The Truth About Coconut Oil

Foods go in and out of fashion. One minute experts are saying they are good of your the next they are terrible. We see it all the time! 

Coconut oil is the next culprit that the American Heart Association (AHA) is firing at, for maybe not being quite as healthy as we originally thought. There is a lot of conflicting information on ‘healthy’ vs ‘unhealthy’ fats, it can be hard to dispel myths from facts! After the AHA came out with this study a couple weeks ago, I have gotten TONS of questions from clients about the truth about coconut oil. The study is claiming coconut oil is terrible for us because of the high amount of saturated fat in it. So let’s break down the good and the bad. 


The American Heart Association and the Study

First, it is REALLY important to note that the AHA is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer. I bring this up because these ties heavily influence the research the AHA does. I'm not going to turn this post into a political rant about the problems that occur when big Pharma companies fund health organizations, but know that it affects the information they put out. 

In short: Pharma companies need sick people around, who are uneducated about there health, in order to sell drugs and make money. Yet, they are sponsoring organizations like the AHA, who are trying to tell you what to eat. Therefore, it is hard to trust what the AHA puts their stamp on as ‘healthy.’ The AHA even puts their heart-healthy stamp on Honey Nut Cheerios and Subway Sandwiches. So much research has proven how crazy this is! It is a huge problem.

Not to mention the AHA has members of the US Canola Association in its nutrition advisory panel. Canola oil has been proven to seriously contribute to health problems, but don’t expect them to tell you to eat your coconut over it! 


Issues with the Study

In the article floating around the internet, they are using old studies to come to these new conclusions. These studies are focusing on saturated fat, not coconut oil itself. This is important because not all saturated fat is created equal! They even ignore more updated research that shows how good coconut oil can be for you! 

With all that in mind, lets talk a look at some of the good and the bad of coconut oil (check out pro #1 for your answer to the saturated fat question). 


Cons of Coconut Oil

Not all coconut oil is created equal. Different brand process their coconut oil differently. 

1) Many brands use a technique called RBD (which stands for Refine, Bleach, and Deodorize). This process will strip some of the health benefits from the oil and add unnecessary chemicals. 

2) Next, many brands hydrogenate the oil. This is important because the process turns some of the healthy fats in the oil into trans fatty acids - not so good. 

The solution: look for virgin unrefined coconut oil to get the best health benefits and avoid a lot of the negative effects. 


Pros of Coconut Oil

 There are many benefits ion coconut oil, but for the sake of brevity, lets look at the top two:


1) The high saturated fat content

I know what you're thinking: ‘whoa, but didn't the article from AHA say this is the problem?’ Fat in food doesn't necessarily translate to fat in the body. Fat is energy. To make a complex story short: there is a protein in the body called Uncoupling Protein 1, which assists the body in burning fat. According to the New York University Langone Medical Centre, the type of saturated fat in coconut oil actually stimulates the expression of Uncoupling Protein One, and therefore can help us maintain a healthy body weight. 

On top of that, another study published in the Journal Lipids, was a randomized, double-blind clinical study on coconut oil. All subjects, outside of the control group, ate the same diet and did a daily 50 minute walk, but a portion were given coconut oil. Only in the coconut oil group did they find statistically significant reduction in waist circumference. 

Clarification: The saturated fat in coconut oil is not the same as the saturated fat in cookies, cakes, and chips. It interacts with your body in a completely different way, therefore, we cannot look at other studies done on saturated fat and assume they transfer over to coconut oil. We instead need to look at the specific fat in coconut oil, which is very beneficial in moderation. 


2)  Coconut oil heals your gut

Coconut oil can actually help heal your gut lining. Eating processed and refined foods can cause damage to your gut and the fats in coconut oil help help counter this.  


There you have it. It is so important to do your research, even when looking at the research of what appears to be a reputable organization. 

My recommendation: Eat your coconut oil! Sure anything can be overdone, more isn't always better. At 117 calories per tablespoon, I’m not suggesting you shovel the stuff down, but don't be afraid to add it to a pan to cook your fish or veg.  

Want to fond out some other great ways to use coconut oil? Stay tuned next week for some unique coconut oil uses.