The Debrief: Nothing is as it seems…
It may be amazing for your hair and skin, but it turns out that cult beauty and wellness product du jour, coconut oil – which is sold as a must-have cooking ingredient by so-called clean eaters – is actually not the super food we thought. We know, what are we supposed to believe. Who can keep up…
Advocates of healthy eating have been imploring us to consume coconut oil by the jar in a bid to improve our health. People have been frying with it, baking with it, adding it to their dinners and now, it appears that we’ve been somewhat misled. According to a study by the American Heart Association, coconut oil is packed with saturated fat, which can raise ‘bad’ cholesterol. In fact, the Association demonstrated that the oil increased bad cholesterol in seven out of seven controlled trials.
The AHA’s study showed that 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, while in butter this statistic stands at 63%, for beef fat it’s 50%, and for pork lard, it’s 39%. While not all saturated fats are bad for you, a diet that’s high in them could lead to health problems including the increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Crikey.
The AHA further commented that ‘because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favourable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.’ They instead recommend that we replace our saturated fat consumption with unsaturated vegetable oils and spreads.
However, it’s important to point out that the findings of this study are nothing new, they’ve actually reviewed old data and confirmed what was already known within the medical and scientific communities about saturated fats.
So, why have we assumed that coconut oil was the best form of oil all of this time? According to AHA, ‘a recent survey reported that 72% of the American public rated coconut oil as a ‘healthy food’ compared with 37% of nutritionists’. It’s all about perception and reality. The authors of the study are attributing the disconnect between normal people and expert opinions ‘to the marketing of coconut oil in the popular press.’ Basically, we’ve all been brainwashed into believing that coconut oil is, de facto, good for us by the clean eating trend.
Don’t panic. If you’re wondering what you should do now, just remember that as with anything, moderation is key. You can continue to cook with coconut oil but in small doses. Instead, mix things up by also using vegetable oils like olive oil, and try to eat a variety of foods that contain healthy fats, such as avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds.
You can have too much of a good thing.
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