During the last year or so we have started to use Coconut oil – not to be confused with coconut water or milk, which we also use sometimes. We also love fresh coconuts down in our beloved Belize! So when I saw this article by fooducate … well, I just had to share it!
Coconut oil is hot, and it’s not just because of its tropical origins. Vilified for decades for its extremely high saturated fat content, coconut oil has found many new fans in recent years.
The web is bursting with health claims touting coconut oil’s nutritional benefits, including aiding in weight loss, reducing cholesterol, and improving brain function. Unfortunately, the majority of these claims have not been sufficiently supported by scientific evidence.
The good news is that recent research has shown that the type of saturated fat in coconut oil may not be as bad for our health as some other types, and may even have some health benefits. We’ll get to this in a bit.
But first, a little background.
Coconut oil is derived from the meaty white insides of coconuts. It takes about one pound of coconut to produce 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
The main exporting countries are the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. Coconut oil makes up less than 3% of annual global vegetable oil production.
Coconut oil can be either Virgin or refined. Virgin coconut oil is usually expeller-pressed, meaning the oil is mechanically squeezed out of the coconut meat at room temperature. Refined oil is usually extracted using heat, chemicals and solvents that both increase the yield, and remove any coloration or odors.
Coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature, which makes it a popular alternative to butter or shortening. In some cases it is partially hydrogenated to make it solid at even higher temperatures, but the side effect is the creation of dangerous trans-fats.
But back to either virgin or refined coconut oil. It is comprised of 85-90% saturated fats. This is higher than butter (60%) or lard (40%). Reminder: saturated fat raises the levels of bad (LDL) blood cholesterol. A single tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat, which is 60% of the daily maximum allowance.
This may seem scary at first, because the age-old advice we have received is to limit our saturated fat intake.
This is where things get interesting. “Saturated Fats” is a term describing a group of different types of fatty acids. For example, coconut oil is comprised of 52% lauric acid, 19% myristic acid, 11% palmitic acid, 10% decanoic acid, and 9% caprylic acid – all saturated fatty acids.
There is emerging evidence that some fatty acids might be more harmful than others. Conversely, some may even have positive health benefits. For example, lauric acid has been shown in some studies to have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels, and even to actually increase good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Unlike many other vegetable oils, virgin coconut oil contains phenols, a type of antioxidant. Scientists are trying to figure out if these compounds are somehow related to the benign effects of coconut oil on blood cholesterol.
Another advantage of coconut oil compared to canola, soybean or corn oil is that it’s not genetically modified. Of course, olive oil is also GMO-free.
So, should you toss away all your other oils and switch exclusively to coconut oil? Probably not. But having a jar of virgin coconut oil handy at home for occasional use is probably not a bad idea.
We love a shake made from coconut milk and a scoop of Juice Plus+ Complete shake mix, shaken (not stirred!)