Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

My friends keep telling me I should be drinking coconut oil. I thought coconut was not good for your heart. Should I be drinking it?

Coconut oil and drinking coconut milk is front page news. So many ‘new’ miracle foods crop up every day that it is not always easy to decide if we should be jumping on the bandwagon or roll down the track waiting for more information.

You are correct, in the past we have discouraged using a lot of coconut due to its high saturated fat content; actually 90% of the fat in coconut is saturated.

Researchers now are discovering that all saturated fat is not created equal. Stearic acid, a long chain saturated fat, is found in most saturated fat and is the type that can contribute to increased cholesterol and triglycerides linked with heart disease. However, coconut contains lauric acid as the primary source of fat which is a medium chain saturated fat. Our bodies handle this fat differently and it can be burned more readily than the long chain type.

Unfortunately, this new information has led to multiple claims that are yet unproven. What we have seen is that overindulgence in fat, no matter the source, can contribute to weight gain. All fats have nine calories per gram compared to four in protein and carbohydrate. If you drink two tablespoons of coconut oil each day, as many are recommending, you will get an additional 252 calories and 28 grams of fat in your diet.

If you enjoy cooking with coconut oil, drinking coconut milk and using it as a moisturizer for dry skin – that would be great. Coconut oil is a good source of vitamin E. Beware of the overall amount of fat in your diet and how that impacts your calorie balance. The ideal scenario would be to substitute coconut oil for other saturated fats including Trans fat or lard. Fat from any form if it is more than you need, like any other nutrient, is not desirable.

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