October 25, 2011
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,
Recently during a nutrition presentation on types of fats, several of the participants expressed confusion regarding coconut oil. Though we traditionally think of only animal fats as being saturated, coconut (and palm) oil are tropical (plant) oils that are high in saturated fat. Hence, the confusion, a plant oil high in saturated fat…good or bad. It was quite timely that appforhealth (a website written by two well qualilifed RD’s) published this summary on coconut oil. So if you are interested to learn where coconut oil falls in the health spectrum, read below.
“The healthiest oil on earth!” “Rich in medium-chain fatty acids.” “Stimulates your metabolism.” “Coconut oil gave me back my brain.”
“The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.” …Organic Facts website
If you believe the coconut oil websites, you’d think that the nut oil is the elixir of life. It will do everything for you…and then some. Food manufacturers are responding as coconut oils and coconut oil-containing foods are hitting supermarket shelves in record numbers.
But is it really all that? Could it be better than extra virgin olive oil, which has thousands of studies that prove it’s heart-healthy? When most foods are billed as cure-alls, it rarely pans out, so I thought I needed to investigate the research on coconut oil and share what I found.
Here are some facts: coconut oil is primarily saturated fat, like palm and palm kernel oil. In fact, 91 percent of the fat in coconut oil are comprised of artery clogging saturated fats. Butter is ….sat fat, lard is…Considerably more saturated that, um…butter, palm or lard. Lsat time I don’t anticipate, lard was not part of a heart healthy diet. Saturated fat, as you know, raises risk for heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes and much more.
Source from appforhealth
There are two main types of coconut oil: refined and virgin. Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is better because like EVOO, it provides anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that may help reduce risk for heart disease. Refined coconut oil, the type used in most food products that contain coconut oil, is just a functional saturated fat that the food industry now uses because it can no longer use the solid-at-room-temperature trans fats. The two main types of highly saturated fats that have replaced trans fats in the food supply are palm and coconut oils because they provide some of the same properties of trans fats.
Some studies do suggest that VCO is not as unhealthy as you’d expect from the high amount of saturated fat it provides. Laboratory research shows that VCO is rich in beneficial phytonutrients that may help temper inflammation and act as potent antioxidants. While VCO is antioxidant-rich, refined coconut oil is not.
Bottom line: Coconut oil is a saturated fat that you can enjoy in moderation but probably shouldn’t be the primary fat in your diet…until more clinical studies suggest otherwise. (Currently, there’s about 6,000 published research studies about olive oil and 1,300 on coconut oil, so don’t discount other vegetable oils that have reams of research proving their healthfulness.)
I use coconut oil spread and VCO on occasion when cooking, as they are perfect for several recipes I make. However, I also use EVOO, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, walnut oil and several other oils (all virgin) as I believe that like all plant-based foods, eating a wide variety of them is the best way to achieve optimal health.
See the comparison of dietary fats here