Cooking with coconut oil is something that has grown in popularity in recent years. Many people trying to be healthier find that coconut oil can add a nice bit of extra taste to the recipe. The only problem is that coconut oil is not a healthier alternative to the likes of olive or vegetable oil. In this blog, we’re going to examine how coconut oil became known as a healthy product, and how healthy it really is.
Marie-Pierre St-Onge is a professor of nutrition at Columbia University and in 2003, she and her students published two papers on the health benefits of medium-chain fatty acids. Specifically, the studies looked at whether or not these acids could help burn fat faster for people who are on a diet. The study showed that these acids could in fact help dieting people burn fat, and the study was then used as proof that coconut oil, which contains medium-chain fatty acid, is healthy.
However, this study was not conducted using coconut oil. In fact, it was carried out using a custom-made product that was 100% medium-chain fatty acids. Most coconut oil, on the other hand, has just 14% of those acids. Not only does the misinterpretation of this study mean that coconut oil is not as healthy as it is made out to be, but it also means people overlook the other health factors surrounding it.
Another reason coconut oil is often cited as a healthier choice is that it can raise your level of HDL cholesterol, or your “good cholesterol”. This is true, but it is a fact that has been taken completely out of context. Firstly, all fat in your diet will raise your HDL levels. Admittedly, coconut oil seems to be better at this than some of the alternatives, but it also has its drawbacks.
In addition to raising your HDL levels, coconut oil will also raise your levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol”. In fact, coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is more than butter, beef, or lard. Olive oil, the product coconut oil is so often replacing, is just 14% saturated fat, and both raises HDL and lowers LDL, making it a healthier alternative overall.
So despite the fact that coconut oil has been billed as a healthy alternative to the more commonplace oils, this opinion seems to be based on two 15 year-old unrepresentative studies, and a few facts taken out of context. In reality, if you’re trying to be healthy, it’s best to stick to things like olive, vegetable, or soybean oil.