walls.

When LDL cholesterol gets trapped in the artery walls, inflammation and hard plaques can develop. This inflammation makes it difficult for blood to move and plaques can break off and block arteries leading to a heart attack.

How Do Fats Impact Cholesterol?

Trans Fat: Trans fat is the worst type of fat. When trans fats are consumed, your LDL levels increase and your HDL levels decrease. That means a huge increase in CVD risk. Compared to a person who eats absolutely no trans fat, a person who gets 2% of their calories from trans fat has at 23% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease!

Saturated Fat: Saturated Fats increase HDL and LDL cholesterol. That means they aren’t the best, but they aren’t nearly as bad as trans fats.

Monounsaturated Fat: Monounsaturated fats have not been found to have a huge link to cardiovascular disease. Some studies have shown that they decrease risk, but most studies show that they do not impact CVD risk at all. Though, they do have some connection to increasing LDL particle size. This is a good thing because when LDL particles are bigger, it is less likely they will get trapped in the arteries.

Polyunsaturated Fat: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) come in two forms: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 PUFAs have anti-inflammatory effects, can decrease LDL cholesterol, and increase LDL particle size- all good things. Omega-6 PUFAs, on the other hand, are pro-inflammatory and can cause blood vessels to narrow making it harder for blood to circulate. It gets complicated because both omega-3 and 6 are required for survival. Therefore, it is important to eat both, but omega-3 should be eaten in slightly larger quantities.

So which ones should I eat??

Increase omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intake. These are going to have the greatest impact on cardiovascular disease risk. Just 250mg/day of fish high in omega 3 can decrease your CVD risk by 36%!
Sources: flaxseed, salmon, and fresh tuna.

Watch your omega-6 polyunsaturated fat intake. These are still an essential part of the diet and are needed for survival. In fact, they are required to prevent learning deficits, skin lesions, and impaired vision, but swapping some omega-6 for omeg-3 every now and then will decrease your risk of CVD.
Sources: nuts/seeds, vegetable oils, and many processed foods.

Don’t worry about monounsaturated fats. Keep eating these guys with no worries. It might be a good idea to swap saturated fats (like butter) for some MUFAs (like olive oil) when you are cooking.
Sources: olive oil, avocados, and nuts/seeds.

Consume saturated fat in moderation; a little bit won’t kill you.
Sources: cheese, butter, whole milk, and red meats.

Avoid trans fat at all costs. Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible (absolutely none is ideal) and chose any other type of fat before eating trans fat.
Sources: fried food, margarine, non-dairy creamers, and processed cookies and crackers.

Don’t forget, eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat. Fat is essential for the body to function so it is important to consume enough (20-35% of your calories should come from fat each day).