When the headline, "Coconut Oil Isn't Healthy. It's Never Been Healthy," came out, everyone freaked. Since then, things have died down, as they typically do once the media decides they are bored with a topic and they are ready to sensationalize something else. When the news was fresh, people were in awe. They felt like they had been completely fooled. They immediately vowed to never have coconut oil again. Time after time, especially when it comes to health and nutrition, studies and opinions of scientists and specialists conflict. They decide to demonize a particular food or food group based on weak studies, or because those studies were backed and funded by an industry that can reap the benefits (i.e. the Dairy Farmers of America funding a study favoring dairy milk as a healthy part of your diet). The result is always the same-- the public is left confused with no answers, not knowing what is There are some important pros and cons to know about coconut oil, so let's bring about some truth and clarity to this whole thing, so we can put it to rest.
But first, a little perspective: Many, many people are still in the habit of eating large amounts of packaged and processed foods, eating a diet high in sodium or other preservatives, eating lots of refined sugar, binge drinking, or smoking. Coconut oil is typically organic, cold-pressed, containing one whole-food ingredient, and used in small quantities. If people aren't willing to put down the soda, the Big Mac, the chicken nuggets, or the Doritos, then why are they so quick to kick coconut oil to the curb? The bigger health issues of America do not lie with consuming a little coconut oil, but rather with the years of consistently eating significant amounts of the aforementioned foods every day, despite years of proof that these foods are the reason for growing rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic illnesses. Let's focus on tackling those bigger issues.
What to consider when it comes to coconut oil:
1. It is an oil. Which means it's a fat. OK DUH, RIGHT?! Did anyone really think you should have goo gobs of coconut oil? Would you think it was healthy to have tons and tons of butter or lard or olive oil or avocado oil? Hopefully not. Most people know and utilize these dense, saturated fats in small amounts to grease a pan or baking sheet for cooking. Coconut oil is no different. Use it in small amounts, and don't think of it as a "health food" that you need to incorporate. Think of it as a good cooking or baking oil to be used in moderation. More on that below.
2. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, and saturated fat raises LDL. Studies have shown that saturated fat can increase LDL ("bad" cholesterol), but turns out, LDL particle size matters. People with high levels of small, dense LDL have an increased risk of heart attack and mortality. However, coconut oil and other saturated fats tend to raise large LDL, which actually has no link to increased risk of heart disease. It is also important to note that saturated fats don't just raise LDL, but they raise HDL, too ("good" cholesterol). With that being said, the recommend portion of saturated fat should not exceed about a tablespoon per day (this is not to be confused with unsaturated fat, which you can have a lot more of!).
3. Coconut oil contains high amounts of saturated fat (82%), more than butter (63%). Yes, this is true. When comparing saturated fat content only, you may wonder if butter is a better option. In moderation, they are virtually the same. However, let's recall the point that coconut oil is typically organic, sourced from a whole-food (coconuts), and contains one ingredient. Butter often contains sodium, canola oil, "natural flavors", and is sourced from cows. If you're dairy-free, vegan, or don't want to have a side of canola oil with your butter, coconut oil will still be the better choice. Also remember avocado oil, olive oil,or ghee (clarified butter) as healthier alternatives to butter.
4. We need a little saturated fat for absorbing vitamins, brain health, and reaching satiety. Saturated and unsaturated fats are necessary to our diet so that we can absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Of the fat you consume in a day, you want most to be unsaturated and only up to about 1 tablespoon saturated. In addition, both our brains and our neurons rely heavily on saturated fat, as it is an integral part to their proper function and health. Another reason we need it is that saturated fat adds to the palatability of food and sends signals that tell us we are full and satisfied. All we're saying here is that saturated fat should not be demonized, however it is a dense food and you should be mindful of the portions you intake.
5. Coconut oil contains MCT (about 15%). 100% MCT oil, aka medium chain triglyceride, is better than 15% of course, but coconuts are the source of MCT oil after all, therefor coconut oil does contain a small proportion of this high energy, brain healthy stuff. MCT oil is shown to be utilized by your body immediately for energy and brain function, rather than being stored as fat. There are also some studies showing that MCT contributes to burning stored fat and increasing metabolism. If you've ever heard of Bulletproof Coffee, the component that makes it "Bulletproof" is the Brain Octane oil, which is 100% MCT oil.
6. The best uses of coconut oil DON'T involve eating it! You can use coconut oil in so many ways to replace toxic skin and hair products, plus, you save a ton of money that way. Just be sure to have a separate coconut oil stash for cooking vs. rubbing all over your body, 'cause that's just not sanitary, ya'll.
How you can use it:
- Moisturize your entire body. Ditch the lotion with a million ingredients and fragrances that can irritate skin. Stick your hand in the coconut oil and lather yourself up. Your skin will stay super moisturized! It gives you a slight glow, perfect for summer, and is also a life-saver for dry, cracked skin in the winter.
- Combat skin conditions. If you're rubbing it all over your body every day to moisturize, you're kind of covered here anyway, but it's medicinal uses for treating skin conditions are noteworthy. It is both anti-oxidizing and antimicrobial, making it perfect for soothing skin irritation, infections, rashes, and burns.
- Remove your eye make-up. It's oily consistency is perfect for lifting make up off of your skin, along with other dirt and oil. It has antimicrobial properties and is super gentle so you can just rub it directly onto your eyes. Leave it on there over night for some anti-aging around-the-eye action, or wipe it off with a cotton ball.
- Condition your hair. Treat it like a hair mask. Lather it onto your locks, sleep with it on (hair in a bun), then wash it out in the morning. WARNING: If you do this in the winter or during cold temperatures, don't go outside. Coconut oil turns solid when the temperature drops below room temperature, and we don't want your hair turning into cement.
- Use it as the perfect carrier oil. Whether you are already into essential oils or you want to be, this will be of interest to you. Essential oils have vast medicinal and therapeutic uses, often involving applying them topically. Some, like peppermint oil and citrus oil, require dilution. Carrier oils, are oils that can serve to dilute the essential oil so that they can be safely applied to skin. Coconut oil is one of those carrier oils. And even for oils that don't require dilution, like lavender, you can still use coconut oil as a carrier to make for some relaxing self-massage before bed or in times of tension or high stress.
Ok, so should you keep your coconut oil or ditch it? There is no need to throw it out, and there is no need to completely remove it from your diet. As long as your overall diet is low in saturated fat, you're good to have up to about one tablespoon a day. Coconut oil is considered is a good non-dairy, single-ingredient cooking alternative to butter, however you probably shouldn't make it a point to incorporate it into your smoothies or as a supplement. Other good-sourced cooking oils that contain the same healthy fats and a lower proportion of saturated fats are extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. If you already have coconut oil on hand and you have decided you would rather cook with other oils or ghee, then use your coconut oil on your body as a non-toxic hair and skin product in the examples given in number six!
More questions about coconut oil, other oils, or fats in general? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.