Coconut oil is the latest go-to, cure-all trend to take the population by storm. It makes hair softer, skin smoother and claims to be a healthy fat source. Part of the hype around coconut oil comes from celebrities swearing by it for beauty and fitness tips.Unfortunately, for us all, if there is a miracle cure out there- coconut oil isn't it.
What sets coconut oil apart is its content of medium chain triglycerides that other oils do not have. Medium chain triglycerides are more readily oxidized and not stored as fat as easily in the body as long chain triglycerides.
Because medium chain triglycerides bypass a metabolic process that other oils cannot avoid, it seems that coconut oil should lead to impressive weight loss.
Unfortunately, everything is not as it seems.
According to Gretchen Vannice, RD, "Some of the saturated fats in coconut oil may be metabolized differently and lead to less fat production, but the impact of replacing lard with coconut oil is unknown. In fact, coconut oil has much more saturated fat than both lard and beef tallow."
This is because coconut oil does have medium chain triglycerides, but most of them could be classified as either medium or long chain triglycerides. The predominate fatty acid in coconut oil is called lauric acid, which acts as a long chain triglyceride. These long chain triglycerides cause a spike blood LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, so if you're not careful coconut oil can be an artery clogger.
Stick to unsaturated fats that are high in antioxidants, like olive oil, nuts, and avocados for regular cooking. These have protective properties and omega-3's to keep you heart healthy.
Perspective is important.
Small amounts of saturated fats, about 15 grams, are completely acceptable as a part of a healthy diet. Just one tablespoon of coconut oil brings a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat—almost an entire day's allowance.
Keep in mind, the quality of fat in coconut oil is more heart healthy then the fat in fast food, but the quantity consumed soars through the acceptable range.
But not all the hype about coconut oil is misleading. It can moisturize dry hair and skin or even help whiten teeth. Essentially coconut oil is the ultimate beauty hack. That said, I think coconut oil's place is in the medicine cabinet, not the pantry.
Despite a high fat content, it is praised for its flavor in smoothies and stir-fry. So, cooking with coconut oil sometimes definitely won't kill you, just don't go nuts (or should I say coconuts?).