If you know a little about me, you know that one of my favorite things in the world is the arrival of soft, fuzzy peaches at the farmers markets in the summer months. So, you can imagine I am squealing with excitement over here- it's peach season! Snack time is a bit messier these days as peach juice rolls down my hands, but I simply don't care!
Due to their delicate nature and the risk of smooshing, packing peaches in your lunch bag as a snack can be risky (but if you're a true peach-head like me, keep it in a separate glass container to enjoy at lunch bruise-free), but I've been happily munching on them at home on their own, sliced atop salads, served over yogurt bowls, and now, baked into a crispy breakfast oatmeal bake that I'm excited to share with ya'll.
While you should feel peachy keen making and enjoying this fiber filled, gluten-free breakfast I did want to acknolwedge one ingredient found in this recipe, as it has been a buzzworthy topic of late- coconut oil. Having become wildy popular over the past few years, many believe this oil has a health "halo" surrounding it and are using it in large amounts in everything from stews to baked goods.
But is coconut oil really all that good for you?
A few weeks ago, a review from the American Heart Association made headlines as it "revealed" findings from many studies deeming coconut oil as "all of a sudden" bad for you. As a dietitian, I get many questions from patients and acquaintances about coconut oil, so figured I'd help set the record straight and hopefully help you decide how to incorporate this source of dietary fat into your diet and into this recipe.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, making it a saturated fat, sitting in the company of other fats such as butter, lard, dairy fat, and fat that comes from beef, red meat, and eggs. Saturated fats, in comparison to unsaturated fats (vegetable, canola, safflower, olive oil) have found to not be beneficial for health.
Remember that glorious Time Magazine cover that discredited scientists' villainization of butter and you thought you could douse your buckets of popcorn with liquid gold once again? What that article failed to mention and convey to the public was that actually when saturated fats in your diet are replaced with refined carbohydrates cholesterol levels and risk for cardiovascular disease don't change (and may actually worsen). BUT (and it's a big but), when saturated fats are replaced with UNsaturated ones (especially polyunsaturated fats like olive oil) the LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels have been shown to decrease, while actually boositng levels of the HDL, or "good" cholesterol. I hope you see where the true health benefits actually lie...
Intro to Coco
So, turning to coconut oil again. It comes from a plant, is "natural", and while it does contain saturated fat, much of it is in the form of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), which is a type of fat that is used more for energy rather than being stored by the body. If you're a bulletproof coffee believer you are all too familiar with MCT oil. What the public may not realize is that only a very small percentage of the fat in coconut oil is MCTs (about 15%), and so the remaining fat profile is exactly those saturated fats that increase your LDL and risk for heart disease.
The bottom line
If you're scratching your head still trying to decide if you should consume coconut oil, the bottom line is yes, sure, in moderation. The idea of villainizing one food and making it "off limits" is usually not a positive mentality when it comes to one's diet. The bottom line is to use it sparingly in your cooking, say a tablespoon or two for the curried vegetable stew you're making for an added coconut flavor boost. You will quickly reach the recommendation of 10% of daily calories from saturated fat if you tend to be heavy handed with your oils, so best to break out the measuring spoons if you do decide to indulge in coconut oil on occasion. As always, a diet is best balanced when you include plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains, and unsaturated fats.
A cautionary tale
Aside from learning some valuable nutrition information to make informed choices in your daily diet, I hope this discussion has also shed some light on the persuasive power of alarming media headlines. In today's age of nutrition confusion, print and online media, documentaries, and the like place important topics in terms of black and white, good and bad, when in reality food is not so simple and these guidelines may not be applicable for every person. To learn more about how certain foods and nutrients can have a place in your diet, I always recommend seeking advice from a registered dietitian who can help you form a nutrient-rich eating pattern that suits your nutrition needs, daily schedule, finances, and of course tastes!
I always encourage a healthy discussion of the latest food and nutrition news, but now on to the recipe!
Peach Oatmeal Bake- serves 6 or many breakfasts for 1
1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/4 cup walnut pieces, chopped
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Sprinkle of sea salt
1 cup almond, hemp, or soy milk (or cow's if you're cool with that)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
3 peaches, washed and sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter or spray with canola oil a 9x7 inch baking dish.
In a bowl, combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk the milk, maple syrup, egg, and coconut oil.
Slice the peaches and arrange in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the oat mixture. Cover the oats with the remaining peaches and sprinkle the rest of the oats on top to form the top later. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the oats, gently shaking the baking dish to allow the mixture to move through the oats, coating everything completely.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top becomes golden and the oats thickened. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and serve.
Suggestions for serving include topping with plain or flavored Siggis yogurt, or a dollop of creme fraiche or ricotta. Enjoy!