Whats Up with Coconut?

Coconut oil has been gaining popularity and is a staple in some of the newer fad diets such as the Paleo diet, and has been a long time staple in the vegan diet. If you have ever seen a jar of coconut oil, it has a similar appearance to Crisco. How can something like that be healthy?

TJs coconut oil

One of the “rules” I  learned in college about oils and fats says, if it is liquid at room temperature, it is generally considered “healthy”, if it is solid at room temperature, it is generally considered “unhealthy”. This “rule” is based on saturated fat content- the higher the content, the more solid the oil or fat is at room temperature. Think about olive oil (liquid at room temperature) vs butter (solid at room temperature). If we are using this rule to judge the health factor of coconut oil, it would be a no-go!

The FDA, World Health Organization, US Department of Health and Human Services, The American Heart Association, and various other professional organizations caution against regular consumption of coconut oil due to its high saturated fat content (Source).

So what is all the buzz about coconut oil? How does coconut oil stack up to other common oils such as canola, olive etc. See the chart below for a quick comparison (Source).

 

Oil SaturatedFat Monounsaturated Fat Polyunsaturated Fat
Coconut Oil 91% 6% 3%
Olive Oil 14% 72% 14%
Canola Oil 7% 63% 28%
Peanut Oil 16% 46% 32%

 

Proponents will argue that the saturated fat in coconut oil is different than typical saturated fat from animal products and is processed differently by the body.  They claim that lauric acid, a type of saturated fat, which makes up about 50% of the saturated fat content in coconut oil, is a “miracle ingredient”, as it has antiviral and antibacterial properties (Source). Another common claim is that tropical cultures, in which coconut oil is a staple, have no increased incidence of heart disease than other populations (Source). Unfortunately there is no significant evidence to support many of the claimed health benefits of coconut oil.

Studies show that lauric acid has a more favorable effect on blood lipid profile (i.e. cholesterol, HDL, LDL) than trans fat (Source).  The lauric acid content in coconut oil is higher than most other oils, therefore the benefit to HDL levels that has been seen with coconut oil could be attributed to lauric acid (Source). It is important to remember that lauric acid is still a saturated fat which has proven negative effects on overall cardiovascular health.

cholesterol

So should you switch over to coconut oil? The short answer: Probably not. Coconut oil could be considered less bad than other oils and fats with high saturated fat contents, but should still be consumed sparingly due to the high saturated fat content. Sticking with a lower saturated fat oil such as canola oil or olive oil would be the best decision based on current available research. The bottom line is that saturated fat is linked to cardiovascular disease and increased cholesterol levels. For this reason, we should strive to limit our intake of saturated fats.

I personally love the flavor of coconut oil and will occasionally use it to roast vegetables or cook pancakes. It is great to mix things up occasionally and get a slightly different flavor with foods you normally prepare. It also works well as a substitute for butter since it is solid at room temperature.

Don’t worry, you can still get in on the coconut oil trend without increasing your cholesterol! Coconut oil is also commonly used in skincare. I recently made a batch of homemade coconut-vanilla sugar scrub…it is heavenly and smells like a sugar cookie! Not to mention, the coconut oil leaves my skin smooth and moisturized without a lot of residue. Check out the recipe here!

coconut sugar scrub

If you are using coconut oil, make sure you are buying one that is not hydrogenated and contains no saturated fat.

 

Tell us about it! Do you use coconut oil? Have you ever cooked with it? Used it for skincare?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Share:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Pin on PinterestEmail to someone

Comments

  1. Paula Schutz says:

    I love to use it as a face cleanser. I rub it on my face, and wipe it off with a cotton pad. It really cleans makeup off well. Then, I take a very warm washcloth, hold it on my face for a few seconds for a little steaming action, then wipe off the risidual coconut oil. I have extrememly dry skin and have tried everything, including very expensive moisturizers, but nothing beats coconut oil in removing the makeup without drying my skin.

Speak Your Mind

*