Coconut oil definitely seemed like the food craze a few years ago. A popular choice in ketogenic and Paleo diets, people were putting it on and in everything; from baked goods to coffee and lots of food choices in between. People were using it as moisturizer and hair cream; it was the cure for all! However, in June 2017 the American Heart Association came out with a statement advising against using this oil. So, should you ditch those giant bottles in your pantry, hold onto them just in case more research flips the advice again, or keep using it daily?
What Are the Arguments Against It?
The reason for the new report is that 7 out of 7 studies found that coconut oil, which we know is very high in saturated fat, raised LDL or bad cholesterol levels. They established no difference between it and other high-saturated-fat oils like butter and beef fat. Interesting to know is that coconut oil is 82% saturated fat versus 63% in butter and 50% in beef fat.
One reason coconut oil was touted to be so healthy and good for you was the high amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the body can break down much more easily than the longer-chain triglycerides found in fatty meats, dairy, and oils. MCTs have been found in studies to raise heart-healthy HDL cholesterol and help with weight loss by increasing your metabolism, which is why so many people see the benefit of this oil. Keep in mind that it is a fat, which means it is very calorie dense. One tablespoon has 117 calories. Therefore, if weight loss is your main goal, you still need to calculate this in when coming up with an appropriate calorie count for you.
Use Other Plant-Based Oils
What we do know is that plant-based fats such as olive and vegetable oil, nuts, and avocados have been found time and time again to be heart healthy. These are the type of fats that should make up the majority of fat in your diet on a daily basis. Using these oils for cooking and baking should be a priority. Adding in other fats sparingly can be a part of a healthy diet.
Nutrition Advice Is Always Changing
The science of nutrition is constantly changing, so it is important to be aware of this. That’s why the policy of a balanced diet with everything in moderation is key. Even if every new research study showed the health benefits of coconut oil, that still doesn’t give you a pass to consume it in unlimited quantities. And remember, many of those wonderful uses are completely calorie free when you aren’t ingesting it!
This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.