I’m sure you noticed the articles circulating a few weeks ago about coconut oil and how the AHA decided to inform everybody how bad it was for us. I wasn’t that surprised, as it seems big organizations are always attacking those things deemed “natural” and “holistic”. Being the scientist that I am, however, I found myself delving into the claims they were making, looking at what other experts were saying, and forming an opinion for myself. And, the verdict is as it always has been–coconut oil is still healthy.
I would claim to have a true love affair with the coconut tree. Between coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut butter, and coconut flakes, coconut is an essential daily staple in my house. I truly couldn’t manage without it! In fact, I even told my husband that if I was marooned on a deserted island I would certainly bring a coconut tree with me! It covers many dietary needs, tooth brushing, sunscreen, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, plus, well everything ever. He informed me “Emily, you would bring pretty much the only thing that is actually already on the island?” Okay husband, way to ruin it!
Joking aside, here are five reasons coconut oil is still a main, healthy component of my home and diet.
It’s No Surprise that Coconut Oil has Saturated Fats
As I began to read the expert opinion I noticed immediately he was starting to give the age old argument against saturated fats. Guess what–I’ve known all along coconut oil has saturated fats. It’s not a surprise to me that coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, although that article made it seem like we had no clue. Like many other people, I am very aware and particular about what goes in my body, and saturated fats from natural, unprocessed sources are not as scary as they are made out to be. (6) In fact, coconut oil itself contains a large majority of the saturated fat lauric acid, and although it raises total cholesterol, it is known to raise HDL (good cholesterol) more than other fats do. (1) Don’t be scared of coconut oil, grass fed butter, and ghee. If you want to be scared of something, be scared of processed, added sugar. That will give you heart disease.
Other Non-Biased Experts Still Think It’s Good
Many experts trained in the holistic sciences all confirm that coconut is a beneficial part of a well balanced diet. These experts have done their research into the body holistically, rather than looking at one specific cause and effect relationship, which is why I’m more apt to trust their opinion. One expert notes that the studies saying saturated fats are bad for health have been cherry picked, animal studies are not good choices for lipid studies, and coconut oil has proven health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. (5) And, as mentioned earlier, although coconut oil increases total cholesterol, it also increases HDL. (2) Pretty much any holistic nutrition or medical expert agrees that coconut oil is still just as healthy as we thought.
Less Processed is Usually Better
The recommendation to consume more canola, soybean, and corn oils is just wrong. These overly processed oils are linked to inflammation which has been associated with not only heart disease but many other chronic diseases as well. (3,4) Butter from grass fed cattle, coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, and olive oil are the best kinds of oily fats to consume when found in their natural, minimally processed state. The coconut oil that is known to have benefits, and the only kind I stock in my house, is organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin coconut oil. If you start refining it, it’s a whole different oil.
I Understand Moderation
Coconut oil is a wonderful part of a well balanced diet. Well balanced, meaning I’m not sitting there eating a gallon of coconut oil a day and saying “look how healthy I am!” Sometimes I put it in my smoothies, I often cook with it, and I enjoy using it for baking. I also use extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil in my kitchen as well, which are unsaturated fats. Healthy eating is simple–just eat well balanced, unprocessed meals.
I’m Not Eating it With a Side of Pizza and Fries
Many of the research I’ve read has stated that it’s hard to tell the true effects of coconut oil in the western diet because the original coconut consumers, indigenous people, ate a diet high in fish and plants. It always comes back to this, and it always will. Coconut oil is part of a well balanced diet. It’s truly unfortunate that the standard american diet has fallen so far we can’t even adequately measure the effects of something because nearly everything we consume leads to disease–processed carbohydrates, added sugar, processed vegetable oils, fried foods, more sugar, you get the idea. Healthy fats are essential to our dietary needs when paired with high quality protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates.
So, dear coconut, our love continues! I have two gallons in my pantry right now for skincare and kitchen use and I won’t be switching it out anytime soon! Coconut oil was the first crunchy change I ever made, and I haven’t gone back since. I’ve even considered having a bowl of melted coconut oil sitting on my table for guests to use–think that’s too far?
Tell me, are you a coco-queen as well?
What To Do Next?
For more about a healthy diet, read THIS POST on long term clean eating
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