In recent years coconut oil has been very popular and everyone was adding it to anything from coffee to eggs and salad dressing. Most health blogs and cookbooks from nutritionists promoted coconut oil, praising it for its health benefits including helping in weight-loss.
However, there’s no scientific publication that has backed this up. A professor at the TH Chan School of Public Health has gone further to boldly claim that coconut oil doesn’t have many proven health benefits and considered it as “pure poison”.
The professor’s view may be harsh, but many experts have also expressed their skepticism of coconut oil being a health food.
What’s coconut oil?
Coconut oil is an extract of dried or fresh coconut meat. The difference between virgin and refined coconut is that the latter doesn’t have the tropical flavor or smell whereas the virgin oil maintains the coconutty flavor.
Coconut oil contains 90 percent of saturated fats. These saturated fats are known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are metabolized differently from other types of fats.
This oil is mostly used for high-heat cooking methods, baking, and popping popcorn. It also features in shampoos, coffee, sweets, and smoothies.
What are the proven benefits of coconut oil?
Compared to other fats, coconut oil has 2.6 percent fewer calories. Advocates of coconut oil believe that it mainly contains MCTs that are rapidly absorbed into the body and used as a source of energy.
According to a 2014 study, MCTs were found to increase the hunger-regulating hormones that make you feel full. It advances the idea that coconut oil will make you feel full faster and reduce the frequency of snacking during the day.
No research links coconut oil and weight loss. You should, therefore, take such claims with a lot of skepticism.
Is it bad for you?
According to research, oils high in saturated fats are likely to increase a person’s risk to heart diseases. Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, a registered dietitian at TLB Nutrition, says that the long-term effect of consuming a diet rich in saturated fats could negatively affect your health.
Excess saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol considerably increasing the risk of heart diseases. If coconut oil is taken in high quantities over a long period, it may put you at risk.
Consider taking virgin coconut oil since it hasn’t been subjected to chemical processing.
Using coconut oil in a healthy way
Despite the demonization of coconut oil by a few skeptics, it doesn’t mean that you should avoid it altogether. You should avoid buying packaged or manufactured coconut products, particularly the hydrogenated ones.
It should also be stored in a cool dark place. It’s best to use it in your cooking oil rotation rather than avoiding it completely.
For instance, you can pop popcorn using coconut oil and drizzle your salad with another oil. It’s also best to use the oil sparingly when cooking.
You can, however, use it without worrying about any health effects to moisturize your hair and skin.