Hey folks! I am here to clear up some confusion surrounding coconut oil and the USA Today Article that just came out about coconut oil being an unhealthy food.
As a Dietitian I consider virgin coconut oil a superfood! It’s especially great for metabolism, digestion, and brain health. It also contains a property called lauric acid that is also found in breast milk. Lauric acid is best known for soothing the gut, improving digestion, and contains natural anti-fungal properties.
Is coconut oil high in saturated fat? Well yes, because that is what it is. It’s like saying a raisin is high in sugar—that’s silly.
However, saturated fats are not the enemy. In fact, the body needs saturated fats to function. Saturated fats make up the integrity of every cell in the body, are needed for brain function, help to incorporate calcium into our bones, protect against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract, balance cholesterol levels, and enhance the immune system among so many other things. It just depends on where the majority of your saturated fat sources are coming from.
The key is to look at the quality of the saturated fats you are consuming since nothing in the world is created equal—especially food.
If a coconut falls right from the tree would we say it is healthy or unhealthy—healthy of course—it’s the real source. It's perfectly wrapped and loaded in nutrients. Plus, it doesn't contain a nutrition label--it's one ingredient.
It's important to know where the majority of your nutrients are coming from. Are your saturated fats coming mostly from coconut oil, fish, lean meats, nuts, and seeds or are they coming from from high-fat, highly processed foods like pizza, bacon, lard, ice cream, etc?
Are your energizing B vitamins coming from an energy drink or are they coming from real food sources like leafy greens and ancient grains?
Are you getting your calcium from a supplement or nutrient rich sources like almonds, leafy greens, healthy grains, nuts, and seeds? Do your fruits and vegetables come in a pill form? You get the point right?
It’s important to choose foods closer to the source—these are foods in their most natural state and will be the most nutritious, least processed, and most affordable.
This coconut oil article doesn’t take into account the source of saturated fats and is only looking at the molecular structure versus where these items are coming from.
Think about an avocado and extra virgin olive oil. They are both high in heart- healthy monounsaturated fats which help to boost good cholesterol levels.
However, they both also contain saturated fat. But, does that mean they are unhealthy foods? Of course not.
The fact is that coconuts have nourished humans for thousands of years. From skin problems to an upset stomach, coconut heals the body. Did you know that coconut oil even helps with hair loss and can reduce hair damage by 39%, helping to stop your hair from falling out? You can learn more about the benefits of coconut oil for hair loss here.
I would say disregard the latest studies on coconut oil since it is not looking at the big picture.
Continue to eat coconut, drink coconut water, and use virgin coconut oil for cooking. These are all healthy sources.
And when reading any articles in the future claiming that a particular food is unhealthy, know the source of the study and what they are basing their information on. For example, a high quality fish oil doesn't cause prostate cancer--in fact it may do just the opposite. But if the study doesn't take into account the quality of the fish oil, whether it's using hard to absorb gel tablets, and the adequate dosage--then their could be reason to doubt the so called benefits. Also, keep in mind who funds these articles.
As a Dietitian, my advice is to start using your intuition to make food choices and rely more on common sense versus science, stats, facts, and data.
Let’s eat in a way that makes us feel healthy and happy. Let’s eat real foods, cook more meals at home, and be mindful of how much and how often we indulge. Eating should be simple and enjoyable, not confusing and stressful.
When you give your body the right ingredients—it knows what to do. Food is power people!