Going Nuts About Coconut Oil?
by Ginger Snyder RD, CD
As consumers, most of us have moved on from the extremely low fat diet trend. But a lot of us still have a difficult time accepting that adding fats into our diet can actually be a beneficial thing. One of the most talked about fats, lately, is coconut oil.
For years this oil has been considered a "bad fat" because it is considered a saturated fat. The kind of fat that increases cholesterol, clogs arteries and causes heart attacks. So why is it being touted as a health food? It turns out that even though coconut oil is mostly (85%) saturated fat, it is made up of 65% medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs have fewer fatty acids than long chain triglycerides.
Unlike long chain fatty acids, the body does not have to break down MCTs into single fatty acids to be absorbed. This is the basis for several health benefits. Many participants involved in weight-loss studies using coconut or MCT oil have reported less hunger and more stable energy levels, which can facilitate weight loss.
Some studies also suggest that coconut oil can help decrease waist circumference, independent of weight loss, improve cardiovascular health, increase insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes, increase metabolism, protect against disease and increase immunity. Because it is easily digestible, it is also good for various digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn and gall bladder disease.
The unique structure of the MCT fats in coconut oil make them easier for the body to burn and harder to store in adipose tissues compared with the LCFAs found in most other fats, including olive oil.
Coconut oil is also very stable because of its lauric acid content. This protects the oil from oxidation and heat damage. What this means is that it is a great option for cooking, since the fats are not easily damaged by heat. Lauric acid also has antimicrobial properties.
So if coconut oil has so many benefits why are we not drinking it with our meals? We must remember that it is still 100% fat which means that it has more than twice the Calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. Total intake of fat should still be less than 30% of our total daily calories. However, it would be wise to swap out some of the other fats in your diet with this latest super food.