“Coconut oil has a place in our food system,” said Paula McIntyre, Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian. “It has a unique flavor, and I’m sure some people prefer its taste over other oils.”
Is it healthful for our diet?
Most scientists and major health organizations like American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association agree coconut oil is a source of saturated fat and to only consume limited amounts.
“Coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat, a higher percentage than butter,” McIntyre said. “I don’t recommend it. I don’t use it myself, and I can’t think of a time I suggested it to a patient.”
But isn’t coconut oil trendy?
In the last year or so, coconut oil has crept its way onto store shelves and into health conversations as a quick-fix trend.
McIntyre said she believes the trend started from chatter on medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid, which is thought to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels when it replaces carbohydrate in the diet. Other research shows consumption of coconut increases LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, which are risk factors for heart disease.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, but it’s not coconut oil’s only fat.
“We have to remember, like with coconut oil or any health trend, the best researched and proven method is a diet of variety and color,” McIntyre said. “There is no one food or supplement to answer all our health questions and problems.”
Learn to decode health information and trends so you can determine what is beneficial and what is not.
Consider your entire health profile including age, genetic history and current diet.
“The media doesn’t consider our individual health profiles,” McIntyre said. “While certain trends might have positive effects, they only may be impactful for a small percentage of people and conditions.”
What if I like the taste?
“If a patient told me they enjoy the taste of coconut oil, I’d give them the same recommendation I give for butter,” McIntyre said. “You can eat it, but enjoy it in moderation.”
McIntyre suggests cutting coconut oil amounts in a recipe and replacing the remaining amount with a healthful cooking oil.
“For example, if a recipe calls for two tablespoons of coconut oil, instead use one tablespoon and fill the other half with canola oil,” she said.
A better use of coconut oil: Skin and hair
It’s evident coconut oil is frowned on by nutritionists.
Dermatologists have a different perspective: Coconut oil cleanses and moisturizes, which makes it a prime ingredient for DIY facial masks.
Talk to your provider
Ask your doctor or work with a dietitian before trying new health trends. Your provider can help you determine your best health and wellness solutions.
Coconuts grow where tropical storms, tides and ocean currents drift them. People eat coconuts and in the villages make coconut oil for their own kitchen use by hand. Lard has less saturated fat than butter, but small farms still churn butter and render home lard . Cottonseed oil was a machine oil before they learned how to make it stiff and put it in a can. The 20th Century saw the introduction of industrial seed oils. I do not know what made us believe that 20th Century pressed seed oils were better for us than our animal fats. If you fry a pat of margarine, you get a brown sticky tar. If you fry a pat of butter, you get an aromatic heat transfer for an egg. Coconut oil may be used for all cooking without fear. The coconut eaters are healthy.
I believe Paula is a Registered Dietitian. This is different from a Nutritionalist. Many people claim they are nutrtionalist. Educational and state licensing requirements are higher for an RD.
I was told by one provider that I should avoid anything coconut, including things for skin and hair because my skin would absorb it and it would raise my triglycerides. Is this correct?