Coconut Oil: The Experts Have Spoken

June 19, 2017

I think we all know that one girl who uses coconut oil on their skin, in their hair, in their coffee or as toothpaste. OK, maybe not toothpaste, but you get the idea.

 

Coconut oil has been one of those recent trends that everyone seems to be obsessed with, just like avocado toast. But it turns out, most hop on board without truly doing any research on what coconut oil actually is. The truth is, coconut oil is a source of saturated fat.

 

What is saturated fat? There are many different types of fats in the world. You have your “healthy” unsaturated fats known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). These fats usually come from plant sources like olives, nuts or seeds. They are liquid at room temperature, like oil in salad dressing. These friendly fats help raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels and lower LDL (bad) levels, preventing heart disease.

 

This brings us to trans-fat and saturated fats. These are the types of fat we want to limit in our diets. Trans-fat is found naturally in most animal products like meat and milk. Saturated fat is also found in animal products like beef, pork and chicken. Leaner cuts of meat have less saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, which is exactly why coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and is exactly what primarily makes up coconut oil.

 

Coconut oil is a saturated fat. Lately, people have been using it to replace butter in baking or to cook items on the stove. While we need some fat in our systems to aid in absorbing some nutrients, saturated and trans-fats should be limited.

 

The reason this new found truth about coconut oil came about is because the American Heart Association took a closer look at the facts. According to them, “82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated — far beyond butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and pork lard (39%)”. Coconut oil was seen as a weight loss aid because people heard the term weight loss, without really listening. Saturated fats are made up of tight bound medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). A study done by Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School, found that eating foods high in medium chain triglycerides could potentially increase metabolism rates, when compared to long chain triglycerides. The key words being potentially and compared.

 

Another key factor of this study was the MCT oil she used was made up of 100% medium chains. Coconut oil is only about 13-15% MCT’s. Which is why she conducted another study to show that small doses of MCT does nothing to help with weight loss.

 

Personally, I love using coconut oil to make popcorn. It leaves the popcorn feeling clean and not as greasy, and does not give it much of a flavor. But when it comes to things like baking, I go old-school and still used items like butter. The key take away from this new found study is not to swear off coconut oil. The moral of the story is to use it sparingly. Just like everything else in life, it is all about balance.

 

Again, some fat is needed for absorption of some nutrients and other bodily functions. Completely cutting out food groups or specific nutrients can do more harm than good for our bodies. That’s why when we hear something that may be too good to be true, like adding 1 little item like coconut oil can aid in weight loss, we have to go beyond those words and research! Do not go and toss your coconut oil in the trash, but also do not add it to your cereal everyday (I hope you would never do that anyway). Use it sparingly, just like other fat sources, including those friendly MUFA’s and PUFA’s, which are still calorie dense, but have many benefits.

 

 

Sources:

1. Coconut oil isn't healthy. It's never been healthy.Ashley May - https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/16/coconut-oil-isnt-healthy-its-never-been-healthy/402719001/

2. Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans Fatshttps://www.choosemyplate.gov/saturated-unsaturated-and-trans-fats

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