If you have seen any of the latest nutrition news items there has been quite some bad press for coconut oil. There are many claimed health benefits, such as immune boosting properties and weight loss help. What we can say for sure is that it has a high smoke point which is great for cooking at higher temperatures and this is also true of other saturated fats like butter and ghee.
There have been several small research studies linking coconut oil to weight loss, due to the fats being described as “medium chain”. Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. But what’s interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives “good” HDL cholesterol a boost. Fat in the diet, whether it’s saturated or unsaturated, tends to nudge HDL levels up, but coconut oil seems to be especially potent at doing so. These are not all yet fully conclusive.
*(College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and New York Obesity Research Center, St Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital, New York, NY 10025, USA.)
It is important to remember that coconut oil is almost all saturated fat (90%) and so if consumed alongside a diet which is also mainly high in saturated fat, you would probably be taking in above the U.S.A. government guidelines of less than 10% of your overall calories per day. This recommendation is based on scientific evidence that saturated fat is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, this would not apply to moderate amounts, well under that limit and with a regular, healthful diet.
So, there is nothing wrong or “bad” about consuming coconut oil in moderate amounts in conjunction with a healthy diet. It is wonderful for cooking and flavouring but should also not be viewed as a “superfood” which can cure more, the more you eat. Putting globs of it in your smoothie or eating it with a spoon out of the jar is definitely not recommended!
So when cooking, remember to switch up your cooking oils. Olive and avocado oils are great for cooking at lower temperatures….and don’t forget that they have proven heart healthy benefits. A small amount of coconut oil is just fine to use for cooking at higher temperatures.