We all thought coconut oil was really heavy and some years ago, then suddenly the wellness community jumped on the coco bandwagon - at that point, EVERYTHING was doused in, contained, laced with, was cooked in and had coconut oil in it.
Everything. People swore this was the good fat of the century and that you should be cooking with it, eating it and putting it on your hair and skin. Kourtney Kardashian and Gweyneth Palthrow endorsed coconut oil like there was no other superfood in comparison. But then new studies came out that halted such coconut oil fanatanism. So what’s the verdict? Yay or nay? And where does this oil come from? Coconut oil is pressed from the meat of coconuts and have been used in Africa, South America and Asia for centuries. In fact, in the 40’s coconut oil was the main source of non-dairy fat in the US. What’s important to note is what it consists of - which is high in saturated fat (about 92%). Saturated fats is what gives the oil a firm texture at cold or room temperature.
Then a Harvard professor called coconut oil “pure poison” in a viral video that’s now been removed and people were once again left confused. But before throwing out all the coco you own, hang on a minute. We’re here to say this - when coconut oil was on its way to superstardom due to the hype, that was when the buzz should have been curtailed. Why? Because there was no actual data to support the hype, no proof that makes coconut oil a gold medalist. It’s just like any other common oil. Now back to saturated fats.
Are saturated fats good or bad? Too much saturated fats is not recommended. Limited saturated fats is especially important if you have cardiovascular diseases. But if you don’t have heart diseases, regular saturated fat in your diet is fine. What’s important to note is that coconut oil has different types of saturated fats. The main one present is lauric acid. While lauric acid raises unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol, it also boosts beneficial (HDL) cholesterol. However recent reports have also shown that HDL (beneficial cholesterol) does not affect heart disease risk, so we should actually only count the LDL. What this means in layman is that lauric acid is a negative for us. This doesn’t mean stay away from it completely, it simply means use it as you would virgin olive oil i.e. in moderation.
In terms of cooking, we suggest using olive oil over coconut oil as coconut oil contains about six times the amount of saturated fat, nearly meeting your daily recommended limit. Proponents of coconut oil will play devil's advocate and name drop antioxidants. This is a claim we can't refute; coconut oil is rich in phytochemicals that have healthy antioxidant properties however due to the large amount of saturated fat also present, any beneficial effects of antioxidants is unfortunately outweighed.
It’s important to remember we don’t consume nutrients; we consume food. So while coconut oil is neither the superstar nor the devil, there is no need to avoid it completely. We simply say use carefully and mindfully in moderation. And if you’re ever feeling indulgent, go crazy for coco by coating your hair and scalp, slathering your skin and even oil pull.