You see it on infomercials. You see it on popular television shows. You see it on recipes, healthy website forums, and baking ideas. Coconut oil seems to be a fad that is sweeping the nation. The question is, why?
What is coconut oil’s secret that is making everyone go bananas? Studies dated back to the 1960s and 1970s showed that coconut oil may not be as dangerous as expected. “Islanders of Tokelau and Pukapuka ate a diet that consisted of 35%-60% fat, but still had virtually no atherosclerosis, heart disease, colon cancer, digestive issues, weight problems, or kidney disease.”
Although a majority of these islanders’ calories stemmed from fats, their diet was healthy overall, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, large amount of fish, and very little processed food. They were also very active due to their daily lifestyle. Therefore, coconut was most likely not the cause of preventing disease. Rather, it was moderation!
Coconut oil is composed of 90% saturated fat. Saturated fat has been known to raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. So why has everyone become so coconut crazy? Although the facts are there, controversy still continues to exist.
Several myths have come to rise along with the rise in the use coconut oil. These include the following:
1. Improved thyroid function: “No proof exists to show that coconut oil can improve thyroid function. In fact, some proof shows that it actually can worsen preexisting hypothyroidism.” Receive the facts from a credible source, aka seek out a Registered Dietitian. Not a TV Personality looking for popularity.
2. Cholesterol levels: “Studies repeatedly have shown that hydrogenated oils increase cholesterol levels. This holds true for hydrogenated coconut oil, as well.” Yes, coconut oil is natural, but so are other sources of saturated fat. Natural does not necessarily mean beneficial for our bodies.
3. Coconut oil vs other oils: “No clear-cut, unflawed studies prove that coconut oil is any more healthful than other oils. In fact, it possibly is less healthy than oils such as canola, sesame, walnut, olive, and flaxseed.” Olive oil, walnut oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil all contain unsaturated fats, as well as monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower our LDL cholesterol (typically termed as bad cholesterol) and raise our HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Therefore, these carry many more heart healthy benefits than coconut oil, which has been shown to raise all cholesterol in our body.
4. Calories and fat: Coconut oil contains 9 calories per gram of fat, just like any other fat, and 14 grams of fat per serving, with 12 of those grams of fat being saturated fat. However, it is not the fat that creates fat in our bodies. Instead, it is excess calories that create weight gain. Fat carries more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein; therefore, reducing fat intake helps us further reduce calories.
No matter what the food is, all foods that are a part of a healthy diet are only healthy if used in moderation. However, the studies don’t lie; coconut oil can be beneficial if used in moderation, but ultimately should not be used without monitoring frequency. However, it is important to note that research is forever changing and varying. There is evidence that leans in many directions. Use your judgement and choose credible sources to determine your decision.
Need a substitute for oil in your recipes? Need a fat replacer in your baked goods? Contact one of our dietitians at Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition and call now 609-738-3143. Appointments are limited; call to be sure you get the prime spot on our schedule TODAY!
Michele Wroblewski, RDN
Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition, LLC
1278 Yardville Allentown Rd. Suite 3
Allentown, NJ 08501
Retrieved on October 27, 2016, https://cspinet.org/tip/coconut-oil-myths-persist-face-facts
Retrieved on October 27, 2016, http://www.nutrition411.com/articles/coconut-many-forms
Retrieved on October 27, 2016, http://www.nutrition411.com/content/coconut-oil-look-truth