So the other day, the bomb dropped and the health press exploded with news about how coconut oil is not as healthy as everyone has been thinking. Its superfood status is now severely shaken, and consumers are likely to shy away from coconut products.
Wait, did everyone really think that coconut oil is that healthy? The truth is, it was long known that coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products; they are solid at room temperature and often linked to creating health issues.
Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses are associated with the consumption of saturated fats. So who planted the idea that coconut oil is a panacea for health problems, a true superfood that we can feast on at any time?
It’s true that nutrition science is still pretty imprecise and that every couple of months we hear of a new superfood that apparently solves all health issues. And coconut was one of them: add it to your coffee, use it to roast your veggies, bake with it–the applications are endless, and you will for sure benefit from it. Or so the idea went. Some health benefits associated with coconut oil are the fact that it’s antimicrobial and anti-fungal (there is some veracity to these claims, but coconut oil is not a replacement for supervised medical treatment). Some claims even go as far as to state that coconut oil can prevent Alzheimer’s (a claim that’s yet to be proven) and reduce inflammation (actually, coconut oil may contribute to inflammation!).
I am quite honestly always skeptical when new superfoods hit the market. I felt similarly about coconut oil, especially when I read about its composition (cue the saturated fat alarms!). I decided to avoid it, as I do all processed fats or oils. To me, they come with a lot of calories and no micronutrients such as minerals or vitamins, which can be found in the whole plant foods. I always make my dressings out of whole plants such as nuts, seeds (tahini), or avocado, and I don’t drench my greens in olive oil (against all “health” claims of the Mediterranean diet).
So that’s why I decided to use coconut oil sparingly in my diet. And I also wasn’t shocked when recent articles started advising consumers to stay away from it. As of 2017, the American Heart Association even advises avoiding consuming coconut oil: “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the organization reports in Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease Advisory.
Sure, I love coconut oil for some indulgent dessert recipes (that I eat sparingly) and I love it on my skin (it makes it soooo soft)–and thus far, research indicates that it’s as effective and safe as mineral oil when used as a moisturizer. But as my rule of thumb, I stick to whole foods in my diet and to the principle of moderation. No one food can solve all your issues.
What are your thoughts on the coconut oil bombshell? Does coconut oil play a role in your diet?
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