Our Nutritionist Responds to Reader Comments on Coconut Oil
We're breaking down your main assertions, and giving you our most well-informed responses.
Last week, a bit of news gave us the chance to speak our truth (and it felt good!): Coconut oil is one health trend we’ve been ready to wave goodbye to since it first starting trending.
We've never really been sold on the benefits of the sat-fat heavy oil. While it's okay (moderation in everything!) for adding a touch of flavor (to waffles, say), using it all the time just isn't a great idea. And we were glad when the American Heart Association agreed.
Boy, did you have #feelings. Some of you agreed, some disagreed, and many of you had thought-provoking points to make. We read all the comments you posted—and loved hearing from you (#truth)! So when we saw this:
...we thought "yaasss," let’s do it! We decided to give our Director of Nutrition, Brierley Horton MS, RD, the opportunity to take some of the most popular or thought-provoking comments (all edited here, for clarity and concision) and offer her response. Thank you all for your comments—and keep them coming!
BH: Great point, Karen. Genetics and family history play a significant role in your risk for developing heart disease, or other heart-related conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. But they're not the only factors, which is why it's important to eat well—especially if you have a history of heart disease in your family!
That... that's true then. If you're not consuming it, the saturated fat concerns don't apply. And some staffers and editors here say that’s their favorite way to use coconut oil—so by all means, enjoy!
This is a great question! Both canned coconut milk and refrigerated coconut milk beverages are lower in calories and saturated fat than coconut oil.
One tablespoon of canned coconut milk has about 30 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat. A cup of refrigerated coconut milk beverage has 20 calories and about 1 ½ grams of saturated fat. A tablespoon of coconut oil? It has 120 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.
That they do, William, that they do.
But their paper was based on science, written by well-respected leaders in the medical and nutrition science industries, and published in a peer-reviewed journal. It wasn’t written by investors, sponsors, or donors. And they have a vested interest in providing information that will best help Americans decrease their risk of heart disease—there's no reason to think that's not what they're doing here.
We haven’t taken inventory of all of the AHA’s recommendations, but they do have recommendations for a healthy lifestyle and diet on their site. But we absolutely agree that the occasional treat is a must, even in the healthiest of diets.
Eat the whole coconut (or at least the parts that are edible!) and you’ll get some fiber and protein with the fat, but eat just the coconut oil and all you’ll get is fat.
Eat an apple and you’ll get fiber and good-for-you polyphenols. Drink the juice and you’re just getting (natural) sugar. So your analogy that coconut oil is like apple juice is fair, in that the whole food will give you more of the good stuff.
You also make another good point—it doesn’t matter where the saturated fat comes from—be it from coconut oil, a hamburger, a pastry, or ice cream—your body treats it the same way.
Erico—bravo—for sticking to oil pulling. Seriously. I tried it and couldn’t hack it.
You might be giving coconut oil a little too much credit for being in the best health of your life, though. The fact that you're cutting back on processed foods, salt, and refined carbohydrates probably plays a bigger role there.
Oookay... Sure! I’m seeing a trend here: coconut oil makes a good beauty product. Have at it!
#Sorrynotsorry, Melanie, but no.
Canola oil is a healthy oil choice. It’s an unsaturated, or “healthy,” fat. It’s one of the few oils that’s rich in the omega-3 fat ALA. And research shows it may help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Plus it has a relatively high smoke point, so it's great for cooking with!
Oh, Susan, I couldn’t agree more. I’m sending you a virtual high five.
MCTs—short for medium chain triglycerides—have been shown to have some benefits: one study found they slightly boosted calorie burn, another found they increased hormones that quell your appetite and make you feel full, and other studies have looked at MCTs and diabetes management, exercise endurance, and brain function in people with Alzheimer’s.
But, to be honest, the pool of research is still on the small side. And it seems like most of the research has been done with MCT oil supplements, not coconut oil.
There is research, however, on coconut oil and heart health. Unfortunately it's pretty mixed: The tropical oil was found to raise “good” HDL cholesterol yes, but it also boosts your “bad” LDL cholesterol.
I think it’s better that you say this, Ruis—not me. But I’ll loan you my soapbox.
Aaaand, I rest my case. Thank you, Fanny!