We’ve been on curry kick lately (along with an overnight oats kick, and a berry kick but hey, who’s counting?). Both of us have a soft spot for Thai and Indian food so most of my curry experiments have drawn inspiration from mostly those cuisines. This recipe leans on the flavors of the former, and comes together in less than an episode of your favorite Netflix mini-series. It’s fresh, fast, full of veggies and most importantly-- delicious.
Thoughts On Coconut Milk, Saturated Fat & Heart Disease Risk
**If you're not into messy nutrition research, scroll down to the recipe.**
I must admit, I hesitated a little before writing this part. Saturated fat comes with a boatload of controversy, and coconut products-- with their high saturated fat content-- are right in the middle of it. The debate has become even fiercer since Harvard epidemiologist, Karin Michaels, called coconut oil ‘pure poison’ a couple of weeks ago.
Inspired by my passion for Thai food, I scanned the most recent research on saturated fat and heart health and it looks like it’s not as simple as ‘reduce saturated fat intake to lower your risk of heart disease’. What you eat instead of saturated fat makes a difference.
Substituting saturated fat for refined carbs like cookies, cake and lollies isn’t going to do you much good . However, replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats appears to modestly reduce heart disease risk, particularly ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol . In practice, that means more fatty fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oil, instead of butter, lard, and coconut products.
Does that mean no butter, coconut-milk infused dishes or full-fat dairy ever? No, of course not. This is why:
Deprivation is not usually a path to sustainable eating. Chocolate is a rich source of saturated fat and I want chocolate in my life, always.
Blood markers like LDL cholesterol make up a sliver of the total heart disease risk pie, and it’s important to consider them in the context of other factors like smoking status, exercise, genetics, weight, age, etc.
Not all sources of saturated fat are created equal. Some studies (like this one) indicate that coconut oil may have a smaller impact on ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol than butter . Emerging evidence suggests from population studies suggests that consuming full-fat dairy is associated with higher heart health scores . Yay for full-fat lattes.
Reduced saturated fat is not the same as no saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 6% of total daily energy intake, which is 8-20g/day for most.
20-Minute Thai Chicken Red Curry
Enough of the science. Let’s talk about the good stuff: the recipe. As I mentioned earlier, this recipe was borne out of our household love of curry (and incredibly quick meals). It contains half a cup of coconut milk which is just enough to round out the punchy, aromatic ingredients, and make it irresistibly creamy. Bon appétit!
3 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper
1 cup red onion
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp canola oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
½ tsp fish sauce
½ cup coconut milk
1-2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce (optional)
1 tsp brown sugar
2 cups broccoli florets
Peel and finely chop the garlic.
Thinly slice the red onion and red pepper.
Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips..
Pour the canola oil and garlic into a large non-stick pan on the stove. Turn the stove on to medium heat and cook the garlic in the canola oil until golden brown.
Add the sliced onion and pepper to the pan. Continue to cook until the onion softens and starts to become translucent.
Add the chicken to the pan, and stir-fry until it’s browned all over.
Pour the red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, brown sugar, soy sauce (if using), and lime juice into the pan. Stir distribute the flavorings amongst the ingredients.
Add the broccoli to the pan, and simmer until the broccoli is cooked but still a bit crunchy (roughly 10 minutes).
Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges, and serve with brown rice, or your favorite wholegrain.
Makes 2 large servings.
 Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, Appel LJ, Creager MA, Kris-Etherton PM, Miller M, Rimm EB, Rudel LL, Robinson JG, Stone NJ, Van Horn LV; American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Jul 18;136(3):e1-e23. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510. Epub 2017 Jun 15. Review. Erratum in: Circulation. 2017 Sep 5;136(10 ):e195.
 Randomised trial of coconut oil, olive oil or butter on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in healthy men and women. Khaw KT, Sharp SJ, Finikarides L, Afzal I, Lentjes M, Luben R, Forouhi NG. BMJ Open. 2018 Mar 6;8(3):e020167. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020167. PMID: 29511019 Free PMC Article
 Dairy food intake is positively associated with cardiovascular health: findings from Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study. Crichton GE, Alkerwi A. Nutr Res. 2014 Dec;34(12):1036-44. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2014.04.002. Epub 2014 Apr 12. PMID:25476191