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Simply Food: Tom Kha Gai or Thai Chicken Soup

August 6, 2013
By Wendy Monro , The Journal

I have been having hair issues. My hair appears to break off and shorten without getting it cut. I don't know if I am missing an important nutrient, or if it is my age (there are grey hairs disguised as blonde on my head), or if it is this extremely dry climate I live in. Whatever it is, I am not taking it lying down.

I headed to the vitamin section of my favorite health food store and picked up some hair growth vitamins. Then, I looked up different foods I should eat to improve hair health. These were all foods I already eat: salmon, spinach, lentils and blueberries were on the list. So, I don't think it is my nutrition that is causing this dilemma.

I talked to a few of my friends about what to use to protect the brittle hair I already have and hopefully how to improve it. Fortunately, I discussed this with a new friend of mine, Sanaz. She told me to use coconut oil. She puts it in her hair every night before she goes to bed.

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Tom Kha Gai, or Thai Chicken Soup.

A few weeks ago, Melissa, a good friend of mine said she was using it on her teeth instead of toothpaste. So, I had to look into this. What is the deal with coconut oil? Sanaz told me that it is very important to use pure virgin organic coconut oil. So, I ran to Whole Foods and bought a tub of it. The label reads, "Pure Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Natural Energy Source." On the back, the label reads, "use as a supplement, for skin care, for hair care and for cooking." Hmmm cooking? After I coated it all over my legs and arms, I went to the computer.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat but it isn't like the fat found in meat and it contains no cholesterol. It is better than butter but not as good as liquid oils as far as fats go. It is a less healthy fat (taken on its own) than fish oil or fats in nuts, avocados and seeds. However, it is not as bad as a trans fats found in processed foods. Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides. This is a fatty acid of medium length. From what I read, the health benefits and risks of using coconut oil depend on your diet in its entirety. If you are eating a healthy diet full of whole foods, using a little coconut oil can be a healthy option.

Then, I wondered, why use coconut oil for cooking at all if it isn't the absolute healthiest oil? There are many reasons. Coconut oil has amazing benefits. First of all, it has a high smoke point. So, you can use this oil at a very high heat. Coconut oil has a positive antioxidant action in the body. This helps stop damage to other healthy fats and tissues in our body. Also, coconut oil increases energy expenditure compared to calories you get from longer chain fats like from meat. The fatty acids (lauric acid) from coconut oil kills harmful pathogens and can help prevent infections. It kills bacteria, fungi and viruses. Furthermore, these fatty acids decrease hunger by lowering appetite and creating greater satiety and can, over several years, decrease weight by increasing fat burning in your body. Coconut oil helps your body inside and out.

Fact Box

Tom Kha Gai

Serves: 3

Time: 30 minutes

16 ounces chicken broth

5 lime leaves

5 2-inch pieces lemon grass

1 inch ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lemon or limejuice

2 tablespoons coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 ounces chicken breast

5 hard-boiled quail eggs (optional)

5 Thai chili peppers, sliced and crushed (or crushed red chili peppers)

1 cup button mushrooms, sliced

5 ounces coconut milk

1 cup cilantro, chopped

3 cups Basmati rice

In a large pot, heat up the chicken stock. Add lime leaves, lemon grass, ginger, fish sauce, lemon or limejuice, and bring to a simmer. In a skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle cayenne pepper, salt and pepper the chicken breast. Cook the chicken in the coconut oil until fully cooked. Add chicken, eggs, peppers and mushrooms to the soup. Add the coconut milk just before serving. Warm this up for about five minutes. Toss in the cilantro. Serve over Basmati rice.

Yesterday, I coated my hair in it and let the moisture therapy begin. While this was happening, I tried cooking with it. I asked Claud what he wanted for lunch. A good friend who needed some serious cheering up was on her way over and I wanted to make something special. Claud wanted Tom Kha Gai or Thai coconut soup for lunch. I thought about how I could incorporate coconut oil into this dish. It seemed like it would complement the soup well since I would be using coconut milk anyway. Then, I realized, I could cook the chicken in the coconut oil before I added it to the soup. That is exactly what I did.

I went to the international market to pick up some lime leaves, Thai chili, fish sauce and cilantro. If you don't have an international market nearby, you can order all of this online. When I returned, I whipped up the delicious soup. My friend arrived, we opened some wine and she helped me cook. I am pretty sure by cooking and eating this delicious meal with her, I successfully took her mind off of her problems if only for a couple of hours. With the help of the coconut oil, I may have helped her immune system to boot. When she left, I washed the coconut oil out of my hair. I really think it helped. My hair felt so soft. It also makes my skin feel incredible too. I really think this multi use oil is worth the purchase.

 
 

 

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