Is all the buzz about coconut oil driving you, well, coconutty?
Claims about the benefits of coconut oil abound. Some say it’s good for your hair, others say it’s good for your skin and others say it burns fat.
But hold on, says Jamie Kandora, clinical nutrition manager at Tidelands Health.
“Even if some of the purported benefits of coconut oil are true,” she advised, “there are still concerns about its high percentage of saturated fat and the corresponding health risks.”
Controversy over coconut oil reached a head when the American Heart Association recommended against it because it can increase LDL cholesterol, a known factor in cardiovascular disease.
The recommendation drew the ire of coconut oil supporters. A recent study found that 72 percent of Americans view coconut oil as healthy, compared to only 37 percent of nutrition experts.
OK in moderation
Coconut oil can be used in moderation, Kandora says, but “it is not a magic bullet for anything that ails you. And for weight loss, there is no such thing as a magic bullet. Exercise and good nutrition are the keys to sensible and sustainable weight loss.”
Instead of using coconut oil, Kandora suggested people substitute olive oil, canola oil or avocado oil.
“A moderate use of coconut oil is OK,” says Kandora. “But one tablespoon of coconut oil is equal to 11 grams of saturated fat. That’s nearly the daily allowance set by the American Heart Association at 13 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet. Why risk it?”
Kandora cautioned it’s too early to rule out coconut oil without more scientific study. But, with the evidence available now, there are better alternatives. That’s not to say coconut oil shouldn’t be externally used on the body, Kandora says.
“Coconut oil is a very effective moisturizer for hair and skin” Kandora says.
And what about all those trendy coconut drinks on the market?
“They feature coconut water,” Kandora points out. “That’s from the liquid inside the coconut. The fat is from the meat of the coconut.”