Myth Busting - Coconut Oil
Coconut oil sure is getting a lot of love in the media at the moment from celebrities to fitness fanatics alike. It’s often reported to be a healthy fat, that it can improve various health conditions, including coronary heart disease, and also claims to melt away body fat...are these claims true? My mum always told me if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, but lets review the facts...
Coconut oil contains about 85% saturated fat. To put that into perspective, butter is around 50-60%. What we do know is that a high intake of saturated fat can increase the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood, increasing your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Even though there has been some research into coconut oil and the effects it has on lowering cholesterol, this research, so far, is not conclusive due to the quality of the studies.
However, there is no need to avoid it completely. If you like the taste of coconut oil then it’s fine to use from time to time, as you would butter. But for everyday use, the evidence tells us that it’s best to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats like olive and rapeseed oil and the spreads made from them, as they have shown to lower LDL and increase HDL (good cholesterol).
As well as claiming coconut oil can help heart health, many believe it has fat burning qualities too. The good thing about coconut oil is that it is mostly made up of medium-chain triglycerides which your body processes slightly differently to other dietary fats, apparently, you’re more likely to burn off their calories than convert them to body fat. However, coconut oil is high in calories. You shouldn't add it to your diet without cutting back elsewhere and expect to lose weight because that won't happen.
So, in regards to whether coconut oil is better for health or not, it's pretty conclusive. Maybe in time when more research is carried out this will change but as it stands, the evidence and advice is pretty clear, and while coconut oil shouldn’t be considered off-limits, it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. When deciding whether to buy coconut oil or unsaturated oils, experts say stick to the unsaturated versions. When it comes experimenting with coconut oil in your diet, use with caution and make sure you are cutting back on saturated fat and calories elsewhere in your diet to allow for it. For those interested, I'll be sticking to the unsaturated versions of oil for now until more conclusive research has been carried out.