Coconut products are becoming quite popular and many of these make health claims to boost their marketing campaigns. Could this tropical fat lower your cholesterol, boost your memory or even help you lose weight? Well, the jury is still out, and the research and expert opinions are variable on the subject. I will share a few things that I have learned through reading the literature and personal experience with using coconut oil.
Coconut oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. It is one of the few saturated fats that doesn't come from animals, however this fat contains a shorter carbon chain than animal fats. Promoters of coconut oil claim that this medium chain triglyceride, or MCT, is metabolized differently and promotes weight loss. Theoretically this is true, however the coconut oil that you are able to buy at the market, is much different than the MCT oil used in research labs. The "fat" of the matter is that coconut oil may help you lose weight by making you feel full or satisfied more quickly, so that you'll end up consuming less calories overall. However consuming coconut oil on a regular basis could raise your LDL because of its high level of saturated fat. Your safest bet is to use it sparingly.
Coconut supporters also note that coconut oil is high in lauric acid which can have antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Research on rats does suggest this is true and can be found in the Pharma Biotechnology Journal, Feb 2010 issue. This is great news for rats, but I certainly wouldn't start ingesting in large quantities. My personal experience with coconut oil lies in baking, popcorn making, and hot oil hair treatments. I enjoy the rich flavor, and yes, I find it satisfying! The best approach is to find what's best for you. Try using it sparingly in cooking to experience the taste, or use it as a moisturizer for hair and skin. For best results find a organic coconut oil to reduce exposure to toxic substances.
Jody Anderson, RN, CHC, AADP
Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor
Succeed Health, LLC