Is Coconut Oil Really Healthy? You May Be Surprised

7 minute read

With all the dangers of fats and oils that are talked about, coconut oil was always supposed to be your safety net. Many health professionals have suggested coconut oil as a replacement for other dangerous fats.

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Now the American Heart Association is reporting that saturated fats, including coconut oil are not healthy. Could this be right or did they make an error? Don’t worry if you are a little confused at this point, you are not alone.

The Myth: Is coconut oil good for you?

There are mountains of evidence that support the fact that saturated fats are beneficial for your overall health.  Fats like coconut oil actually increase you HDL cholesterol levels and given that your brain and spinal cord are made of 25% cholesterol, this has to be a good thing.  Increased saturated fat intake has shown improvements for neurological functioning and helps patients with Alzheimer’s disease, depression and seizures.

In addition to healthier brains, coconut oil and other saturated fats are linked to weight loss as part of a ketogenic diet.  A low carbohydrate diet that is high in saturated fats supports weight loss and type II diabetes.  Coconut oil has been boasted to help our health in so many ways:

♦ High content of essential fatty acids which help digestion and provide energy

♦ Mediterranean diets that focus on saturated fats are linked to longevity

♦ Ability to kill harmful microorganisms

♦ Helps to reduce hunger which means you eat less

♦ Protects your hair and skin against sun damage

♦ Helps to burn fat, specifically troublesome belly fat

With support for all this, it really makes you curious what exactly the American Heart Association has discovered.

The Truth: What you need to know

The AHA has released a report advising against the use of coconut oil in the diet and now everyone is confused.  While they are not claiming to avoid it all together, they recommend minimizing its use.  The average intake of saturated fats per say for a man is 30 grams and 20 grams for women.  The only people who will surpass this are those following a ketogenic diet.  In fact, the report also mentions following a Mediterranean style diet full of health fatty acids from fish, olives, avocados nuts and seeds.   

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So what exactly is the problem? The AHA is concerned over the fact that coconut oil raises LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.  While this may be true, what it fails to mention is that it also raises HDL which is the good cholesterol. Researchers in Brazil have found that extra-virgin coconut oil in the diet provides a healthy HDL bump which benefits heart disease patients as well as those trying to shed some unwanted pounds.  

Another interesting fact that was omitted from the AHA report is that in a study of 12,000 people, low cholesterol contributed to dying early and hot high cholesterol. So the warnings against coconut oil due to increased cholesterol levels are not entirely accurate.  It seems that we may be so obsessed with cholesterol that we are overlooking the more dangerous factors such as inflammation which is the true root cause of heart disease.  

To really improve heart health the focus needs to be changed to inflammation and oxidation.  Your liver starts to produce cholesterol as a repair substance when inflammation is present in your body.  Oxidation and inflammation damage your arteries and cholesterol is sent to help, so the problem is an inflammatory lifestyle and not high cholesterol.  To truly understand your cholesterol levels and heart health you need to evaluate your cholesterol ratios.  It seems that the AHA report only considered LDL and not the beneficial levels of HDL.

Another startling find from the AHA report is the recommendation to use more corn and soy oil in place of coconut oil.  The main problem with this; more than 90% of these crops are genetically modified and contain glyphosate.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with that product, it is the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.  Outside of this, switching saturated fats with vegetable fats increases your risk of coronary heart disease.  

Corn, soy and other vegetable oils and fats are high in omega-6 fatty acids.  While a small amount of these are beneficial, the current American diet contains far too many.  When this is combined with low omega-3 intake the health dangers are actually very serious.  A heavy omega-6 diet also contributes to increased chances of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Where do we go now?

Essentially it is down to you to decide if you think coconut oil is healthy or not. Despite the AHA providing facts and details, there were some information missing and additional details that were not issued at the same time as their warning.  You should also know that the AHA additionally issued some questionable dietary advice which involved eating low-fat processed foods (even though these contain high sugar levels) and choosing margarine over butter.

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Consider this: 50% of our cell membranes are made of saturated fatty acids and these are vital in protecting your liver from toxin as well as enhancing your immune system.  If our own cells, tissues and organs rely on this compound, then it can’t really hurt to add a little extra by way of diet.  

As with anything in life, the key word is moderation.  As for cholesterol, your brain needs it and cannot be healthy without it, so depriving your body of cholesterol will not do you any favors.  If you are truly looking to improve heart health, there are additional methods and foods to try, but cutting out coconut oil or other saturated fats is not going to be the best solution.

The best ways to improve heart health include:

♦ Limiting refined carbohydrates and sugars

♦ Exercising regularly

♦ Certain herbs like garlic, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon are all linked to reduced risk of heart disease

♦ Increased intake of omega-3s through fresh fish, chia seeds, nuts, avocados, flax seeds, and krill oil.

The Bottom Line

As it happens, dietary research and the reports that follow change vastly with each passing year. Back in the 80’s all fat was considered bad and now some are promoted. Given this, it is not possible to predict what the next dietary trend or best advice will be. You pretty much have to decide for yourself. Nobody knows your body better than you, so do your research but ultimately listen to what your body needs.

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