Saturday, June 24, 2017

Coconut oil and health myths

Is coconut oil healthy?  So many people think so.  So many students in my class have told me they use coconut oil as someone recommended it to them as being good for their health.  Not surprising since the NY Times reported that 72% of Americans think coconut oil is healthy.   Even more surprising is that 37% of nutritionists thought coconut oil was healthy.  A recent article in USA Today highlighted on MSN probably says it best as the title of their article is:  Coconut oil is about as healthy as beef fat or butter .

What does the American Heart Association say about coconut oil?
The go to place for information on heart health is the American Heart Association, at  There are so many misconceptions about coconut oil, the American Heart Association has released a report advising against coconut oil.   

Why is coconut oil bad for you?
Coconut oil raises your bad, LDL cholesterol.  Why?  Probably because it is high in saturated fats like butter and the fat in beef or bacon.  So, saturated, that 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat.  A highly concentrated source of saturated fat.   One tablespoon of coconut oil provides 11 grams of saturated fat.  How much saturated fat should you have in a day?  You should limit saturated fat to 13 grams a day according to the American Heart Association.  So, it is easy to go over the limit of saturated fat with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is even more saturated than butter (63%), beef fat (50%) or pork lard (39%) fat.  Since coconut oil raises your bad cholesterol, which is a cause of heart disease, and has no good benefits, the American Heart Association advises against coconut oil.   

Why do some people think coconut oil is healthy?
So many people have been duped into thinking coconut oil is healthy.  If someone recommends coconut oil to you, don’t listen.  The lead author of the American Heart Association report, Frank Sacks, told USA Today, he has no idea why so many people think coconut is healthy.  Some people might think coconut oil promotes weight loss.  There are studies that show medium chain triglycerides rev up the metabolism and thus might promote weight loss.  But the study that found this out didn’t use coconut  oil but an oil specially designed for the research study. 
Is there a healthy use for coconut oil?
My daughter has a great use for coconut oil.  She uses it on her dog, as it makes his coat smoother and silkier.  Some people use coconut oil as a skin moisturizer and it can be found in hair conditioners.
“You can put in on your body, but don’t put in in your body,” Sacks said.    

What other oils should one avoid?
I tell my students to avoid tropical oils, coconut oil and palm oil. Like coconut oil, palm oil is high in saturated fat.

What oils are better for your health and your heart?
Olive oil is a good, heart healthy choice.  Or choose from a number of polyunsaturated oils like corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil.  Read about healthy cooking oils and watch a Healthy Cooking Oils 101 Video  at  The video describes which oils are heart healthy and which oils, like coconut oil, will help clog your arteries.

So, if you have some coconut oil in your home, use it as a lotion on your body or use it on your dog for softer skin and softer hair.  If someone recommends you use coconut oil in smoothies or in cooking, refer them to this blog or to so they can learn why coconut oil is not a heart healthy choice.