By: Lilly Hutchings, ACSM EP-C
Coconut oil has taken the diet industry by storm with claims to help with heart and thyroid conditions, diabetes, and even weight loss. The aisles of your local grocery store and your social media timeline may be flooded with coconut oil in food, skin care, and hair care products. Coconut oil has become so popular that some are even using it in their coffee! But does coconut oil offer health benefits, or just hype? Does research support the claims behind this increasingly popular oil?
Coconut oil comes from the meat of the coconut, which is then pressed and slightly heated. Your first thought might be that because it is directly from a coconut, this oil is healthier than others such as olive or vegetable oil. I mean, it is from a coconut, so why wouldn’t it be healthy?
Like all oils, coconut oil is fat. And like all fats, there are healthy and unhealthy types. Healthy fats are unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. You can find these in food sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, and oils like olive and vegetable. Unhealthy fats are saturated fats, which are foods like butter, margarine, ice cream, and some cheeses. Food sources that are high in saturated fat are directly linked to obesity and heart disease, and also tend to be solid at room temperature.
So is coconut oil healthy or unhealthy?
Well, despite the belief that coconut can cure obesity and prevent diseases, there is no scientific evidence to support that claim. Take a look at this chart below. It compares commonly used oils and each of their saturated and unsaturated fat content. See where coconut oil ranks? Yikes!
According to the American Heart Association, an individual consuming 2,000 calories per day should limit their saturated fat content to 16 g per day, which is only about one tablespoon of coconut oil! A diet high in coconut oil could likely lead to obesity, heart health problems, as well as increase our “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
Sometimes the media can show us things that seem too good to be true — and most of the time, they are. But that doesn’t mean you are never allowed to eat coconut oil again! Eat foods like coconut oil in moderation, and substitute with a healthier option when possible.