Coconut Oil: Making informed decisions

Guest Blog by Jessica Stopard, RHN

Don’t take everything that gets popular in the media as the whole truth. Last week’s review released by the American Heart Association (AHA), condemned saturated fats and specifically coconut oil.

We are a society still suffering the repercussions of a study from the 1950s that made us fear saturated fat despite its inaccuracies and subsequent studies that have proven quality saturated fats, such as coconut oil, to be healthy.

AHA claiming that saturated fats, including those from coconut oil, are unhealthy and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is either false or at least not the whole truth. Many studies have shown coconut oil in a positive light regarding CVD as it supports increased HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”), lowered cholesterol and lowered triglyceride levels.

The review suggests to “replace [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][saturated fat] with polyunsaturated vegetable oil,” which clearly shows the AHA promotes the consumption of vegetable oils. However vegetable oils – specifically soybean, canola, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, rapeseed, safflower and grapeseed –  are not healthy, solely because they contain the word vegetable. In fact, they are likely damaging to your health, especially when heated.

Vegetable oils are heavily refined and often genetically modified. These oils are unstable as they contain mainly polyunsaturated fats. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are the food industry’s answer to longer shelf life, creating trans fats.

Coconut is the richest food source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) – named “medium” because the fat molecule contains 6-12 carbons. MCTs are excellent for supporting heart health but also improving cognitive health, including brain function, memory and decision making – even in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Coconut oil is the best fat to consume when you are restoring digestive health as it is digested differently than long chain fatty acids (LCFAs). First, enzymes in the saliva and then gastric juices break down MCFAs, therefore requiring less pancreatic enzymes. This greatly reduces the strain on the digestive system – the most energy intensive process in the body. Any time you can relieve strain on the digestive system, you will experience greater energy.

It is hard not to get frustrated (read: downright angry) when information like this takes the media by storm and continues to muddy the minds of men and women trying to improve their health. The health and wellness industry unfortunately has to fight so hard to prove its credibility and one hit like this review can create such a setback while many more negative stories about conventional nutrition and medicine are swept under the rug.

I hope this review hasn’t renewed your fear of (quality, saturated) fat but if it has, please do some more reading and make an informed decision before cutting it out of your life.

Jessica Stopard works at The Peanut Mill and also sees clients as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. See more health and nutrition articles on Jessica’s blog!