What's the deal with coconut oil? Is it healthy? What should I use it for?

April 15, 2015

Over on my Facebook page, we got a great question from Piotr. He says, "What are your thoughts on coconut oil? More specifically - do you use it, if yes how, is it worth it, what is it best used for, etc." And Donna chimed in: "I would also like to know about coconut oil. I was told that coconuts and coconut oil are a saturated fat, like avocados and was told to avoid them. Is this true?"

 

We've all heard the claims that coconut oil is the new miracle food, right? Prevent diseases! Burn more fat! Increase immunity! Cure world famines! (OK, maybe that's wishful thinking.) Unfortunately most claims about coconut oil haven't been thoroughly researched. So don't go buying a giant $30 tub of coconut oil (yet).

 

Piotr wonders if I use it, for what, and whether it's worth it. Actually, I most often use coconut oil as make-up remover and lip balm. In fact, I use it every single day for those purposes. In this case, it's definitely worth it, because I don't have to purchase conventional (more expensive, and potentially less natural/healthy) products. And it works amazingly well - probably better than anything else I could buy. 

 

Now I'm assuming Piotr doesn't need makeup remover (!!), so let's get into the eating side of things. I often use coconut oil instead of my usual olive oil if I'm cooking at high temperatures. Coconut oil is better able to withstand high temperatures without breaking down into trans fats like other oils would.

 

When it comes to health benefits and saturated fat content, the jury is still out when it comes to well-conducted, peer-reviewed research. Coconut oil does contain a high amount of saturated fats. Recent research, however, is finding that saturated fats may not be as “evil” as we thought they were in the past. More research is needed, though. Even if saturated fat is as bad as we used to think it is, the saturated fat in coconut oil is a different type. It’s a medium-chain fatty acid (instead of a long-chain fatty acid, which is what other saturated fats are composed of), which means it’s metabolized differently in the body. 

 

A few studies have found that coconut oil can in fact improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk for heart disease. Here are some of the research findings supporting the idea that coconut oil provides health benefits:

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15329324

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil

 

Like I mentioned earlier, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits. For now, I’ve said it many, many times and I’ll say it again: moderation, folks! There’s no reason to cut coconut oil from your diet unless you’ve been told to do so by a health professional, and there’s also no reason to chug coconut oil by the cup.

 

 

Want a friendly kick in the butt that inspires and motivates you to lead a healthy life? Gimme a shout!

 

 

 

Calories and macros on a vegan diet: A free e-book for you!

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Download Karina’s free 32-page ebook that shows you how to track your food, calculate calories, and set macro goals on a vegan diet. You’ll even get step-by-step instructions – complete with a printable grocery list – for how to prep a week’s worth of delicious Buddha bowls in 60 minutes or less.

 

 

 

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