I love comments on my blog posts because, every once in awhile, one inspires me with a topic to investigate and write about my findings.  One such reader, Kathy Radigan from the awesome blog BonBon Break, an awesome resource for women on just about every topic for which we could ask, brought to my attention how confused she was on coconut oil and how, if it has such a high rate of saturated fat, the question of how it could possibly be good for us should be addressed.  So, I am going to address it here and now.

I am going to start by saying virgin coconut oil is NOT the greatest thing since sliced bread nor is it a miracle cure-all for thyroid disease, obesity, diabetes, or piles.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one.)  It is also not the cholesterol raising, cardiovascular risk that many detractors cry.  Yes, it has saturated fat.  However, it is full of medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, easy for the body to break down,  rather than long-chain triglycerides or LCTs  like most of today’s animal fats ( this is a post for another day but I am saying TODAY’s animal fats because most commercially raised animals are raised on corn, soy, and other grains which are full of LCTs) and corn, soy, and canola.   LCTs are difficult for the body to break down.  Plain and simple.  LCTs require pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile to be digested. LCTs circulate your entire body and are the source of the fat that accumulates in your fat cells and artery walls. These are the fats that are often hydrogenated and heated which make them even more dangerous due to the changes in chemical structure  called oxidation that takes place making them toxic free-radical releasing acidifying nightmares not only to HDL/LDL levels but pretty much every organ in the body.  In short, LCTs are difficult for your body to break down and store as fat!!!!

Why else are soy, corn, safflower, canola, sunflower and the ever mysterious vegetable oils bad for you?  First, most of these crops are genetically modified.  Need I explain that more??  Vegetable oils contribute to the overabundance of damaged omega-6 fats in your diet, throwing off your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (which should be no more than 4:1  of Omega-6 of Omega-3.). Nearly everyone in Western society consumes far too many omega-6 fats — about 100 times more than a century ago — and insufficient omega 3 fats, which contributes to numerous chronic degenerative diseases.

MCTs, however, in which coconut oil is rich, are immediately burned by your liver as energy but with no insulin spike, such as the one you get eating fried or refined foods.  Back in the 1940’s, before we had our political downfall with the prime supplier of coconut oil, the Phillipines, farmers tried to fatten their livestock with cheap coconut oil.  It didn’t work.  The cows became leaner, hungrier, and more active.  Now, before you run out and drink a tub of virgin coconut oil, remember a few things.  First, cows, back then, were active.  Very active.  And they were still, predominantly, grass-fed.  Coconut oil and their MCTs worked the way they were supposed to work.  In humans, they work the same way. Coconut oil can supercharge your metabolism and help you drop weight because it burns as energy without the insulin spike making the body more efficient.  Here is the caveat.  If you incorporate coconut oil into your diet and use it INSTEAD of whatever oil you are using that would be considered toxic (e.g. corn, soy, canola, and vegetable) then you are doing a good thing and coconut oil is very healthy.  Coconut oil is GOOD.

Where coconut oil becomes BAD is if you fail to take into account your activity level and start taking tablespoons of the stuff the way that most pro-coconut oil websites and books would have you do.  Not all calories are created equal.  Sorry, it’s true, and coconut oil is still a fat.  It doesn’t matter what KIND of fat, it is still a fat, and if you eat too much of ANYTHING (carbs, fats, or proteins) and your body cannot utilize the energy it creates……guess what???  It stores as fat.  It’s harder to do with an MCT, that is true, but it is NOT impossible!!!!  Bottom line, do not drink the stuff!!  Use it on popcorn (it’s quite good), or to sauté your veggies or whatever you are cooking.  Use it in baking wherever you would use butter if you like.  Use it to replace the BAD fats, don’t look for the elixir of life in a tablespoon of coconut oil.  That goes for olive oil as well.   Life is about making smart, healthy choices, but it is also about balance!

Do I use it?  You bet your bottom dollar I do.  I use it to cook just about everything.  I say just about because when I am roasting veggies I use grapeseed due to its high smoke point and the fact that I need a neutral tasting oil that coconut oil lacks.  When I am marinating the odd chicken I also use grapeseed.   Everything else gets done in either coconut oil or ghee and all salads are made with extra-virgin olive oil (from my beautiful mother-in-law’s trees).  Never ever ever cook with olive oil.  It burns too easily and is an oxidative, inflammation causing nightmare that takes something inherently healthy and makes it death in a bottle.  I bake with coconut oil.  I use coconut butter (coconut meat with the oil still in it) in smoothies and I make all kinds of cream with it.  I use it in the summer on my hair {Find out how coconut milk and coconut soap and a little almond oil make a rich shampoo with our Homemade Coconut Milk Shampoo recipe} and I clean my face with it.  I make body scrubs with it.  I have a million uses for it and I believe in its use over any industrial oil.  I make my own coconut oil, incidentally.  It’s not that hard, though it is time consuming.  If you are looking for a good one, my favorite store bought is Artisana Coconut Oil because I know it is raw and it comes in a glass jar rather than a plastic one.

So, the bottom line.  STOP believing the hype.  Coconut oil is, by far, one of the healthiest oils out there.  It raises HDL (the good cholesterol) and can boost metabolism when eaten in a sane and rational way, not by taking tablespoons of the stuff, rather replacing it with other negative health impacting oils you are already using.  It is not going to make you 21 and 100 lbs. again.  It will improve your health if you are changing the way you eat to contain far fewer grains, far less meat and when you are eating meat, making sure it is grass-fed and free-range, and greatly increasing your consumption of fruits and veggies.  It is part of the solution, NOT the solution.

 

Wishing you peace and balance,

Jacqueline