So What’s All The Buzz About Coconut Oil?

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Coconut oil is a saturated fat. A saturated fat is a “bad” fat that can negatively affect your blood cholesterol. Saturated fat is found in animal food sources; think hamburger, eggs, cheese and steak in addition to two tropical oils; Palm and Coconut.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend reducing our consumption of TOTAL DIETARY FAT  and at the same time keep our intake of SATURATED FAT low (less than 10% of our total calories) and replace it with the healthy MONO and POLYUNSATURATED FAT;  think plant oils like corn, canola, sunflower, etc.

There was a study published in 2009 that looked at 40 women and the relationship of coconut oil to reduction of “belly fat” which got a lot of hype. Note that all the women were on a low calorie diet at the same time they were looking at the results from the 2 groups. When anyone is on a low calorie diet, no matter what the main food source is they will lose weight!  That’s just the basic physiology of our bodies. When energy in (food) is less than energy out (activity and basal metabolic rate) then we will lose weight.

Are all saturated fats created equal? It turns out that different saturated fats behave differently and while the bulk of the studies done on coconut oil did not using virgin coconut oil but partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which is a source of trans fat, this is an issue that needs further scientific research.

Does coconut oil have the same negative effects on heart health as other saturated fats found from animal food sources?  The jury is still out on that one. No doubt, it is very tempting to buy coconut oil when there are so many unsubstantiated claims and it is loaded up on the shelves of health food stores and markets. It also has a unique flavor and gives baked goods a special texture and taste.  Will a few teaspoons a day used for cooking harm you? Not really.  Remember anything in moderation is okay.  But don’t toss your corn, canola and other vegetable oils out just yet.  I would not recommend using coconut oil as your primary go-to for food preparation.