Coconut Oil: No Cholesterol To Worry About And Its Good For You
After years of worrying about cholesterol and saturated fats in your diet, you might have felt like consuming coconut oil could be like a dietary deathtrap. Youd be happily eating it, only to clog up your arteries and risk an early demise.
But now you know better.
Now you know that not only does coconut oil have no cholesterol at all – its saturated fats can provide significant health benefits.
So go ahead and eat it.
Add coconut oil to a smoothie.
And know that while you consume coconut oil, youre doing your body and your health a big favor.
Time to stock up!
What Are The Cons Of Coconut Oil
Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke As previously said, coconut oil has more than that in one serving, making it simple to consume too much saturated fat in your diet when using coconut oil. Excessive consumption of saturated fat can result in elevated cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It may also cause diabetes since the liver converts some of the fat into sugar. At high levels of consumption, it may also cause obesity.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Therefore, you should use it in cooking, not for eating out of the jar with a spoon. Or, if you want to be fancy, you can melt it first before using it in recipes.
Its high melting point makes it ideal for baking. However, since it’s solid at room temperature, you need to either use a double boiler or bake items separately and then combine them later. Otherwise, you might end up with half-baked goods!
For general health benefits, eat about 2 tablespoons per day. A few studies show that people who eat more than this amount experience increased levels of lipid molecules in their blood. Too much lipid content in your blood may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
However, other studies have shown that neither consuming too much nor too little coconut oil is harmful. It all depends on how you use it.
Which Is Better For Cholesterol: Olive Oil Or Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains far more saturated fat than olive oil, with one tablespoon containing around 13 grams of saturated fat compared to 1 gram of olive oil. Saturated fat has not been related to improved heart health. Indeed, research suggests that it may lead to a rise in LD cholesterol, which raises your risk of heart disease. Olive oil contains more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat and research has shown it to be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
As well as being high in fat, both oils are also high in calories – olive oil at about 90 per tablespoon vs. coconut oil at about 105 per tablespoon. That’s why it’s important to use them in moderation. If you are looking to reduce your cholesterol level, we recommend adding some nuts and seeds to your diet instead, which are low in fat but high in protein and fiber. One ounce of almonds, for example, only has 2 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein.
Almonds are a great source of calcium too, which is important for bone health. Other good sources include milk products and tofu.
So, while coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it can be heated without becoming toxic like butter. And although it does contain saturated fat, this isn’t any bad thing if used in moderation. It is best to avoid frying with coconut oil as the smoke from the oil when heated will irritate your lungs, but baking with it is safe.
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What Does The Evidence Say
Research on MCTs cannot be applied to coconut oil
Research on medium-chain triglycerides is widely quoted as supporting use of coconut oil. However, coconut oil only contains a very small amount of medium-chain fatty acids. The main fatty acid is lauric acid, which acts like a long-chain fatty acid in the body.
Evidence in humans is lacking
Research in animals is also widely quoted. This type of research can help build theories , but these must be tested in humans before we can draw any meaningful conclusions. There are only a small number of research trials on coconut oil in humans. Overall, they show that coconut oil raises all types of cholesterol in the blood.
Coconut oil is not typically eaten in the Pacific
Epidemiological research from the Pacific Islands is widely quoted as supporting use of coconut oil. However, this research is on squeezed coconut milk/cream rather than coconut oil. Coconut oil was typically used as a hair conditioner or moisturiser rather than eaten. Furthermore, the traditional Pacific diet was far different to that in New Zealand, based largely on fresh vegetables and fruit, seafood, and with no processed or junk foods.
Is Frying With Coconut Oil Bad For You
When used correctly, coconut oil is an excellent choice . Researchers demonstrate that even when deep frying continuously for 8 hours at 365F , its quality maintains that level. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil help the oil maintain its high emulsifying oil-density, making it more heat-resistant than other oils.
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The Saturated Fats In Coconut Oil
Im going to get a little bit science-y here, so bear with me.
About 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are made up of what are called medium chain triglycerides or MCT for short.
As the name suggests, MCT oil contains medium-length chains of fats. Because the fat chains are shorter than long-chain triglycerides, MCTs are more easily digested. Their rapid absorption into your body means theyre quickly available for your body – including your brain – to use as fuel.
There are four types of MCTs: capronic acid , caprylic acid , capric acid , and lauric acid . The ratio of MCTs in coconut is highly in favor of lauric acid , giving it powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Which brings me to the major health benefits of coconut oil.
