Chances are you have probably heard or read about coconut oil. As dietitians, we often get questions regarding the health benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which has long been proclaimed as the unhealthy fat that is linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides. However, recent studies have shown that not all saturated fats are equal. The primary type of saturated fat in coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, which research has shown to absorb differently than other types of fat and tends to be more readily available for energy.
There are recent research studies that suggest moderate consumption of coconut oil has been shown to increase your healthy cholesterol and decrease waist circumference. However, there is also substantial research indicating that saturated fat in general is linked to an increase in both healthy and unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. The type of saturated fat that is found in coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, has been shown to improve healthy cholesterol levels better than other types of saturated fat. Although, unsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, have proven to be more effective at lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels while increasing healthy cholesterol levels.
While there are positives and negatives associated with coconut oil, overall it appears that sticking to moderation is key. Even though there may be some positive health benefits from consuming coconut oil, it still contains 9 calories per gram, which is about 115 calories per tablespoon. If you are looking to add coconut oil to your diet, the most effective method is to use it in place of other saturated fats or Trans fats. If you choose to purchase coconut oil, virgin coconut oil is less processed and tends to retain more of its tropical flavor. Remember to keep in mind moderation is key!
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Kadey, Matthew. “Coconut Oil Uses and Your Health.” WebMD. Ed. Kathleen Zelman. WebMD, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016.
Machowsky, Jason. “Coconut Oil: The Great Debate.” Nutrition411. 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May 2016.