Coconut oil is currently a hot topic! It’s rumored to slow the aging process, improve heart health and even protect against a variety of illnesses. But it’s very high in saturated fat.
So is coconut oil actually good for you? That’s what we’re going to find out!
What Is Coconut Oil?
You won’t be surprised to discover that coconut oil originates from coconuts! To get the coconut oil the white coconut meat is pressed to obtain the oil.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and liquid at high temperatures. This helps to give it a long shelf life.
The reason it is solid at room temperature is because it is approximately 84% saturated fat. This is significantly more than butter (63%) or olive oil (14%).
You’re probably already aware that saturated fat is generally seen as the enemy.
Research performed by Harvard Medical School confirms this. Their study found that consuming saturated fats increases the amount of cholesterol in your body.
And nutrition experts generally recommend that saturated fat makes up no more than 10% of your daily calories.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that! There are actually two types of cholesterol in your body.
LDL (or low-density lipoprotein)
This is often referred to as bad cholesterol. This fatty substance cannot be carried through your body as it is not water soluble.
Your body gets around this by binding the saturated fat molecules with protein. This is then referred to as Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL).
As this is transferred around your body it leaves deposits behind which form as plaque inside your arteries. Over time this can block your arteries leading to stroke and other cardiovascular issues.
HDL (or high-density lipoprotein)
This is the good stuff! High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) work to remove LDL in your body.
It does this by transporting the LDL to the liver where it is processed and removed from your body.
How Cholesterol & Coconut Oil Are Connected
The answer to “is coconut oil actually good for you?” comes down to understanding the link between saturated fats and cholesterol.
Saturated fats can be made up of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) or Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT). The majority of the saturated fat in coconut oil is classified as MCT.
Studies have shown that MCT’s will increase the amount of HDL (the good cholesterol) in your body without affecting the level of LDLs.
In short, coconut oil can actually boost your good cholesterol levels!
Moderation Remains The Key
There is no doubt that coconut oil can increase your HDL levels. So in theory, this should increase the amount of bad cholesterol removed from your body, therefore lowering your LDL levels.
However, it is important to remember that coconut oil does not directly reduce your LDL.
This is where the contention lies between fans of coconut oil and those who are not so keen on it. Studies have so far failed to determine the overall effect of coconut oil on your cholesterol.
It is difficult to determine whether the increase in HDL results in a decrease in LDL, or if it simply neutralizes the LDL in coconut oil.
The Bottom Line
Experts recommend that some saturated fat is good for your diet. As coconut oil is one of the better saturated fat options, you can definitely include this in your diet :)
However, you should not see it as a cure for heart disease or Alzheimer’s. Instead, consume it in moderation, (no more than 10% of your food calories).
So in summary, it can be said that coconut oil is actually good for you; or at the very least, not bad for you. But, as with everything in life; moderation is essential.