How Much Mct Oil Should You Take
Its best to take MCT oil spread out throughout the day, in doses of about one tablespoon per meal . One tablespoon is generally about 15 mL of MCT oil.
Consuming too much MCT oil too quickly can lead to digestive symptoms including stomach pain, diarrhea, and bloating, so its best to work your way up more slowly.
Many people want to know how to use MCT oil without getting this common stomach discomfort. It often happens when we add a larger amount of any fat to our diet that we are used to. These digestive system issues can be easily resolved by slowly increasing your dose of MCT oil over time.
Try just a teaspoon in your morning coffee for a week or two and see how you do. If you do not have any digestive symptoms, then increase your intake by Â¼ Â½ of a teaspoon each week until you reach your desired amount. Dont go over about 1 tablespoon per serving.
When using MCT oil as a dietary supplement, the daily dose should not exceed 100 mL per day. Seven tablespoons a day is the limit for digestive tolerance in most people .
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May Cause Mild Diarrhea
Some individuals taking virgin coconut oil experienced mild diarrhea during the first week. Other related symptoms included stomach ache and vomiting. These symptoms resolved after the first week, and none of these impacted the daily activities of the individuals .
To minimize these symptoms, you may need to first consume the oil in smaller amounts and then gradually work your way up to the required quantity.
Health Benefits For Heart Disease Are Still Unsupported
When a friend told me about the wonders of coconut oil, it sounded a bit like a Saturday Night Live sketch.
Its a health food. Its a skin conditioner. You can use it in your hair. Its even great as a natural wood polish for your furniture! But wait, theres more! You can use coconut oil to improve your IQ and shrink your bunions!
Okay, I made up those last two, but I was easily able to find more than 100 recommended uses for coconut oil. Indeed, it seems as though everywhere you look, someone is singing its praises.
Maybe its the way that coconut oil evokes the image of swaying palm trees in a tropical paradise. Or, maybe its that the bright white color suggests an all-natural purity thats appealing in a world full of highly processed consumer goods. Or maybe were all just looking for the next big thing in healthy foods, all-natural beauty products, or innovative jet fuel .
Whatever the explanation, coconut oil does sound good. But is it too good to be true? I wont comment on its usefulness to polish furniture or power a 747, but I am interested in the health claims.
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Potential Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has properties that can help treat many different health conditions, from hair and skin damage to poor cognitive function and metabolism. Here is more information about the potential health benefits of coconut oil:
Lauric acid is a type of saturated fat found in coconut oil, and in fact, this oil contains the highest levels of lauric acid in a natural source. Studies have shown that lauric acid travels to the liver and is converted into energy instead of being stored in your body as fat, which could potentially help in weight loss. However, more information is needed to confirm that coconut oil specifically contributes to weight loss and improved metabolism.
Improved Skin and Hair Health
Many people are now incorporating coconut oil in products for cosmetic reasons, for their hair, skin, nails, and teeth. The substance has been found to be a safe and effective moisturizer for conditions like xerosis, or rough, dry skin. In addition, coconut oil can decrease protein loss in your hair, improving your hair health.
Boosts Good Cholesterol Levels
Improved Brain Function
What Else Can It Do
Theres a claim that coconut oil can reduce the mental losses from Alzheimers disease by providing an alternate energy source for your brain. But right now the evidence is mostly word-of-mouth and not from research.
Coconut oil does have antioxidants, compounds that may help reduce the risk of disease. But Young says youll likely get a bigger antioxidant bang for your buck from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
You may also see coconut butter coconut flesh thats been pureed into a creamy spread. It has more fiber than the oil. Coconut flour is another higher-fiber option that you can use when baking.
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Can Vegetable Oil Be Substituted For Coconut Oil
Yes, you can substitute vegetable oil instead of coconut oil in recipes, but it wont produce the same rich vanilla flavoring that coconut oil does.
However, vegetable oil is a lot more unhealthy than coconut oil so its best to use it sparingly for the odd recipe and not as a permanent substitute in your kitchen cupboards Vegetable oil has a more neutral flavoring than coconut oil so may alter the taste of recipes that require coconut oil as an ingredient.
Vegetable oil and coconut oil may have different smoke points depending on whether you use virgin coconut oil or refined coconut oil, so you may need to alter your cooking temperatures if youre going to use vegetable oil as a substitute.
As coconut oil comes in a solid form in its natural state, you may need to alter the ratio of vegetable oil you add to a recipe as that is in a liquid form in its natural state.
