Doh. Doesn't it feel like no matter how hard you try to be healthy, you'll never have the right information to make the healthiest choices? I mean, wasn't it like twelve seconds ago that people were taking spoonfuls of coconut oil as a supplement? And now its bad for us? What the frick?
The recent statement made by the American Heart Association was not based on any new, earth-shattering studies about the health effects of coconut oil. Instead, it simply reiterated the fact that we all already know: Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat including medium chain fatty acids.
Wait. Before you die of confusion. I am going to explain. Give me a hot second.
Saturated fat is not necessarily the healthiest fat source you can consume. It is NOT bad for you, but its not straight up great for you the way omega-3 fatty acids or mono-unsaturated fats are (ie. salmon or olive oil).
However, saturated fat is very stable and when exposed to heat it does not change on a molecular level. Basically, you can heat up coconut oil (or any saturated fat) and know that the oil is totally unchanged from the heating process. This is a GREAT thing since unstable, polyunsaturated fats such as corn, soybean, or vegetable actually become harmful and cancerous when exposed to heat.
Sure, coconut oil is high in saturated fat which has been associated with increasing LDL cholesterol (doctors will tell you that LDL cholesterol is a "LOSER" and promotes heart disease, while HDL is a "HERO" and prevents heart disease), but your next question should be is high LDL actually a contributor to heart disease?
Let me make this clear: NO.
LDL is not the problem, but rather oxidized LDL. Consuming rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable, corn, soybean oil or trans-fat such as hydrogenated oils is the best way to oxidize LDL particles and increase your heart disease risk. When you eat a diet low in pro-inflammatory oils and low in sugar, your LDL are large, fluffy particles which do not contribute to heart disease. Only when we eat a diet high in bad oils and sugar do LDL become oxidized into small, insiduous particles which can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease.
The takeaway is that coconut oil is a healthy choice for cooking. It is stable and will not contribute to oxidation or inflammation in the body. But its silly to add coconut oil to smoothies when you could add avocado slices, it does not make sense to take tablespoons of coconut oil as a supplement, and coconut oil shouldn't be the base of a salad dresing that could be made with olive oil.
If you are someone who is taking coconut oil as a supplement due to the proposed benefits of medium chain triglycerides (MCT), purchasing a MCT oil supplement is likely a better choice, since coconut oil has ~15% of fat from MCT versus nearly 100% from the supplement. We can discuss more about the benefits of MCT in a different post!
What questions do you have? Feel free to post. I'm happy to do a follow-up post!
Want to learn more about my obsession with coconut? Watch the video below!
1. Comparison of Effects of Long-Term Low-Fat vs High-Fat Diets on Blood Lipid Levels in Overweight or Obese Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Volume 113, Issue 12 , Pages 1640-1661, December 2013