Coconut oil has certainly made its debut lately on our grocery shelves, in recipes, and it’s all over social media. It
is the new trendy healthy fat of choice. Cook with it, use it for you skin… this oil seems like the new greasy answer to all.
Coconut oil comes from pressing the fat from the inside of this giant nut. About 84% of its calories come from saturated fat. To compare, 14% of olive oil’s calories and 63% of butter are from saturated fat. This is what makes coconut oil solid at room temperature, have a long shelf life, and can be cooked at high temperatures. In the summer it is liquid in your cabinet and in the winter, it is solid. Most will attest when it is a liquid, a little goes a long way.
The tri factor
The difference is that coconut oil fat is made up of triglycerides that our bodies handle differently than those found in traditional vegetable oils. The triglycerides are turned into ketones in the body. This oil contains MCT which is a fat that our bodily can readily break down and use for energy. Other than glucose (which comes from carbohydrates) ketones are the only other source of energy our body can use.
If following the standards, we are to consume no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. That’s the amount of 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
Pros & Cons
Like most elements of life, there are pros and cons to the consumption of this oil. For example, fans of coconut oil point to studies that suggest the fat in coconut could boost your HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. This means compared to other oils, it is less bad for your heart health than the saturated fat in animal-based foods like cheese and steak or products containing trans fats.
But it also raises your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.
A quick cholesterol lesson:
LDL -- helps form plaque that blocks your arteries
HDL -- helps remove LDL
So all in all, we want to get our fat from sources like nuts and avocado, not necessarily oils. There is also coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut flour, all on the market now. Coconut is very popular on the ketogenic diet because it is high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and won’t take a person out of ketosis. This helps one stay in the range of the appropriate amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat they are to consume on this diet. Paleo also advocates for coconut oil use.
Coconut oil is also great for topical skin purposes. It can help alleviate dry skin and add moisture.
We do need healthy fats as part of a well balanced eating regime (dare I say the word “diet”), but in the right amount and form is what can make all the difference whether this fat is burned or finds a home on your thighs or waist.