A blaring headline from a recent USA Today article read, "Coconut oil isn't healthy. It's never been healthy," giving coconut-oil lovers and many in the wellness community pause and giving rise to a new "-gate" hashtag: #coconutgate. This information comes from an American Heart Association (AHA) report, which made heads spin further to a full 360 degrees. Huh? Could this be true? And then reason and common sense set in. The AHA’s decision “not to recommend” coconut oil is not the same thing as saying you should never eat coconut oil again. Also, the AHA doesn't exactly have a great track record for recommendations—they also told us that margarine, which is laden with trans fats, was healthier than butter for years.
Confused if you should DITCH your organic, extra virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil? MY THOUGHTS: NO NEED TO DO THAT. And here's a quick overview of why:
- Stating that "coconut oil is unhealthy" is an inaccurate statement, and needs to be given some context. There are SO many internal (and external) benefits of coconut oil. Here are two of my faves:
- It's a brain booster. One huge positive includes helping your brain and memory. It's currently being studied to potentially help people with Alzheimer's.
- It increases energy and may help with weight loss. Coconut oil mainly consists of medium-chain fatty acids, and unlike some other long-chainers that make you want to take a nap after eating them and bring on a hunger craving a couple hours later, these are easy to digest and for your body to process, meaning increased energy and you feeling full longer.
- Yes, coconut oil, like some oils, has saturated fat in it. Do you want to be using 10 tablespoons of it every day? No, probably not, just like you wouldn't want to use 10 tablespoons of saintly olive oil every day. No matter how healthy a fat is, we need to use some moderation. And since coconut oil is high in saturated fat, don't use it on everything—see our Guide to Cooking Oils and switch it up. But is using a teaspoon of it in your bulletproof coffee and a couple tablespoons in your veggie stir fry going to make you keel over? Mmm, not likely.
- A fatty acid, which constitutes approximately 45-55 percent of the saturated fats in coconut oil, is lauric acid. Lauric acid is naturally found in breast milk and is converted to a substance called monolaurin, which aids in increasing the body’s immunity and helping to fight viruses and diseases. It also boosts HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol) more than other fats. I'll take that with my broccolini or gluten-free pancakes, thanks.
- What's disappointing is that the healthier oil recommendations coming from the AHA include oils like corn oil, canola oil and soybean oil. COME ON. These are highly processed oils. Let's use our brains when comparing processed canola oil to organic coconut oil. That's like comparing your cheeseburger to an ahi tuna salad...and saying yeah, but the cheeseburger doesn't have mercury in it, so it's healthier. OK, maybe not quite, but that's how it looks to me!
Just make sure to buy the right kind of coconut oil.
It should be organic, unrefined and extra virgin. Steer clear of hydrogenated coconut oil, a type of refined (a.k.a. processed) oil that contains trans fats, which are really bad for you. I use this one by Nature's Way but there are a ton of other options, too.
Hopefully this helps clarify things and eases any coconut-oil-related worries. If you're still concerned about it, you don't need to throw out and waste your precious coconut oil. Instead, slather that vitamin E-rich oil all over your skin as a moisturizer, swish it around in your mouth for a toothache or use it on your hair as a deep conditioner. Its external benefits are plentiful.