Sifting through all the information available on coconut oil is probably one of the most confusing and frustrating things to do! It is a highly debatable topic on Google today because the research is so conflicted. The debate ranges from coconut oil being the miracle cure, to it having no added benefit to health. It has created quite the buzz over recent years for its supposed beneficial effect on skin, cardiovascular disease, weight loss, digestion and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lets start with the basics. Coconut oil is abundantly filled with medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFA). MCFA’s are rapidly metabolized and used directly by the brain for energy. Although it can be rapidly used as a direct energy source, it is still a saturated fatty acid, which are the ones you want to avoid excess consumption of, as they can raise unhealthy cholesterol and are mainly found in animal fats and tropical oils. Not to say that coconut oil is all bad or all good, but here are 5 things about coconut oil you may not have been completely aware of:
1. Coconut oil does NOT lower the risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil does not lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as much as unsaturated fats do. Saturated fats, like coconut oil can lead to increased inflammation in our bodies. Thus, if trying to improve CV health and trying to lower cholesterol, olive oil is a better choice. As a side note, I am often asked about different types of oils and which ones are best for cooking. Here is a general guideline: For high heat cooking use animal fats, butter, ghee, or palm oil. For light cooking use olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut, peanut or sesame oil.
2. You should NOT deep fry with coconut oil
Using coconut oil for deep frying is not recommended because of its low smoke point, which may lead to the production of potentially carcinogenic substances upon overheating. Thus, it is useful for shallow frying at low to medium heat but not recommended for deep-frying.
3. Not all types of coconut oil help with weight loss
Most of the claims to coconut oil being linked to weight loss use isolated Medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), which are produced from the hydrolysis of coconut oil. MCT’s are able to undergo rapid metabolism allowing for decreased fat storage and increased fat breakdown – making it ideal for weight loss and immediate energy production. However, the Laruic acid has been removed taking along with it the antimicrobial properties. Be careful to choose the right form of coconut oil for the purpose of your choice.
4. Virgin and Extra Virgin coconut oil is the same!
There is no difference between virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil – simply a form of marketing. There are currently no industry standards for the meaning of “virgin”, so companies can simply advertise this on the bottle, without going through an actual certification process.
5. Liquid and solid coconut oil has the same nutritional value
There is no difference in the nutritional value between liquid and solid coconut oil. It can appear as a liquid or a solid depending on how the coconut oil is stored. Typically in temperatures below 76°F coconut oil is solid vs. temperatures above 76°F, where it is liquid.
Despite the conflicting data on the aforementioned topics of coconut oil, there are definitely some benefits from it. For example, research does suggest that it is effective for skin conditions (eczema and psoriasis), microbial infections, Alzheimer’s disease and potentially raising HDL.
As a whole, chose oils that are unrefined, minimally processed and cold pressed. With these clarifications about coconut oil, I hope you are able to make better informed decisions about when to best use coconut oil and different marketing gimmicks that are used!
Blog Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2018
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