How is coconut oil Paleo?

by 3142 · April 10, 2011 at 12:49 PM

I consume coconut oil almost every day but as I took a spoonful out of the jar earlier I thought about how readily available the substance would be in this form to the 'paleolithic' Homo sapiens.

I am not versed on the processes of getting coconut oil from a raw coconut, so perhaps this is where my bemusement lies.

I'm not going to stop consuming it, I'm just curious-

How is coconut oil paleo if one couldn't obtain the substance in the form available in stores (e.g. straight up oil)?

If I'm missing something about the product, by all means enlighten me.

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4337 · April 10, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I do not eat coconut oil, nor would I consider it paleo.

The point of paleo is limit the possibily of mistake; by chosing foods that were actually availabe to us in paleo times, we gain some assurance that the item is healthy. I extend that to any food that seriously resembles foods available in paleo times (i.e., to foods like potatoes, avocados, -- new world foods).

Coconut oil is not paleo because it doesn't resemble a coconut. It for instance does not contain copper and other minerals found in coconuts.

There is a theory that copper deficiency causes CVD. So, the absence of CVD is groups that ate lots of coconut (e.g., the Tokelauns) may not be due only to the medium chain triglycerides found in coconuts -- it may be due also (or even due exclusively) to the high mineral content of their chief calorie source - coconuts.

I think coconut oil is a fine example of why the paleo principal works. People get a model in their head (e.g., saturated fat is bad -- or saturated fat is good) and then they try to isolate for that variable, forgetting to eat actual food. This dovetails with Michael Pollen's advice too... What if what you thought was good about coconuts (e.g., the fat) was actually just part of the story and what was really good was something else (like copper)?

I consume actual coconut flesh or coconut milk - both of which leave the mineral content intact.

3978 · April 10, 2011 at 4:09 AM

This is also where I fall out with the "eat more animal fat" "paleo" crowd. Before agriculture, animals wouldn't have had much fat, as evidenced by the wild vs. the confined. I've never seen overweight deer or any exceptional amount of fat on venison or wild rabbit I've skinned. I've never heard of anyone wondering what to do with deer fat. Only alligators in confinement develop jowls.

If this diet is supposed to be based on what pre-agriculture homo sapiens actually ate (and what little they could store), then we're all failing miserably. It's perhaps less "do" and more "try" (and Yoda is rolling over in his grave, I know) and trying to cut out processed foods (although plenty here will swear by jerky and bacon full of nitrites and salt) and eating more free-range grass fed meats and some of us even consume lots of vegetables, which is also frowned upon by others. In other words, the more I looks into "paleo" the less defined it becomes. I think everyone can agree on grain-free as paleo, but ratios of meat to veggies, whether or not to consume dairy or in what form, etc., etc., etc. isn't written in stone (lithic LOL). Neither is diet.

There is some great information here, and other "paleo" sites/books/etc., but it's extremely divergent, so I just go by what works best for me, which is as natural as possible. I'm not convinced that one diet is right for everyone, although it's clear that some animals thrive on specific diets, despite their varied range (back to deer again, but they're herbivores and we're not, unless by choice).

The scientific body of knowledge at this point is very poor, despite being wide ranging and broad. We're all still experimenting, and we don't live all that long in the grand scheme of things to really understand what is harmful or good, and we really don't understand early development or aging (both stages where things are more likely to go wrong) combined with nutrition well enough to know for sure if anything is good or bad, or right for me but not for you.

It wasn't many years ago that coconut oil was considered to be a health disaster. Now it's considered beneficial (and I love it, so I don't really care either way). I figure that lifestyle - some exercise, sun exposure when possible, and avoiding and exposure to chemicals when possible - are the more important things to limit, while having a diet that includes variety and seasonally available crops, fish and meats. That's just my take.

So back to coconut oil... no paleolithic man did not likely have hoards of it stashed since it would take effort to refine and store beyond their likely capacity, and it still would only have been limited to tropical, localized regions if they were able to overcome the other problems. But think about this: tropical Polynesians are probably also the early relatives of the Inuit in polar regions. Each have dramatically different dietary intakes (Polynesians with a wide variety of fruits, veggies and meats, while the Inuit rely mostly on meats and fats) and both seem to have thrived regardless. And without grains...

1714 · April 10, 2011 at 3:19 AM

Paleo isn't about "the availability to ancient man" - well some people take it that far, but really, come on. If you want to do that, you have to stop eating pretty much everything because machinery and industry are involved somewhere.

Throw out your refrigerator, too.

This is why I much prefer the ideas presented on Archevore. It gets away from the dogmatic approach and simply looks at the science behind it all.

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