After the olive oil article Lora wrote last week, we had a question about coconut oil from a reader on my facebook page. So we decided coconut oil would be a good topic for the next Q&A!
Don’t forget about our seminar this Thursday evening at Cancer Services’ office in Winston-Salem.
Cancer Nutrition Myths and Truths: Thursday 1/29 at 5:30pm. We will be demonstrating and tasting 3 recipes and giving you some of the ingredients for you to take home and try yourself. We’d love to have you join us! RSVP if you’d like to attend.
Q&A Coconut Oil
The reader asked “should coconut oil be avoided because it contains a high percentage of saturated fatty acids?” (as compared to poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids). Given that saturated fat is linked to increased cholesterol levels and risk for adverse cardiac events, it is recommended that no more than 7% of calories consumed each day should come from saturated fat.
No – we don’t expect you to actually calculate that! But it’s good to know the recommendations, right? 🙂
The main idea to remember is that fat is fat. Whether it’s plant based or animal based, and regardless of its saturated fat content, fat is high in calories and should not be used excessively in the diet. As I said in the olive oil article last week, some fats are healthier than other fats, and those should be chosen more often.
- Solid fats, like butter and animal fats, are sometimes referred to as “bad fats.” These are high in saturated fats, which is why they are solid at room temperature.
- Vegetable oils, like canola and olive oil, are sometimes referred to as “good fats.” These are low in saturated fats and high in the unsaturated fats, which is why they are liquid at room temperature.
- HOWEVER, you have to remember, fat is fat, so even though the fatty acid profiles differ, they still all have the same amount of fat and calories per volume.
Since coconut oil is from a plant it’s a healthier choice, right?
Wrong! Believe it or not, coconut oil actually contains more saturated fat than butter. This high saturated fat content makes coconut oil solid at room temperature, and it should be classified as a solid fat, along with animal fat and butter.
I will note that there is some current research looking at how the type of saturated fat found in plant based foods like coconuts may actually be different from the saturated fats found in animal products, but until more research is conducted and this theory is confirmed, I would treat it as any other saturated fat.
So should you use coconut oil?
My motto for almost everything in the realm of nutrition is moderation. If you like the way coconut oil gives food a sort of coconut flavor, then, every once in a while, you can substitute a small amount of coconut oil for another vegetable oil or butter.
But… should you cook your eggs in it, add it to your mid morning smoothie, take 2 teaspoons as a supplement after dinner, and then rub it on your body and in your hair as a moisturizer every day? Probably not. For most of your cooking and baking, choose a vegetable oil like canola, olive, or flaxseed oil.
When you want to add a little more flavor to a recipe, a little coconut oil, or even butter, every now and then can fit perfectly into a healthy lifestyle.
For more on the confusion around types of fats and which ones are better or worse for you, check out this article Julie wrote last year: Dietary Fat Recommendations: Have The Experts Been Lying?
bill kennedy says
I am highly suspect of a publication that would recommend canola oil, and I am also suspect of one that would suggest that the public trust GMOs. Kind of makes one wonder who really controls what is being published here in the name of “Cancer” services.
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
Bill- thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. The website is a place to share evidence based and peer reviewed information and every reader is capable of making their own food choices. I encourage you to share any resources you feel are based on solid science for discussion. And I’m always open to people who respectfully disagree. We all make different choices and certainly everyone doesn’t make all the same choices I do, but when it comes to giving rexommnedations, I have a responsibility to share the evidence and not simply my opinion. Cancer Services has a mission to enhance the quality of life for those living with cancer and give the gift of life through education. This website is part of that mission.
Margaret Solland says
My jar of coconut oil is in my bathroom. I cleanse my face every morning & night with coconut oil. Also use coconut oil in my hair before shampooing twice a month. My cholesterol levels are better than two years ago. I also use real butter in preparing food & eat eggs 2 or 3 times a week. I am on a cholesterol lowering drug but have been on that when it was noted I had congestive heart failure. Last two years my numbers have been great with kidney & liver functions good.
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, LDN says
Congrats on your good numbers!
Studies in ancient areas of Sri Lanka proved that Coconut oil has positive correlation with antidiabetic nature….Two recipes instead of glucomate published by Australian guy who had practical and live experience shows the truth.,….
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
It would be helpful if you could provide the publication for this claim. It needs to be published in a legitimate, peer-reviewed journal.