Food trends come and go. I’ve seen just about everything go around at least once. First it’s good for you, then it isn’t, then it is again, but usually by another name. It’s like grocery store products that become, NEW, then New & Improved, then Advanced, and finally back to Original Formula. That’s when the marketing cycle starts over again. This can take anywhere from 3—5 years to a decade to play out. The latest craze is now coconut oil. I’ve know about the uses of coconut and coconut oil for years. Now it’s all the rage in the popular media. Let’s take a look at this product and I’ll let you decide if you want it to be part of your pantry.
The current media hype claims that coconut oil will protect you from cancer, Alzheimer’s, and kidney stones, while helping you lose excess body fat. Let’s take a closer look.
Advantages of Coconut Oil
I don’t know about you, but I love the flavor of coconut! My favorite candy bar is a PeterPaul Mounds Bar. What could be better than dark chocolate and coconut? Yeah, but are there any benefits of coconut?
I’m going to go all science geek on you for a minute. Stick with me though, it will all make sense quickly.
First of all, coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). By contrast, the milk fats of cows, sheep, and goats are mostly short-chain triglycerides.
Secondly, some studies have shown that MCTs can help burn excess calories by promoting fat oxidation and reducing appetite. This may be because MCTs are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cholesterol’s profile. They also lack cholesterol raising Lauric, Myristic, and Palmitic Acids. However, the weight loss benefits have so far been inconclusive.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are generally considered easy to metabolize. They are rapidly absorbed by the body. MCTs are bland compared to other fats, meaning they don’t leave a bad taste. That’s why they are widely used as flavoring in foods, in oral medications, and vitamins. Coconut oil melts at 74OF, making it easy to use and incorporate in many foods. It doesn’t spoil quickly thanks to its super-high percentage of saturated fat.
Disadvantages of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has no cholesterol. Some of its fatty acids are different than the saturated fat found in animal products. Now for some bad news…
It contains more saturated fat—which has been known to raise blood cholesterol and clog arteries—than butter.
Studies show it can raise LDL (the bad cholesterol)
According to university researchers, it can contribute to atherosclerosis (aka heart disease)
If this information breaks your heart, imagine how I feel! Here’s how we make it a little less severe…
According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat intake should be a maximum of 16 grams daily (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). That means you would have to stick to the 1 tablespoon serving (120 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat) per day and take in no other saturated fat. Forty percent of the saturated fat in coconut oil are not the good MCT’s. They are artery-clogging, long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). You’re still better off with olive oil (2 grams of saturated fat per 1 tablespoon serving).
Adding insult to injury, there is not enough research to support claims that coconut oil promotes weight loss. If you’re like me, and really like coconut, what do you do?
I can’t recommend replacing heart-healthy fats like olive oil with coconut oil. Fat is still fat. Coconut oil is high in calories (120 per tablespoon), which can quickly add to your waistline. Fortunately, a little bit goes a long way in adding flavor and creamy texture. Keep it small and consider coconut oil as a condiment instead of your primary oil. Use it very sparingly. You can add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a recipe. Diluted over an entire recipe, you can enjoy the great taste, texture, and minimal health benefits without all the harmful side-effects like heart disease and weight gain.