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Coo-Coo for Coconut Oil?

March 26, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Is there a cooking oil with superpowers?

If you believe everything you hear on talk-shows then you might believe that coconut oil does indeed have superpowers. There are many claims made for this so-called superfood including its ability to: lower cholesterol, promote weight loss, and cure Alzheimer’s disease. Needless to say, coconut oil has been flying off the shelves at grocery and health food stores. But is this latest food fad worthy of so much hype?What makes coconut oil different from other oils?

Coconut oil, unlike canola or olive oil, is high in saturated fat. This is why coconut oil is solid at room temperature. The saturated fat in coconut oil is unusual because it contains a large amount (60%) of medium-chain triglycerides (known as MCTs). This means that most of the chains of fatty acids in coconut oil are relatively short, making them easier for the body to absorb, digest and use as energy.

The bottom line

Before you remove other healthy oils from your cupboard, know that there’s limited evidence to back up the miracle claims made for coconut oil. Even though the claims may sound appealing, coconut oil is still very high in saturated fat. It’s recommended that we limit the amount of saturated fat in our diets. Too much can raise our blood cholesterol and increase the risk of getting cardio-vascular (heart) disease.

More research needs to be done to know if the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil (MCTs) is different, and maybe even beneficial, as compared to the saturated fat found in animal products.

What we do know is that fats such as olive, canola and soybean oil are heart healthy because of their high proportion of unsaturated fats. Fats that are liquid at room temperature (like olive oil) are still recommended as your main sources of fat. However, if you like coconut oil, continue to include it occasionally as a part of a varied healthy diet. It’s especially useful for high temperature cooking because it does not burn as easily as other oils.

Today's blog is written by Carolyn Berry. Carolyn is a UBC dietetic intern with Vancouver Coastal Health. As a self-proclaimed foodie, Carolyn has a passion for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Visit her blog Wealth of Health for tips and healthy recipes

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