What’s up with all the negative publicity of Coconut Oil these days?
Many in the coconut oil business and wellness programs promote the oil as an essential ingredient for healthy living. Placed on healthy food isles, coconut oil is commonly used these days as a butter substitute in vegan baking, a smoothie topper for health nuts, and even a beauty treatment good for both the hair and skin. It can help you lose weight and stave off illness but is it really good for the body?
The American Heart Association says it’s not.
AHA just released a report advising against the use of coconut oil, describing it as “unhealthy as beef dripping.” While coconut oil is a plant fat, it’s more than 90 percent saturated fat—25 percent more than a butter—more likely to raise cholesterol and blood lipids that could possibly lead to heart disease.
A Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory, according to USA Today, review shows coconut oil increased bad cholesterol (LDL) in seven out of seven controlled trials. There was no difference between this particular kind of oil and other ones that are also high in saturated fat, like butter, beef fat and palm oil. In fact, the data claims 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, also far beyond beef fat which is at 50%and pork lard at 39%.
Now, AHA recommends eating no more than 6% of saturated fat as part of total daily calories for those who need lower cholesterol.
Lack of Evidence
Despite the fact that it’s a saturated fat, advocates still believe the product especially the unrefined one or virgin coconut oil can aid in treating a number of conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s, weight gain, thyroid issues and heart diseases. They even claim the oil boosts immunity.
However, note that the majority of this information are merely self-reports and based on testimonials. The scientific evidence that coconut oil is beneficial to the health has been a slow development, with several wellness groups and nutrition experts echoing the same notion that it doesn’t do much in terms of heart health and general disease management.
There are studies that high consumption of coconut oil like in Sri Lanka directly results to lower susceptibility to heart diseases, but those do not take into account some other factors that have big roles to the matter like genetics, exercise, and overall diet quality.
Still, cutting coconut oil from your diet does not guarantee a lower heart disease risk. A 2015 British Medical Journal review pointed out that those who reduce their intake of fat usually end up eating with sugar, white flour, and empty calories which don’t do any good either. Trading bad fat for bad carbs obviously doesn’t reduce cardiovascular disease.
VCO: Fats With Benefits
There are some saturated fats that are clearly better than others, so if you want to go on a cleaner path, choose those “fats with benefits.” You may go with canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil. Tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans are good substitutes as well. They still do have a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats, but they’re full of vitamins and good for the heart.
If you love coconut oil that much, though, we suggest going with the unrefined type, best known as pure or virgin coconut oil. Unlike refined coconut oil which is from bleached and deodorized dry coconut meat, VCO is extracted fresh and has a quicker process. Which is why its resulting oil does not require bleaching or additives. Since the oil isn’t exposed to high-level heat, more of its phytonutrients called Polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body, are also retained. Hence, more beneficial.
Then again, the bottom line is too much of anything is not good so it’s fine to use it sparingly. It’s also okay to replace other sources of saturated fat with coconut oil if it tastes better but be sure to still limit intake. As far as external usage goes like beauty treatments, you may get all those seemingly miraculous benefits out of the stuff. So go ahead — smear it on literally everything. As nutrition experts say: You can’t put it in your body, but you can on your body for all you want.