There’s been quite a bit of press recently regarding coconut oil – along with claims that you can avoid certain diseases, diabetes, heart issues, and even loose weight. But, is that all hype, or is there any truth to the claims that coconut oil is a miracle oil?
First, what is coconut oil? When the meat from a coconut is pressed to remove the liquid, and that liquid is coconut oil. And, it’s mostly saturated fat – in fact, 84% of the calories from coconut oil comes from saturated fat. To give you an idea of how that compares to other oils, butter is 63% fat, and olive oil is 14% fat.
Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is mounting research that suggests that saturated fat doesn’t hurt either your heart, or your weight loss efforts. And, the majority of the saturated fat is made up of MCT’s – medium chained triglycerides, which your body easily digests, and may also have some pretty serious health benefits – in a McGill University study of overweight men, those you ate a diet rich in MCT’s compared to LCT’s (long chain triglycerides) that you find in other oils, lost more weight. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose more weight with coconut oil versus other oils. But, you probably won’t get fatter either.
One advantage of coconut oil over other oils is that it does have a high “smoke point” – the point where, when heated, oil oxidizes (i.e. “burns”). which is bad for oil, as cancer-causing free radicals can form once oil burns. With a higher smoke point, you’re less likely to have that problem with coconut oil. If you’re already cooking with peanut or canola oil, though – they have an even higher smoke point than coconut oil does – so don’t fry food in coconut oil – stick with canola, sesame, soybean, safflower, and peanut oils for frying.
But, if you’d like to get more of a tropical flavor into your cooking – you can definitely add – and enjoy – coconut oil as part of a healthy diet. Just keep in mind the claims of coconut oil’s ability to stave off Alzheimers, Type 2 diabetes, or heart disease – have not been proven and may be a bit overblown.