Coconut Oil: Tropical Treasure for Health

“Eating fat is bad for you.” “Saturated fat causes heart attacks.” “Oils are bad for you, avoid them like the plague.” Likely you’ve heard these statements from well-meaning people, perhaps even from physicians. I say… “Not so fast….”

The latest research has some surprising news regarding fats and oils, and many medical “hard facts” are being thrown out as a result. The news is good and our quality of life no longer has to suffer by avoiding all the tasty, “high fat” foods we know we love.

Coconut oil, with its high saturated fat and 70-85% “medium chain triglycerides” (MCT’s) is part of that good news. Coconut oil is appropriate for medium heat cooking (up to 350 degrees) and has a number of health benefits compared to traditional cooking oils and fats, such as butter or soybean oil.

If you are pursuing Optimum Health, keep coconut oil in your kitchen and “enjoy” the guilt-free health-enhancing benefits. (Note: Olive oil is still preferred for most daily uses unless higher temperatures are involved.)

First, here are 2 Health Facts about fats and oils…

FACT #1: Saturated fat is NOT a cause of heart disease.

Saturated fat, such as butter, animal fat and coconut oil, have been blamed as a primary cause of heart attacks for decades. These fats, solid at room temperature, have taken the rap for the epidemic of heart disease in America. But in fact, carbohydrates and weight gain are far more to blame.

One of the best research studies confirming this fact was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2010. Research was summarized on over 300,000 individuals showing that higher saturated fat in the diet is NOT associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke!

The myth that saturated fat causes heart attacks is not dying an easy death, however, and you may still hear it from well-meaning people. But it simply is not supported in research.

FACT #2: Dietary fats and oils, in moderation, are “good for us” and essential.

Early American explorers, at times, lived off the lean meat of rabbits. The deficiency of fat in their diets caused what is known as “rabbit starvation”. It is essentially a deficiency of fat in the diet. We must have a certain amount of fat from internal fat stores or from dietary fat intake for survival.

This includes “essential fatty acids” such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and a total daily fat intake.

If we need some fats and oils for long-term health, why should coconut oil be a part of my nutrition plan? Consider these benefits:

Benefit #1: Coconut oil actually raises good HDL cholesterol!

Certain vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, are known to lower the good HDL cholesterol. Coconut oil raises HDL, a powerful protector from heart disease.

Benefit #2: Coconut oil promotes abdominal fat loss!

Abdominal fat is a major risk for ugly things like diabetes and heart disease. Coconut oil, with its medium chain triglycerides, changes the way our body burns fats, reducing overall body weight and fat within the abdomen. For example, a 1 inch reduction in waist circumference was seen in overweight men after just one month of adding 1 oz of virgin coconut oil to the diet.

Benefit #3: Coconut oil reduces hunger!

It is fascinating how powerful certain foods can be to actually make you eat less over the next few hours. Coconut oil is one of those foods. Compared to typical saturated fats, the fats in coconut oil have a stronger effect on reducing appetite.

Benefit #3: Coconut oil, even though it has calories, causes weight loss!

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? I agree. So let’s not take this research farther than it should be applied. Compared to other fats added to the diet, however, weight was slightly reduced. Other fats caused weight gain. Coconut oil should is a preferred replacement for other oils and should not be an “add on”.

Benefit #4: Coconut oil increases the metabolism.

Foods have the tendency to increase our metabolism after we eat, some more than others. MCT’s increase the 24 hour metabolism rate around 119 calories with 1 oz of coconut oil, meaning you burn almost half the calories you consume in the oil simply by having a “faster” metabolism.

Benefit #5: Coconut oil does not increase blood triglycerides like other fats.

Triglycerides increased 68% after consumption of “long chain” triglycerides found in typical fats and oils, but triglycerides did not increase after coconut oil MCT’s.

Summary:

  1. Moderate intake of certain fats and oils promotes optimum health!
  2. Olive oil is my #1 oil recommendation for low temperature uses. Try to consume around 1 oz per day as a salad dressing, as a condiment for vegetables or starches, or to sauté. Read more about olive oil here…
  3. Coconut oil is my #2 oil recommendation. If cooking at medium temperatures, up to 350 degrees, such as baking or making desserts, use coconut oil over alternatives. Health benefits have been shown with 1 oz per day. Stovetop cooking at low to medium heat are appropriate with coconut oil.
  4. Canola oil is my #3 oil recommendation for high heat cooking over 350 degrees. Look for more on canola oil in a future article.

Enjoy your fats and oils as a part of your long-term maintenance nutrition plan. Make great selections on your oils, always use in moderation, and keep calorie content in mind.

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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