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Coconut Oil: A slippery slope?


A recent report came out from the American Heart Association’s (AHA) presidential advisory board warning against the use of coconut oil and truthfully all I thought to myself was….FINALLY. Don't get me wrong, fats do belong in a healthy diet, but you are wrong to think too much saturated fat is going to keep your heart healthy.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 1 of every 3 deaths. In regards to reducing risk of CVD, the AHA’s recommendations since 1961 has consistently advised to reduce dietary saturated fat intake. AHA’s recent report took a deep dive into the latest scientific evidence on dietary fats and CVD risk. The conclusion of this report is again consistent with their previous recommendations: keep saturated fat intake to <10% of your total calories and replace saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated fats more often. If you have elevated LDL cholesterol levels, recommendations are even stricter and include reducing saturated fat intake to <5-6% of total calorie intake.

With coconut oil containing ~82% saturated fat (even beating butter and lard for saturated fat content), the AHA’s response to using this oil is simple…don’t. A review of 7 controlled clinical trials revealed that coconut oil raised LDL, the bad cholesterol, in comparison with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in all 7 trials. But have no fear. I am here to help! I have an easy guide for how to incorporate oils in a healthy diet.

Check out my news segment with WZZM here for the audio guide.

Key takeaway (if you read nothing else, read this!): Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats over saturated fats as much as possible. They have been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol (yay!).

  • Monounsaturated fats: olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, peanut butter, almondsFullSizeRender
  • Polyunsaturated fats: peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, walnutsFullSizeRender_1
  • Saturated fats: butter, coconut oil, ghee, palm oil, lard, beef fat, whole fat dairy, lamb, pork, poultry with skinFullSizeRender_2

Serving size: 

  • Oils: 1 TbspFullSizeRender_4
  • Foods rich in oils:
    • Trans fat-free margarine and mayonnaise: 1 Tbsp
    • Salad dressings and peanut butter: 2 Tbsp
    • Avocado: ½ medium or 3 tsp
    • Nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts): 1 oz or 3 tsp
  • Average calories per serving: 75-150 calories
  • Daily Oil Allowance: ~2 Tbsp for adultsFullSizeRender_3

Smoke point: the degree to which an oil or fat starts smoking and breaking down. If your oil is heated past it's smoke point, the fat in the oil starts to break down and releases free radicals. These free radicals create unpalatable flavors and promote inflammation in the body. Be sure to use oils based on your cooking methods.

  • Searing, deep-frying, stir-frying: peanut, corn, or safflower oil
  • Salad dressings or sautéing: virgin olive, avocado, or sesame oil

Storage: Oils should be stored in a dry, dark, and cool place away from light, heat, moisture, and air. I know those clear, glass bottles with the special nozzles are tempting to keep as a kitchen counter accessory, but your oils should really be kept away from heat in a dark, dry place so avoid storing it in the cupboard above the stove.

Purchasing: When grabbing your favorite oil from the local grocery store, try to avoid buying in bulk and stick with the smaller containers of oils. The bigger the container, the more likely the oil will have time to go rancid before you finish it. Try to stick with virgin or raw oils to preserve the best flavor. Lastly, there is always the unknown of how long the oil has already been sitting on the shelf absorbing the unwanted fluorescent light at the grocery store. Try to avoid picking the first or second oil on the shelf. Do a little shuffling and pick one farther back in the line protected by darkness of the shelf. This helps to avoid purchasing potentially half-rancid oil without even knowing it.


P.S. Still got a jar of coconut oil sitting around and don't what to do with it now that you've learned it's not the healthiest of fats? It'll make an excellent moisturizer or hair conditioner. So instead of contributing to your bum fat, it will make your bum soft 😉