Well by this time you have probably heard of coconut oil and been told that it is SUPER healthy and you need to eat it on EVERYTHING! So some reason everyone is thinking coconut oil is the next health food. In fact 72% of consumers think that coconut oil products are healthy compared with only 37% of nutritionists. This shows a huge disconnect between the public and what professionals know.
So let's break this down ... what is in coconut oil? It is a plant based oil and most of the time this does mean healthy. All of your other plant based oils are high in unsaturated fat (heart healthy fats) - canola, olive, grapeseed, and avocado oil just to name a few. Coconut oil is from a plant, but instead has high amounts of saturated fat. In fact 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat. That is a higher percentage of saturated fat compared with butter, beef fat or pork lard. Eeek! So that should be a red flag. There are some unsaturated fats in coconut oil, but only about 15% of the fat are unsaturated (heart healthy fat chains).
The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 6% of your total daily calories come from saturated fat. These recommendations are to help keep your cholesterol levels within normal limits. So you need some fat and a small amount of saturated fat is fine, but you don't need large amounts of these saturated fats.
There are not very many studies looking specifically at coconut oil. This is a new food trend and because of that most of the heart studies that say that saturated fat causes heart disease are done with animal based fats. More research needs to be done with coconut oil and see that if this plant based (high saturated fat) oil does indeed lead to same negative heart disease outcomes.
The whole reason that saturated fat is demonized is because studies have shown that it decreases your HDL (good cholesterol) and then increases your LDL (bad cholesterol) and this can lead to increased plaque build up in your arteries.
So what does this look like in real life? Well if you take your coconut oil and measure it out. 1 Tablespoon contains 12g of saturated fat and that makes up 60% of your daily recommended saturated fat intake. This 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 13.6g of total fat. Coconut oil contains 10 times more saturated fat than unsaturated fat. This is still fat and should be treated as such. Use this fat source in moderation. Doesn't go dumping it in your coffee, slathering it on your potato and drinking it in your smoothie. That much added fat isn't going to help you be healthier, but will just add additional calories and could lead to increased weight gain. Yes, it tastes delicious, but so does every fat.
Hopefully you can see that this coconut oil craze is indeed just that ... a craze! This food item as been around for awhile and there are no magical health properties with this oil. Use it in moderation and if you have a risk of heart disease or struggle with high blood pressure, avoid this fat source. Reach for more heart healthy fats (plant based fats) that have proven heart health properties.