|Picture Source: Internationalcoconut.com|
Friday, May 17, 2013
Don't Go Nuts for CocoNUT Oil & Milk
Google the health benefits of coconut oil and you will come across tens of thousands of results about how coconut oil prevents heart disease, can make you lose weight, improves insulin sensitivity, improves digestion, and zillions of other reasons why this is an oil you must be incorporating into your diet. However, do not jump on the bandwagon so quickly! Most of the “research” behind these claims is from testimonials as opposed to actual clinical research. Furthermore, no major health organization (WHO, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, FDA, American Heart Assoc., etc), recommends consuming high levels of any form of saturated fat.
Coconut oil is 92% saturated, but about 64% of that is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized differently the other triglycerides, which are normally found in other saturated fats. The majority of claims that coconut oil confers major heart health benefits comes from studies using pure MCT’s, not coconut oil itself (keep in mind, coconut oil is only about 64% MCTs). Many other studies are just lab-based or animal studies, not from actual human trials. Don’t be fooled by coconut milk either. Coconut milk contains 5 grams of fat per cup, of which 100% is saturated. Coconut milk also contains very little protein (0 g vs. 8 g in milk) and only 10% of your daily value for calcium (vs. 30%), so it is not a good substitute for cow’s milk.
My Recommendations: Coconut oil may provide more benefit compared to butter or ground beef since the saturated fat is plant-based, so it does contain more antioxidants. Populations with low levels of heart disease have been consuming coconut for centuries, but they also tend to consume more seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Thus we don’t know if it is the actual coconut that leads to low-levels of heart disease, or more likely, their low-intake of animal-based fats and high intake of natural produce and seafood. Either way, it is still recommended to limit your intake of ALL saturated fats. The research is still inconclusive about the actual health benefits or harms of coconut oil. I recommend sticking to what we have lots of evidence to support, such as getting your fats from healthy, unsaturated, plant-based food sources like almonds, seeds, walnuts, avocados, and salmon.