What’s the deal with it?
Recently, it’s been hailed as a health food that can fix anything from improving fatigue to healing pancreatitis, to reducing our risk of heart attacks.
So does it? Short answer: no.
Marketers of coconut oil claim:
1. That populations that traditionally consume coconut, have low incidence of heart disease and strokes.
This is true! BUT these epidemiological studies (studies that look at different populations and analyse their diet and what they get sick and die from) look at populations that eat COCONUT as a WHOLE Food, they do not eat coconut OIL. Context is really important. Traditional diets consist of wholefood based diets, lots of plants, fish and coconut NOT a highly processed Western style diet. Whole coconut does not have the same effects on our body, that coconut oil does. Whole coconut, taken in the context of a traditional diet of plants and fish is going to have completely different effects on our body (good for our health)👍, than coconut oil added to a western style diet (not so great) 👎
2. That Coconut oil contains lots of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s), (which are thought to be better for our health, because they are digested differently, compared to long chain triglycerides)
This is completely false: Coconut oil contains mostly long chain triglycerides and less than 16% of coconut oil contains MCT’s. The main types of long chain fats in coconut oil are Lauric Acid 48%, Palmitic 9.5% and Myristic Acid 16%. Not all saturated fats are created equal, some like stearic acid (found in chocolate, have been shown to be beneficial for our health), but these are 3 saturated fats, which are not so great for our health.
3. Coconut oil, is a saturated fat with a high smoke point, so good for high heat cooking.
Sort of true. REFINED coconut oil has a high smoke point of 235 degrees Celsius (455 F). Unrefined coconut oil (extra virgin cold pressed) only has a smoke point of 179 degrees Celsius (355 F) and is not suitable for high heat cooking.
If you like using coconut oil and it fits in with your food values and budget and you like the taste, then use it (we do!). It’s a great substitute for butter in baking and makes excellent gf biscuits.
But, coconut oil is not a health food, (it’s neutral to health and a wee bit healthier than butter) so use it sparingly (don’t gob down spoonfuls of it or stick it in your coffee). Focus your fats on whole food options, such as avocado, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
If you love coconut, eat it in its wholefood form, as with most foods, the whole food option is far superior for our health than the processed version!