Coconut Oil

by Midtown Nutrition on June 28, 2017


Coconut oil has made headlines again, this time the American Heart Association is weighing in. In their position statement, they explain that coconut oil is 82% saturated fat which is higher than butter (63% saturated fat) and beef fat (50% saturated fat). For a person eating around 2,000 calories/day, it is recommended to limit saturated fat intake to no more than 16 grams/day. However, just one tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat.

Coconut oil has a form of saturated fat called lauric acid. Lauric acid increases your bad cholesterol “LDL” less than other forms of SATURATED fat, and it also increases your good “HDL” cholesterol. In many advertisements and blogs, this reason is used to promote coconut oil as a healthy oil. However, the American Heart Association explains in its position paper that your risk of developing heart disease is based more on the level of your bad “LDL” cholesterol than on the level of your good “HDL” cholesterol. And while coconut oil raises your bad “LDL” cholesterol less than other SATURATED fats, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower bad “LDL” cholesterol.

Coconut oil has also been promoted as an aid to weight loss through fat burning and increasing your metabolism. These claims came from a small study which showed that people that cooked with a custom-made oil of 100% medium chain fatty acids for 1 month had less body fat and burned more calories. The problem with using this study and applying the results to coconut oil is that coconut oil is not 100% medium chain fatty acids. In fact, it is only made up of 14% medium chain fatty acids.

The best advice is to replace saturated fat (butter, coconut oil, dairy fat) with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds). This may be accomplished by eating an overall healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, or a DASH diet, which includes many vegetables, beans/lentils, nuts, fruits, whole grains, and fish. And if you still want to get the benefit of coconut, you can drink coconut water, which is fat-free.

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