I get a lot of people asking me if I consider coconut oil to be really good for you? I notice a slight grimace when they ask me – probably hoping that I’m going to say that you can down jars of the stuff with no ill effects, but I’m sorry to say this isn’t true. And when I say I’m sorry, I really am because I love coconut oil, and I also love many of the amazing healthy brands that sell good quality, cold-pressed coconut oil. But, here’s the whole truth about coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Is Trendy!!!
Coconut oil has been one of the top trending foods for the past 5 years. The trend began with a few books, and “experts” extolling the myriad of benefits of coconut oil, and explaining in great detail why it’s so good for you. BTW – we are talking about raw, virgin coconut oil, not the hydrogenated stuff of yesteryear, which is truly a silent killer. I must admit that I believed a lot of these books. The evidence seemed convincing, and raw, virgin, unrefined coconut oil does carry a plethora of health benefits. However, having delved in a bit deeper to get to the bottom of the issue, I realize that I cannot in good conscience tell you that coconut oil (no matter the kind), is actually GOOD for everyone’s general health, and particularly for those with a history of heart disease.
There’s No One Size Fits All
The whole truth on coconut oil is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. As is the case with almost every food (trans fats aside), it depends who is eating it, and how much. If you are operating at optimum health, weight, and having a near perfect BMI and cholesterol score, you will probably be totally fine with eating a 2 or 3 teaspoons of coconut oil every other day. However, if you are overweight, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or any other kind of health issue, you would be best off avoiding it. Why? Because it IS a saturated fat. And saturated fats raise bad cholesterol levels. Wish I could swing it another way, but I can’t. Four new studies have recently been conducted, which show that coconut oil can indeed worsen your cholesterol levels. But, again, I want to stress that you are okay eating it if you are completely healthy…in moderation. And moderation is the key because virgin coconut oil does confer other health benefits.
Is It Better Than Butter?
Is coconut oil better than butter and/or saturated fat in meat? And I mean better for your heart. Actually, it is better. Most plant oils are a mixture of all kinds of different fats (olive oil contains a little saturated fat), but they are predominantly unsaturated. All the other forms of high-percentage saturated fat are animal, and a recent landmark study found that animal fats may contain bacterial endotoxins. These endotoxins can induce an inflammatory response, whereby your arteries can literally stiffen up after eating a fat-laden meal. So I do use coconut oil in place of butter for baking, or I use another even healthier plant oil such as avocado or grapeseed oil.
Bottom line, we’re all better off reducing fats in our diet period. Studies have been done where patients with heart disease were put on a plant-based diet, which resulted in a very positive outcome. The only fats that we absolutely must get from our diet are Essential Fatty Acids, which are found in nuts and seeds. The rest is all extra, which will not do you an awful lot of good in the long run. Does this mean you should turn to low-fat foods? Noooooooooo. Low-fat foods are ghastly: The fat is taken out, and additives are shoved in. If you must eat fatty/oily foods, enjoy a little really good quality olive oil on your veggies or sauces, and a little virgin coconut oil now and again, or in place of butter when you are baking.
The whole truth about coconut oil is that it may have a place in your skin and hair care routine! Pure Virgin Raw Coconut oil is a wonderful addition to your DIY skin care routine. Here’s my favorite DIY Hair Mask.
There is one caveat here: Dr. JJ Levenstein, who teaches me everything I need to know about childhood medical issues, warned me about the high risk of unrefined nut oils, when introduced onto the skin of atopic dermatitis (kids with eczema), because they have been found to “ping” the immune system in such a way that later food allergies to that protein, are of greater likelihood. This is not true of highly processed oils that are devoid of protein. JJ recommends avoiding nut oils, and coconut oils as a skin moisturizer for kids with moderate to severe eczema, or with a family history laden with food allergies.