The coconut oil industry likes to promote coconut oil as “good” saturated fat, but is coconut oil really as healthy as they suggest? Let’s take a closer look and see just how “good” it is.
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut and contains mostly saturated fat (around 92%). Ounce for ounce, coconut oil contains more saturated fats than most butters! Saturated fats are connected to LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is artery clogging and associated with cardiovascular disease. Lowering your LDL cholesterol is the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart health. And, contrary to the claims being made that coconut oil is healthy, not much research shows evidence of long-term health benefits.
Let’s compare coconut oil to the other oils. When ranking oils in terms of the types of fats, coconut oil lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Coconut oil is better than vegetable shortening or margarine which have partially hydrogenated oils and are high in trans-fat. However, coconut oil doesn’t quite measure up when compared to extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) which are considered a healthy fat.
Coconut oil has been popular among weight loss programs. However, like most oils it is calorie dense, which means you should be careful with your portions. Just one tablespoon of coconut oil contains around 120 calories. Coconut oil may be linked to weight loss because its high count of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) have been shown to increase metabolism.
The controversy continues as top news reports have begun to address the topic. A recent USA Today headline reads, “coconut oil isn’t health. It’s never been healthy,” the Chicago Tribune headlines, “Nutrition experts warns coconut oil is par with beef fat, butter” and Elite Daily headlines, “coconut oil isn’t as healthy as we thought, according to depressing new study”.
So, here’s what you need to know. The American Heart Association recommends the daily saturated fat intake to be 30 grams for men and 20 grams for women. That’s about two tablespoons of coconut oil for a man and 1.3 tablespoons for a woman. And though Coconut oil isn’t the worst path you can take, growing concerns over its long-term health benefits persist. Staying under the prescribed limit of daily saturated fat intake and incorporating healthier oils (such as extra virgin olive oil) whenever possible are small but important steps you can take to improve your health.