A high-fat diet can’t be good for you, right? It depends. More and more studies examining fatty foods are finding that it really depends on the type of fat that you’re putting into your body. So, where does coconut oil fit into all of this?
You’ll find it in every grocery story and countless health food article headlines, but people still have their doubts. We think it could be because some crucial common misconceptions about saturated fats still exist.
Popular Misconceptions About Coconut Oil and Saturated Fats
To make coconut oil, you have to press the fat out of its white ‘meat.’ On average, 84% of coconut oil’s calories come from saturated fat, compared to butter’s 63%. This fact is the root of many people’s criticism because they likely connect saturated fats with high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
For decades, health officials have warned us against eating fatty beef, lamb, pork, lard, cream, butter, cheese, and more. Chances are eating any of these foods in excess will pose health risks somewhere down the line. But to go ahead and group coconut oil into your “Do Not Eat List” could be detrimental to your own health.
Yes: coconut oil is solid at room temperature, has a long shelf life, and can withstand cooking at high heat. However, it’s unique in comparison to other foods that are high in this supposedly bad fat because it helps raise your HDL cholesterol. This is the good kind that scours your bloodstream for LDL (bad) cholesterol that doesn’t belong in certain areas of your body.
At a molecular level, coconut oil’s saturated fat content is comprised mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The benefits of MCTs can include:[3,4]
Weight loss or maintenance
Healthier and improved brain function
Antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties
Increased energy levels
Improved digestion and nutrient absorption
Reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and more
If the saturated fats in coconut oil were truly that bad for you, there wouldn’t be so much evidence suggesting otherwise. This doesn’t mean coconut oil should be your only source of fat. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that you shouldn’t exceed over 120 calories of saturated fats a day (i.e., approximately 13 grams or 1 tablespoon coconut oil).
Coconut Oil Increases HDL Cholesterol and Decreases Waist Circumference in Heart Disease Patients
To emphasize the positive health benefits of saturated fats in coconut oil, let’s look at this research study in Nutrición Hospitalaria. Researchers studied a mix of 114 male and female adults with coronary heart disease in two stages. The first stage lasted three months, in which everyone underwent intensive nutritional treatment. This helped get the subjects on the same diet to better ensure objective results.
After the initial three-month period, researchers divided them into two diet groups, one of which included extra virgin coconut oil consumption. The second stage lasted three to six months. During this time, researchers held monthly measurements of body mass, waist circumference, neck circumference, body mass index, and blood pressure.
Clinical Study: Results
Researchers noticed that the subjects’ body mass, body mass index, neck circumference, circumference, and glycemic profile all decreased. But the fascinating changes occurred in the second stage.
The group that consumed 13 milliliters (i.e., 13 grams) of extra virgin olive oil a day exhibited even further statistically significant decreases in the factors listed above, but especially in waist circumference. Researchers also observed an increase in good cholesterol concentrations in the coconut oil consumption group.
Although the sample size for this clinical study isn’t as big as some people would like, the evidence for coconut oil benefits stands. If coconut oil continues to prove its overall health benefits, exploring good, healthy saturated fats might be worth your while.
How to Get More Coconut Oil into Your Diet
Add it to your morning coffee
You can even eat cookies and get coconut oil’s benefits
Add it to your refreshing smoothies
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Use it to whiten your teeth