Coconut oil. It's been toted as a miracle product, doing everything from helping your heart and memory to actually preventing illness. It became the healthier replacement for "bad" ingredients in your baking and cooking. It was the ying to butter’s yang. You loved that you could finally have your cake and eat it, too.
Yet, as often happens with quick health fads, they might have run ahead of the science and believed all of the health “gurus” before the verdict was in. According to the latest research, things aren't looking to 'sunny' for coconut oil's future...
It all comes down to this: throw out the coconut oil!
Wait, what? But what about all the benefits people said it had for the body? So glad you asked!
The lists you see praising coconut oils benefits? Not exactly true. Scientists actually looked at the facts and the studies, and what did they find?
1: It Can Lead to Weight Gain
There are 117 calories in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil! An article on Mayo Clinic's website even claims that "coconut oil has more saturated fat than lard
does". More fat than lard! In small doses, this might not be very significant. But if you consistently are using coconut oil, those calories will act like all other calories the body is trying to process. If you are putting in more than you are working off, those extra calories have to go somewhere. So the body stores the calories as fat. In an attempt to lose weight, you may have been looking for healthier switches to your diet. But without realizing it, you may have actually added more calories by adding in coconut oil!
2: No Proven Health Benefits
In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this year, it says that "there is no evidence of any health benefit of coconut oil". That statement may come as a shock. You have probably read countless lists on the many benefits of coconut oil and truly hoped that the claims were true. But in reality, those claims appear to be nothing more than wishful thinking. The evidence is in and it isn't looking favorable for coconut oil. Unfortunately, it gets worse...
3: It's Been Officially Labeled 'Harmful'
That same study was even more alarming when it said that coconut oil showed evidence of harm, and should be avoided altogether.
It turns out that between being a saturated fat, and being high in total fat content, the consensus is that coconut oil should be kept far from your dinner plate...
4: Not Enough Research
Unfortunately, too many claims have been made about coconut oil without any research to back it up. Could there be even greater health risks for a person who consistently cooks with coconut oil? Sadly, that is something that science can't tell us yet. Which is probably a large part of why scientist say to avoid it. There is no good understanding of the health complications that overuse of coconut oil might have on the body.
5: It Could Actually Hurt Your Heart
Those claims you find over and over again on the internet saying that coconut oil is amazing for your heart, that it improves heart health, and it keeps you from getting heart disease? Not so. The problem is that coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat
. That's the kind of fat that you want to avoid, the kind that raises bad levels of cholesterol, also known as LDL. Bad cholesterol is something that you need to be aware of in every food you eat. Your body thrives on good fats, but its the bad fat, like saturated fat, that in excess can lead to all sorts of health issues. So although coconut oil may have some potential good uses, the truth is that it is still a saturated fat that has more potential to harm you, than keep you healthy.
Oh, no! I use coconut oil! What should I do?!
Olive Oil to the Rescue
Don't panic. Thankfully, there is a much healthier option that you probably already have on hand. The best replacement for coconut oil is olive oil, which time and again has been shown to be a favorite among health professionals for its actual heart health benefits. As the Journal article mentioned above explains, "there is first-level scientific evidence of the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil". Real science giving you real results. Still not sure if you want to make the switch? Here are a few reasons that might convince you:
1.) Longer Life Expectancy
Olive oil plays a major role in the Mediterranean diet and studies, like the one by Clinical Interventions in Aging
, have shown that people living in regions that follow this diet also tend to have longer life expectancies, especially when compared to people in places like the United States. As the article describes, when studies were done to see how life expectancy changed as people shifted to a Mediterranean diet, there was up to 30% improvement! Many of these studies were focused on people 55 or older, yet this shows the amazing affect this diet has on life expectancy.
2.) Improves the Mind
Olive oil contains oleocanthal, which the Journal of Molecular Sciences explains helps the proteins in your brain to push out the abnormal proteins that lead to alzheimer's disease
. The study explained that oleocanthal acts like ibuprofen in the body. This means that it has anti-inflammatory properties. Because many of the diseases that your body suffers from are directly related to inflammation, olive oil offers a surprising hand. It not only has the ability to reorganize the brain, but it can also improve joint degeneration and lower the chances of having many other types of illnesses.
3.) Good Fat for a Good Heart
Another great reason to enjoy olive oil is that it is considered a monounsaturated fatty acid. This is the kind of fat that you need to be including in your diet, that improves cholesterol levels, which in turn leads to healthier hearts and less chance of developing heart disease or potentially having a stroke.
There are actually three types of fat. There is:
- saturated (think butter, cheese, and coconut oil),
- monounsaturated (like in olive oil),
- and polyunsaturated fats (like sunflower oil and walnuts).
Cholesterol on its own isn't bad for you. Actually, it's something the body naturally produces. It helps to keep your body functioning properly. But you keep in mind that there are two kinds of cholesterol. The good kind is boosted by eating foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This type of cholesterol helps to break down the plaque that builds up in your arteries.
Wait! Where does that plaque come from? Well, that's where the bad cholesterol comes in. When you eat saturated fat, like coconut oil, it increases the bad cholesterol which leads to plaque build up in your arteries. And the scary thing is that when that plaque builds up enough, you end up with heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Not good!
You need to be careful about the foods you are choosing to put into your body. While coconut oil might be enjoying the spotlight lately, the reality is that it may be a very unhealthy choice for your diet. ... There simply hasn't been enough research to know the full scope of the affects coconut oil can have on your heart to safely suggest it. Knowing that saturated fats are directly linked to all sorts of health complications, it should make anyone weary to give coconut oil a consistent place on the cupboard shelf.
So there you have it. Coconut oil may have plenty of other good uses, but making it part of your healthy eating shouldn't be one of them.