Tuesday Reviews-Day: The Complete Idiots Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet

Tuesday Revews-Day

I first encountered some of the health benefits of coconut milk back when I was designing the drink that would become the Miracle Mocktail and looking for a dairy alternative. Almond, soy, and even rice milk had their detractors but coconut milk was just phenomenal in it’s many uses. I was amazed at how coconut milk (via the coconut oil content) was used to combat illness, including reducing the viral load of HIV patients! Ever since then I’ve appreciated Thai-style curries all the more, and when I needed a lactose-free option for heavy cream, coconut milk has worked a treat.

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When I was given the chance to review the Complete Idiots Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet I was more than a little intrigued–after all, I thought I understood the healthy benefits of coconut oil and coconut milk, but an entire diet around a vegetable-based saturated fat? I wondered how that was supposed to work.

Without putting too fine a point on it, the simplest way of enacting this “diet” is just to replace the other vegetable oils with coconut oil where appropriate. It helps if you like the smell of coconut in your food (the flavor is often lighter, but since flavor is comprised  of both smell and taste, it will obviously have an overall impact), but if you prefer a milder presentation, there are refined versions (designated RBD for refined, bleached, and deodorized). Aside from those smart substitutions, there are four more encompassing protocols presented in the book, each with a different take on how coconut oil–either through direct consumption or by cooking with it–can influence your health.

I admit, even as much as I enjoy food science, the in-depth chemical analysis and component-by-component play-by-play included in the book made my eyes cross a bit, but it’s great that they included it for those who want to know more about the Medium-Chain Triglycerides that make up coconut oil and how this variety of saturated fat can be healthful. They also discuss the earlier opinions about saturated fat in general and the rise it gave to soy and corn oils, for instance, and we all know how the trans-fat hydrogenated oils blew up in the face of our collective health.

The last third of the book or so is recipes that do a lovely job of showing how versatile coconut oil can be in day-to-day cooking. We tried out a few of these recipes with overall positive results.

Lamb Madras, p.200

Lamb Madras, p.200

We love going out for Indian food, almost as much as we like making it at home. The Lamb Madras can also be made with beef, and it’s spicy sauce is fabulous for cooler nights. Served over rice I also tried out the Paleo naan recipe that had been floating around–it worked, more or less, but it needed quite a bit more liquid using the coconut flour I opted for instead of the almond.

Filipino-Style Pork and Noodles (Pansit), p.196

Filipino-Style Pork and Noodles (Pansit), p.196

Pansit (Filipino-Style Pork and Noodles) reminded me a lot of Pad Thai with the mix of flavors and garnish of peanuts.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Soup, p.226

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Soup, p.226

But it was the Vegetarian Butternut Squash Soup that really surprised me! What I though might be a run-of-the-mill squash soup really got a boost from the coconut oil and it made for the most velvety soup I’ve had that wasn’t roux-based!

Luau Chicken, p.188

Luau Chicken, p.188

Finally, the Luau Chicken was the only recipe we tried that didn’t quite live up to expectations. The chicken, itself, was fabulous lightly dredged in seasoned flour and pan-fried in coconut oil–that I would do again in a heartbeat, though I’d probably opt for boneless thighs over the bone-in whole chicken the recipe calls for–and even the sauce for it was tasty, but the amount of coconut milk called for both to finish the chicken and to cook the spinach in was excessive and made for a very messy, soupy dish. Still a great meal, as paired with the sweet potato you see above, but I’d definitely hold back on the coconut milk if I were to make this one again.

The book also includes recipes for personal care items using coconut oil–everything from conditioner to deodorant!

While I still maintain that “Diets” aren’t a good option for lasting change, I can definitely get behind the increased use of coconut oil in place of other oils. And with its increase in popularity leading to greater availability, the ease of that substitution is also increased. I consider The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet anything but idiotic.

***I was provided a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Coconut Oil Diet for purpose of review. No other compensation has been received and all opinions expressed are my own.***

Eat, Drink & Be Merry…


For tomorrow? We Diet*.

At least, that seems to be the motto of many, this time of year. Over the next month there will be open houses and company dinners, family feasts and friendly parties, bountiful tables, gift baskets and bar carts.

So it’s no surprise that one of the most common resolutions, come January 1st, is to Diet in one form or another.

The problem is, or can be, that Diets are notoriously unreliable. Many just plain don’t work. And why is that?

I think it boils down to 3 main concepts:

  1. Diets are negative.
  2. Diets are restrictive.
  3. Diets are temporary.

Negative because many focus on the can’t-haves and the must-nots. Restrictive when large categories of food are eliminated from the diet–no carbs, no fats, no this, no that. And temporary because they are used to reach a specific goal and then abandoned (if not abandoned earlier when the dieter becomes discouraged). Only the weight loss, if achieved at all, cannot be maintained when old habits are returned to and, thus, the cycle begins again. There’s little to no lifestyle changes that stick outside of the Diet period.

Not to mention the fact that a month spent feasting at the holiday table takes several months of effort to undo.

This year, though, my friends and I decided to Diet early.

Yes, you heard right:

I’m currently on a Diet.

Despite the fact that I don’t believe in Diets at all, I agreed to try this one with some friends for a few reasons:

  1. It’s based on positive reinforcement and rewards.
  2. It’s permissive, allowing for days off when life interferes with our best intentions.
  3. It’s focused on more than just weight loss.

It’s called The Game On! Diet and it’s co-authored by a television writer and a bodybuilder, so take from that what you will–I didn’t read the book (reading Diet books is a special kind of hell I don’t choose to put myself through, though I hear–from our ring-leader–that it’s a good read). Instead of counting calories and scale-watching (though you do weigh yourself at least weekly), you earn points for eating balanced meals (5 a day), getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, daily exercise and even starting good habits and working to stop bad ones. It’s fun to compete against friends and have teammates to celebrate and commiserate with.

That said, it’s not perfect and I’d be lying if I said I was 100% drinking the kool-aid. While it does not suggest blocking carbohydrates or fats from your daily diet, it does lump all fruits together with the carbs as well as protein-rich beans and legumes. In fact, if you’re a vegan who prefers not to get your protein solely from soy products, you would not be able to follow the dietary guidelines as set forth by the book and website’s guidelines. Also, calories are not counted but portion sizes are–even though a fist-sized portion of whole grain is not necessarily the same calorie or nutrient-wise as an equal volume of fresh fruit. But that’s not the end of the world–Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and other meal programs can be followed in place of the Game On! guidelines.

And my bladder has yet to be convinced that 3 Liters (approximately 12 8-ounce glasses) of water is a good idea.

What I Hope to Gain (or Lose)

Do I expect to lose weight doing this? Not really. If I do, that’s a wonderful side-benefit. My primary motivation was to finally get a daily exercise regime started. Game On! only requires 20 minutes a day, 6 days a week in order to earn 140 points for the week (expecting you to take a day off from that, too). That, it turns out, is quite doable even for someone like me who hates exercise with a passion–I’ve been getting up early and spending my 20 minutes with the WiiFit before work and it’s not that bad! I’m also improving my posture by ditching the slouching habit (mindfulness in all forms) and practicing my baritone near-daily as my newly started habit.

There’s as much chance that I’ll be paying for an opposing teammates pedicure, next month, as enjoying one of my own (the agreed-upon prize at the end of the 4 weeks), but I’m going to do my best to not let me team down.

*For the purposes of this discussion, capital-D Diet refers to the departure from your nutritional norms in the effort to “better” yourself. Little-d diet refers to the general concept of food and nutrition.