I love using pure, cold-pressed coconut oil in the preparation of my food. I can use it when I need to heat an oil during cooking. Such as the case when I am using a skillet or I typically ad it to my spicy rice dishes…nothing tastes better!
In recent years, coconut oil as also received a great deal of interest as a fat source used in cooking because it was thought to be associated with weight-loss and lowered blood fats. Despite the fact that this oil is composed of fatty acids that are saturated, the risk profile was considered minimal and it’s commonly use in fad diets like the paleo and ketogenic diets!
Others, of course have since got into the conversation regarding the use of coconut oil in nutrition suggesting that this oil does not share the virtues once attributed to it. That it’s use is dangerous and should be avoided.
Does this sound familiar? It should, the science of nutrition is full of these gems!
Lets have a closer look at this very important, but greatly misunderstood issue.
Coconut oil is composed of 100% fat, approximately 80-90% of it saturated. Fat molecules are made up of chemical compounds called fatty acids, (triglycerides) of which there are several types in coconut oil. The predominant type is lauric acid (47%), with myristic and palmitic acids present in smaller amounts. In addition, also present in small amounts are monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Coconut oil contains no cholesterol.
Previous health claims regarding coconut oil refer to research that used a special formulation of coconut oil made of 100% medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), not the commercial coconut oil most available on supermarket shelves (60% MCT). MCTs have a shorter chemical structure than other fats, and so are quickly absorbed and used by the body. After digestion, MCTs travel to the liver where they are immediately used for energy. The theory is that this quickly absorbed form promotes satiety and prevents fat storage. Coconut oil contains mostly lauric acid, which is considered a MCT. It has been used as an energy source for athletes and in weight-reduction strategies as it produces ketones (an energy source used in low-carb diets), encourages fullness, provides less-energy dense calories and helps to increase fat-burning. However, the effects of coconut oil on weight-loss are modest.
The use of coconut oil in studies looking at cholesterol reduction and in the effects upon LDL/HDL are mixed. Some show a definite benefit and no increased risk and some have found the total opposite.
However, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil made from the fresh coconut meat which is sealed and stored properly seems the best way to get the full benefits of coconut oil.
The take home message in this case is that compared with other types of saturated fat, which is solid at room temperature (butter, beef fat, milk fat and lard), coconut oil used in moderation can be an excellent way to flavor your food or use a stable saturated fat source in cooking without having to worry about the risks of consuming saturated fat. The more immediate concern in our diet is the use of trans fats which are not found in coconut oil.
Until Next Time
The Vitality Project
Dr. Kevin J. McLaughlin