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Myth: Coconut oil is as healthy as other plant oils

TRUTH:  When research was released about trans fats, the restaurant industry began to look for other, healthier oils that could withstand the high cooking temperatures of frying.  Coconut oil is one of the oils they turned to as it has a high smoke point.  Coconut oil is somewhat unique though, because it is one of the only plant sources of saturated fat (the others are palm oil or palm kernel oil).

As many of you know, current dietary recommendations suggest that we limit our consumption of saturated fats – which means that we should try to cap our intake of saturated fats to 10% or less of our total calories (daily).   Also, studies show that coconut oil raises LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), HDL (the “good” cholesterol), and total cholesterol.

Some argue that the saturated fat content of coconut oil doesn’t pose as many risks as saturated fats from animals because of the type of fatty acids it contains.  Pro-coconuters claim that in regions with a high consumption of coconut oil (tropical areas) don’t have increased risk of heart disease, proving that coconut oil can be healthy.

BOTTOM LINE:  Here’s the thing:  you can’t generalize research from other cultures to Americans because we have a much higher consumption of processed (high sugar, high fat, and high salt) foods.   So, what works for them may not work for us.

Since recent research shows that coconut oil does raise your risk for heart disease and coconut oil has been used to replace a lot of the trans fats in restaurants, you should stick to olive oil for home use.   On the other hand, coconut oil is probably the best saturated fat you can choose!

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. University of Hawaii: Check out this very detailed summary of studies and recommendations about coconut oil
  2. CNN Health: How Good is Coconut Oil For You?

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