Confused about coconut oil? Don’t feel bad – it’s confusing. The important place for us to start in considering any food is remembering that simply having diabetes doubles (or more) our risk for heart disease. So, in that light we’ll want to take a really close look at the saturated versus unsaturated fat “thing”, knowing that coconut oil is most definitely a saturated fat. But is there something special about coconut oil’s saturated fat? Hmmmmm
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Have you joined the coconut oil craze? It’s a hot item… included in many of the trending diets and is appearing more and more in packaged foods of all sorts. A survey a couple years ago found that nearly ¾ of Americans viewed coconut oil as a healthy food. But… is it healthy as the coconut is cracked up to be?
Here are some facts about this tropical oil, which by the way, will not be found as a liquid like other cooking oils. Coconut oil is a saturated fat with a higher content of saturated fat than butter. I know this can be confusing since coconut is a fruit but it’s important to realize that One tablespoon of coconut oil equals 14 grams of fat. Sixty three percent of the fat is saturated fat and offers no other nutrition benefits-no extra vitamins or minerals. A review of 16 studies showed that coconut oil raises LDL (the low density lipoprotein) which may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease much more so than polyunsaturated fats.
1. One tablespoon of coconut oil provides approximately 117 calories which is equivalent to one tablespoon of olive oil.
2. There are two types of coconut oil; virgin and refined. Virgin is taken from the fruit of fresh coconut without any processing. Refined uses dried coconut meat that is typically bleached and deodorized.
3. There was a study that showed that coconut oil had a type of fat called Medium chain triglyceride that boost metabolism and weight loss but the coconut oil in the study was a special 100 percent medium chain coconut oil not the kind that you purchase at the store. Most coconut oils on the market contain only 13-14 percent of this medium chain coconut oil so that’s a big difference and you would need to eat large quantities like 10 T per day which is not recommended to anyone. And again, think about the higher risk for cardiovascular disease that comes along with consumption of this oil.
4. Hydrogenated coconut oil can be found in baked goods but take caution because this further processing through hydrogenation may alter the coconut oil into trans fats. And according to the American Heart Association, we want to keep our intake of trans fat as low as possible.
5. Bottom line- Coconut is a saturated fat and the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association recommend limiting saturated fat to 5-6 percent of your total calories. Consumption of saturated fats has been associated with increased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is the lousy cholesterol. Inclusion of saturated fat can lead to an increased risk of coronary artery disease and people with diabetes are already at a higher risk for heart disease before consuming a high saturated fat diet.
I know coconut oil may have a healthy halo- the feeling that it should be a “good for you food” since it reminds of a tropical vacation, the smell and taste are very inviting, but we must look to the science on what is a healthy choice for us. Until next time, cheers to your health.