The debate over coconut oil’s nutritional benefits will not be resolved soon. On the one hand, the American Heart Association takes a look at saturated fat content and see that coconut oil is higher than butter, beef fat and pork lard. So why would you want to includeall that fat in your diet?
On the whole, the American Heart Association report oversimplifies the benefits that come from swapping coconut oil for butter. While the overall saturated fat number is increased, this includes a large amount of HDL cholesterol. HDL is routinely referred to as the “good” cholesterol because it actually combats and removes the cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease. The AHA report disregards the high number of HDL because there is not yet a sufficient amount of peer-review data on its association with heart problems. In the meantime, other evidence has grown to an overwhelming consensus such that everybody now calls HDL “good” cholesterol.
Perhaps those with a history of cardiovascular disease should avoid coconut oil for the time being, but what about the rest of us?
The benefits of using coconut oil as part of regular nutritional intake are becoming more and more compelling. Fundamentally, the initial appeal of coconut oil, at least in part, can be related to the meteoric increase in popularity of plant-based diets. This gives consumers another way to reduce the environmental impact of their diets. But recent research is also proving coconut oil to have some unexpected health benefits. Certainly, the ability to promote someone’s good cholesterol is notable.
There is now also preliminary research that links coconut to diets that combat the effects of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. Other research shows how coconut oil, because of its unique ability to make you feel less hungry, is an important part of weight loss plans. And there is evidence that coconut oil’s fatty acids can help kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
As with all nutritional choices, you should definitely consult your physician before making big changes. At the same time, there is a growing amount of research that makes clear that there is a broad category of health benefits that coconut oil can bring about. For some people, all that fat can actually be a good thing.