Nancy Dell: Coconut oil better than olive oil? Which rice is low arsenic?

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1. Is coconut oil more healthful than olive oil?
Jim, Westfield

Coconut oil is being touted as a “superfood”  that can promote weight loss and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Sounds good but according to research presented at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, science does not back it up.

Most of the claims are attributed to the fact that coconut oil has a type of fat known by the initials MCT which has shown some benefits. However coconut oil is only 16 percent MCT so we can’t assume it will have the same benefits as 100 percent MCT oil used in studies.

Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat. Saturated fats are hard at room temperature and will make your cell membranes more hard and less flexible. A liquid oil like olive oil, makes cell membranes more flexible which is good when it comes to heart health. So, research still supports using more olive oil and less coconut oil.

A little bit of coconut oil adds great flavor to Thai food but do not heat it at a high temperature. It has a low smoke point so using it at high temperature like stir frying or making popcorn can cause the oil to breakdown and form cancer-causing chemicals. Saute with it on medium heat.

2. Which rice has the lowest arsenic level? 
Kim, Internet

Excess arsenic is in the soil from pesticides and poultry feed. Rice more readily absorbs arsenic from the soil than other plants do. Too much arsenic can increase the risk of some cancers as well as heart disease and diabetes.

Consumer Reports found the lowest arsenic in basmati rice grown in California. You can also use rice substitutes like quinoa, buckwheat and millet. All are low in arsenic.