Coconut Oil has been praised for its heart healthy properties – but is it really justified?
All of these words come up way too often to describe one trendy food: coconut oil. From baking to skin care, coconut oil has been accredited for its versatility and health benefits. These benefits include reducing levels of bad cholesterol and heart disease, preventing illness and promoting weight loss. However, with a closer look at coconut oil for its nutritional value, it seems as though there is more to the story.
Good and Bad Saturated Fat
With more research, I found many factors that put a new spin on coconut oil, and tried to do so unclouded by marketing connotations. I began by looking at the facts first. Coconut oil, like many oils, is about 90% saturated fat. However, about half of that percentage is made up of lauric acid, which contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCFAs) that do have health promoting properties, including the ability to improve levels of HDL, or “good cholesterol.” However it is well known that saturated fat, which is left after the lauric acid, is not heart-healthy. In the article, “Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Hazardous?” from Forks Over Knives, they estimate that after these MCFAs are absorbed, about 45% of the saturated fats are just that – saturated fat. Therefore about half of this “healthy” food is not very healthy at all.
Let’s Take a Look at the Nutrition Label
In addition when looking at the nutrition label for coconut oil, we find that it is lacking in vitamins and many other nutrients. Like most other oils, coconut oil is high in calories and fat. But unlike olive oil, coconut oil contains ten times the amount of potential bad fat. In addition, there is very little research to support the cure-all benefits of coconut oil since it is not too long ago that it was discredited for being too processed and unhealthy. Most of the research published about coconut oil has only been short term studies on lowering cholesterol, but it is unknown about the effects in the long run.
Even with this new-found knowledge, this should not discourage you from incorporating coconut oil into your healthy lifestyle. Some experts suggest using it about once a week if needed, but for most cooking sticking to other oils such as olive and soybean oil which have more unsaturated fat and proven heart healthy benefits. With every food, even healthy ones, the most important thing to remember is portion control. You can still overdose on healthy foods, which in turn makes them unhealthy.