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Is Coconut Oil Truly Good For You? Learn The Real Facts Behind This Controversial Fat

There’s a lot of information available online about coconut oil and its health benefits. There are reports, for example, that it contains a different kind of fat that our bodies do not store, thus making it a potentially “healthy” oil. But, is there truth to this claim?

 

Search for coconut oil on the USDA National Nutrient Database website and you’ll find that the bulk of its calories come from saturated fat, with zero carbohydrates and little to zero vitamins and minerals. Saturated fat is not considered healthy as it has been linked to heart disease and stroke. Coconut oil actually contains more saturated fat than lard, in contrast to olive oil which only has 14% of its calories coming from saturated fat. It is difficult to reconcile these facts with the purported health benefits of coconut oil, including claims that it aids in weight loss despite its high calorie count.

Proponents of coconut oil claim that its medium chain fatty acids help improve glucose levels without raising bad cholesterol in the body. However, no long-term studies have been conducted to prove this claim. There are also no satisfactory studies to show that using coconut oil helps reduce the risk of diabetes or lowers blood sugar among diabetics. In fact, organizations like the American Heart Association and the USDA continue to lobby against the use of coconut oil.

Replacing calories from saturated fat with calories from simple sugars like rice or bread won’t make you any healthier. Instead, replace the saturated fat from coconut oil with unsaturated fat from nuts and olive oil, which can definitely make a difference in your health.

With coconuts prevalent in the Philippines, it’s no surprise that we use it in much of our cooking. If you plan to use coconut oil, I strongly advise choosing virgin coconut oil that has been extracted from the fruit of a fresh mature coconut without high temperatures or chemicals. Make sure you read the label and avoid those products that are partially hydrogenated as they may contain transfats that are harmful to health.

 

Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts

One tablespoon contains 121 calories.

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

 

Dr. Gerry is a Mayo Clinic-trained endocrinologist based in Cebu.

This article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 2, 2016

Photography by Paulo Valenzuela

Styling by Tina Concepcion Diaz

Cover image from pexels.com