Virgin Coconut Oil For Heart Health Studies
However, there are multiple claims about the use of virgin coconut oil for heart health but unfortunately, most of them are not supported by robust research or evidence. A few published studies reported that consuming coconut oil can significantly increase total cholesterol levels. This was in comparison to the effects of safflower oil, soybean oil, palm oil, corn oil, and olive oil.
A few other studies have affirmed that virgin coconut oil intake is associated with increased HDL. And high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is inversely associated with a lower risk of CVD and cardiovascular mortality.
Another research revealed that VCO is more effective in lowering lipid levels than plain coconut oil. It resulted in reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL. While showing a significant increase in HDL cholesterol. This property of virgin coconut oil was attributed to the biologically active polyphenol components present.
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How Much Coconut Oil Should You Consume
Coconut oil can be used for both baking and cooking. Since coconut imparts such wonderful fragrance, it has been used to cook tropical style dishes and prepare exotic drinks such as coconut milk and citrus juice, which are often so nourishing. If you are consuming coconut oil on a regular basis, try not to push it to more than 3 and a half teaspoons. Taking more would be harmful.
May Increase Heart Disease Risk
Studies suggest that replacing coconut oil with unsaturated fats can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease .
According to the American Heart Association, consuming fewer saturated fats and more unsaturated fats is the best way to prevent heart disease. Coconut oil, being higher in saturated fats, may affect the heart if taken in excess .
Though coconut oil also contains unsaturated fat, there is no research that shows it mitigating the ill effects of saturated fat.
Coconut oil contains more bad fat than beef or butter . As per a New Zealand study, coconut oil increases bad cholesterol to a greater extent than unsaturated plant oils .
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Coconut Oil And Saturated Fat: Clearing Up The Confusion
This post is available in: Spanish
Coconut oil has emerged as a major source for debate about diet, saturated fat and how much of this potentially artery-clogging substance is too much.
Coconut oil had been considered a healthy option by most American and many dietitians, at least up until a few months ago when the American Heart Association concluded officially that it raises your bad cholesterol, or LDL, and advised against its use as a regular dietary or cooking aid.
Whats the big problem with coconut oil? For starters, it happens to be the only plant-based food that contains saturated fat, a potential contributor to heart disease which is found in many popular foods of the American diet. Saturated fats are most often found in animal products such as beef, pork, and chicken. Leaner animal products, such as chicken breast or pork loin, often have less saturated fat.
This one plant-based food has the proponents and components of saturated fat, explains Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Baptist Health South Florida. What does saturated fat do in our bodies? It actually can stick because its a solid. So what does that end up doing? It ends up clogging our arteries.
Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
So whats behind the school-of-thought reversal?
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Coconut Oil And The Boost In Hdl Good Cholesterol
Image Credit: / Pixabay. This image has been modified.
The effects of coconut oil were compared to butter and tallow. Even if virgin coconut oil and other saturated fats raise LDL bad cholesterol, isnt that countered by the increase in HDL good cholesterol?
According to the experience and wisdom of 200 of the countrys leading experts in cardiovascular diseases, in a report representing 29 national medical organizations, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, weve known for nearly half a century that coconut oil is one of the most potent agents for elevating serum cholesterol level. As I discuss in my video Coconut Oil and the Boost in HDL Good Cholesterol,studies showing coconut oil elevates cholesterol date back to 1955, when it was first shown experimentally that switching someone from coconut oil to soybean oil could drop cholesterol from around 200 down to 150, as you can see at 0:39 in my video.
Coconut oil can significantly raise cholesterol levels within hours of consumption. In fact, a significant increase in blood cholesterol was found within hours of eating a slice of cake made from either coconut oil , but not from the same cake made from flaxseed oil.
I love topics that give me an excuse to talk about scientific concepts more generally, like various study designs in my video Prostate Cancer and Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk or my discussion of direct versus indirect risk factors in this one.
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Does Coconut Oil Lower Cholesterol
While its saturated fats may not be as bad as others, can the high percentage of calories attributed to these medium-chain triglycerides really help lower cholesterol? Some studies have shown that adding coconut oil to your diet can help boost your HDL cholesterolknown as the good cholesterolmaking it better for heart health than other oils. However, it has also been found to raise LDL or bad cholesterolthe kind that causes plaque buildup in your arteries.
In essence, coconut oil may have a neutral effect on heart health as it seems to raise both good and bad cholesterol, so no, it does not actively lower your cholesterol levels, though it does help promote HDL production.