Coconut oil is perhaps one of the more divisive fats/oils out there, because the mainstream puts it at the very top of the “bad fats” list, while the traditional foodie folks seek it out as the healthiEST of fats (or so it feels at times, but maybe it’s because we’re engaging in an uphill battle).
Is Coconut Oil Bad for You?
Some sources say so. Mostly if you believe that saturated fats are bad for you, then coconut oil, being 90% saturated fat, must therefore be bad for you. But what if you believe the evidence that saturated fat is good for you? Coconut oil is a hands-down winner.
- I was sad to see coconut oil listed as the “most heart-unhealthy oils” at Ask Dr. Sears, a pediatrician whom I idolize on all other fronts. It is also listed on my mother-in-law’s heart literature from the hospital after her double bypass this summer – under “Unhealthy Fats, Avoid” of course. All “tropical oils” meet this fate because of their saturated fat. This article from Associated Content lists coconut oil as a “dangerous unhealthy cooking oil” right along with hydrogenated oils!
- Evitamins.com cites some research studies with coconut oil that have pretty negative results as far as LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol, but they list sources of coconut oil as “processed foods, including fried foods, crackers, desserts, candies, whipped topping, and non-dairy creamer.” Of course those sources, probably hydrogenated, aren’t going to do anyone any good!
- A nicely balanced article at US News and World Report states that coconut oil has not been shown to promote weight loss in human studies, although it has in animals. It has had proven positive impact on HDL, your good cholesterol, and the article gives it a “needs more research” vote at the end. MSN Health and Fitness also examines both sides of the issue and concludes that virgin coconut oil “may be a harmless, neutral food.” In that light, if you’re looking for a substitute for shortening or margarine or vegetable oil, what I would call, toxic, dangerous foods, coconut oil seems to be a great stand-in!
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is, in my opinion, the most unique “oil” I’ve ever encountered. Solid or liquid at room temperature depending on your climate, it can take the place of almost any fat or oil in your kitchen (but don’t worry about a monopoly or overthrow, coconut oil is very humble).
Here’s a short list of why I’m using coconut oil in MY kitchen:
- very heat stable for frying, sauteeing (also nice bonus of a 2-year shelf life)
- antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial properties (like garlic – great this time of year!!). Evidence that it can kill cold and flu viruses.
- fights yeast infections/Candida
- lauric acid – a component of breastmilk, so rare that almost all formula has to use coconut oil just to get it in there! (You can also get it in quality whole milk/cream.)
- Lauric acid builds immunities and promotes heart health and brain development.
- Inhibits cancer growth
- Great for mother’s milk supply
- medium-chain triglycerides are absorbed directly from the small intestine for quick energy.
- promotes strong bones
For more on how to cook traditional foods and use traditional fats, see GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals.
Is Coconut Oil a Miracle Food?
A lot of people seem to swear by coconut oil for everything and rely on it as a miracle food. I’ll review the Tropical Traditions book Virgin Coconut Oil this week, which is filled with such people. I’ve really enjoyed cooking with coconut oil, and I add it to my oatmeal and smoothies sometimes, but when I think about it as a staple food and a “does-everything” gem, I always remember this: coconuts are not grown in every part of the world.
If God intended us to subsist on coconuts, He wouldn’t have made them so temperature-exclusive. I don’t think coconut oil should be your exclusive fat, but there are diets that instruct the users to take a Tbs of coconut oil before every meal and have you cooking everything with coconuts. I’m happy to order my coconut oil with the help of UPS, but traditional societies wouldn’t always have had access to coconut oil. That being said, when Dr. Weston A. Price studied traditional cultures and their diets, he found that some tribes traveled far and wide to obtain fish. Not everyone has fish, not everyone has coconut oil. Did traditional Europeans and early Americans have access to coconut oil via trading?
I say, everything in moderation. If you’d like to try some, click here to win it! Think about what you would be getting rid of if you switch to coconut oil. It’s better than canola oil, corn oil, or Crisco, that’s for sure! What to do with it? See my coconut oil FAQ list and How-to page. Where to buy it? My best deal is HERE, and watch Tropical Traditions for free shipping HERE.
If you’ve missed any of the Fat Full Fall series, you’re missing out. Check out the master list here.
What are others saying about Coconut Oil?
- The Nourishing Gourmet: Very Comprehensive Roundup of Coconut Oil’s Health Benefits (if you’re curious for more info, this is the must-read)
- Food Renegade: Fat is Where It’s At
- Kelly the Kitchen Kop: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- Food Renegade: How to Lose Weight Fast with Coconut Oil
Tropical Traditions has a page of research on fats and oils, too. Find it here.
I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.