What's the Deal with Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil: Friend or Foe?Image reprinted with permission from www.coconutandberries.com and www.healthyaperture.com

Tropical oils (namely coconut oil and palm kernel oil) continue to grow in popularity as they become more mainstream options in the grocery store.  If you're looking for cooking-stable alternatives to traditional butter and shortening, coconut oil may be a great option for you.

These are very high in saturated fats (at about 92% saturated fat), so they must be treated this way in terms of planning your overall diet.  In other words, continue to try to keep them to about 7% of total caloric intake to stay within recommended guidelines to help reduce risk of heart disease. Here is that 7% of total calories translated into quantity of coconut oil (just remember this is for the entire day!):

  • 1500 kcal diet = 12g saturated fats = 1tbsp (3 tsp), 117 calories
  • 1800 kcal diet = 14g saturated fats = 3.5 tsp, 136 calories
  • 2200 kcal diet = 17g saturated fats = 4.75 tsp, 166 calories
  • 2600 kcal diet = 20g saturated fats = 5.5 tsp, 195 calories

Now that said, coconut oil consists of largely medium chain fatty acids and has a higher content of lauric acid than most other oils.  What this means for you is that the fats are more easily digested, and actually have a big impact on increasing HDL cholesterol, or the good cholesterol.  Don't be fooled though, because they increase LDL, or the bad cholesterol, as well but to a lesser degree.  This can actually improve the ratio of your good:bad cholesterol on your lipid panel.

I think we are going to see a rise in consumption of these as consumers (as well as possibly the FDA!) continue to move away from relying on hydrogenated oils for shelf-stability.  We will also continue to see the conversation morph on this topic because as these tropical oils become more popular, more research studies regarding health effects will be conducted, and more health organizations are going to add tropical oils to their formal recommendations.

My position: Friend when consumed in appropriate amounts.  Yeah, that moderation thing again.

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And please click on the photo to be taken to a recipe for Apple and Raisin Oaty Breakfast Cookies.  Recipe discovered by clicking through the amazing site Healthy Aperture.