Is coconut oil healthy?

Is coconut oil all it’s cracked up to be, or just another fad? We investigate to find out whether it lives up to the health hype.
 
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02.The pros and cons

coconut oil in bottle

The cons

  • All coconut oil, whether virgin or refined, is high in saturated fat (higher than butter) so it is considered a solid fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil provides 490kJ (117 calories), 13.6g total fat (11.8g saturated fat), no protein or carbohydrates, and only trace amounts of a few nutrients.
  • One of the main concerns surrounds the type of fat in coconut oil. The fatty acids found in coconut oil raise LDL (the bad cholesterol), just like other saturated fats, such as butter. And while coconut may also raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) it doesn’t do this as much as unsaturated fats do. 
  • While coconut oil doesn’t contain cholesterol, it also doesn’t stack up against most other plant-based oils. Canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, flaxseed, grape seed and extra-virgin olive oil all contain significantly less saturated fat. 
  • The fact that coconut oil is so high in saturated fat needs to be considered in the context of a Western diet, which is typically already high. The Cancer Council of Australia recommends reducing or avoiding a diet high in saturated fats.
  • It’s expensive! At around twice the price of olive oil, coconut oil hasn't yet been shown to offer health benefits greater than extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil has proven heart health benefits, while the evidence for coconut oil is limited.

The pros

  • Coconut oil does have some antioxidant properties, potentially because of plant nutrients called phenolic compounds.
  • It’s an unusual blend of short- and medium-chain fatty acids not seen in other saturated fats, which may offer some health benefits. However, research is yet to confirm this.
  • While coconut oil can be a part of a healthy diet, it's not necessary for optimal nutrition. Most plant oils provide health benefits, particularly extra virgin olive oil which has proven health benefits. 
 

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