Q: Is coconut oil good for you?
Like many foods we eat, there has been much debate over the health effects of coconut oil. Naysayers claim that it contains saturated fats and, as a result, can cause problems like heart disease and obesity. Others claim that coconut oil is composed of medium-chain triglycerides that can actually increase good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. As a consumer, it’s often difficult to determine the truth around this highly controversial food.
Coconut oil was used regularly in North America before the Second World War. Unfortunately, due to conflict with Japan, coconut oil became difficult to obtain and substitutes like corn, canola, and soy oil became more popular. With the increased use of these oils came an escalation in obesity and heart disease. In turn, a greater awareness of problems associated with high cholesterol led to the belief that any food containing saturated fats could cause heart disease. Past research had always been conducted on hydrogenated coconut oil, a state that is now well known as dangerous. However, hydrogenation isn’t limited to coconut oil. Soy, corn, and canola oil are often hydrogenated and added to a number of processed foods. The process of hydrogenation adds hydrogen molecules to the oil to help ensure its shelf life. Hydrogenated oils are one of the main causes of obesity, as well as increased cholesterol and heart disease, never mind a source of great profits for giant food producers.
Coconut oil is naturally cholesterol free and trans-fat free and is high in the medium-chain fatty acids which have been proven healthy and useful for our bodies. A major component of coconut oil is lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid also found in breast milk. Lauric acid supports healthy metabolism and is being researched to determine its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.
NOTE: This Q&A originally ran in our Spring 2013 issue and was provided by Claire Monahan, Nature’s Fare in-house blogger and author of many articles published in The Good Life magazine. Since our readership has increased substantially since that issue, we thought the topic would be of interest to our newer readers.
*Reprint from our Winter 2017 Issue.