With all the numerous amount of health trends out there, it's hard to keep up. However, one hot food item has stolen the show in the last couple of years: coconut oil.  

People have praised the health benefits of coconut oil, attributing it to be the powerhouse behind reducing their HDL (aka your good cholesterol) and burning body fat — if coconut oil can help shed the Freshman 15, then sign me up. However, there may be more to this tropical fruit than we think.

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Dietary cholesterol actually has no effect on your blood cholesterol level

Say what?

Despite previous belief that eating high-cholesterol foods is linked with increased levels of LDL cholesterol and heart disease, studies have shown that for most people, their cholesterol levels don't really change. Only a small percentage of people, known as "hyper-responders" actually have a significant rise in cholesterol levels, indicating that there is a slight genetic predisposition behind this.  Our bodies also naturally produce up to 80% of the cholesterol found in our bodies since cholesterol is essential in hormone production, vitamin D synthesis, and synapse function, which can aid in memory and help you cram for that exam.   

The reason why coconut oil has been the star of reducing cholesterol is because it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are suggested to be easily digested in the body and raise our good friend HDL cholesterol. But if dietary cholesterol really doesn't have an effect on cholesterol levels, there is no reason to consume coconut oil for this so called "benefit." 

Coconut oil is still made of saturated fat — aka the fat you should NOT be eating 

#SpoonTip: Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature (coconut oil and butter) while unsaturated fats are those that are liquid at room temperature (olive and canola oil).

Saturated fats are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and coconut oil is actually up to 90% saturated fat, as compared to 64% saturated fat in butter. Generally, the dietary guidelines for fat intake are to consume more unsaturated fat than saturated fat in your diet, with less than 10% of your daily calories coming from saturated fat.  

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA's), particularly omega-3 and omega-6, should make up the majority of your fat intake. These super-fats aid in brain and nervous system development, contain anti-inflammatory properties, and regulate blood pressure. These are commonly found in salmon, avocados, and canola oil. 

Bottom Line

Claire Waggoner

Because coconut oil doesn't contribute much to blood cholesterol and is made of mostly saturated fat, it really isn't the best choice for consuming. Although some may just use it for its natural tropical flavor or as a natural face mask, let's think twice before we jump on board with these food trends and dump a scoop of coconut oil in our smoothies.