Would you consider yourself a health buff that religiously uses coconut oil for all of its outstanding health benefits? Well, lately you may have caught a drift of some controversy that’s arisen on the saturated fat content found in coconut oil. Just when you thought that you were onto a good thing, your heart sinks as you realize you may actually be causing more harm than good. So is coconut oil bad for your heart? Before you put that jar of coconut oil away, you may want to read this.
Coconut Oil’s Unique Fat Profile
With coconut oil, the specific type of saturated fat contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT) which are absorbed differently in your body than long-chain fatty acids. Instead of these fats being stored, they are broken down quickly and used as energy.
A set of studies published by The American Society for Nutritional Studies noted some interesting points, where it reviewed the many positive effects of swapping long-chain fatty acids with MCT (such as the ones present in coconut oil):
- Increased energy expenditure from 100 to 669kJ in men
- Decrease in overall fat cell size and body weight
- Decrease in hunger, which in turn reduced food intake
Heart Disease is Absent in Coconut Eating Populations!
Yes, you read that correctly. One of the most interesting studies published in 2010, shows that heart disease is absent in coconut eating populations! In many island cultures, coconut products are an incredibly important asset, forming part of the staple diet and a predominant source of saturated fat, along with wild game.
It’s also interesting to find results of a randomized study of cooking with sunflower versus coconut oil in patients that have recovered from coronary artery disease. The focus of the study was to show that saturated fats increase cholesterol levels. I would say that those conducting the study, were baffled to see that over the study period of two years, it was concluded that coconut oil in comparison with sunflower oil, did not raise cardiovascular risk factors!
Coconut Oil Actually Raises Good Cholesterol
Coconut oil actually raises HDL, which is the good cholesterol that balances out the not so good LDL cholesterol. Keeping your LDL lowered means your risk of heart-related conditions is lowered. A study examining 207 adults living in the coconut-rich Sri Lanka shows zero signs of heart disease. Not even one symptom! Given that the average intake of coconuts per person was 120 per year at the time of the study, I think we have a thing or two to learn from them!
It is these leading studies that are suggesting that with further investigation, will show the use of coconut oil may actually be an effective weight management tool. You might agree that this is a far cry from what we have been taught about saturated fats in it.
Beyond Coconut Oil and Heart: The Saturated Fat Debate
There’s no doubt about it. Heart disease is a sign of the modern times. Globally, deaths linked to cardiovascular disease increased 41% between 1990 and 2013, with 17.3 million deaths in 2013. For as long as heart disease become prominent, we’ve been told by health authorities to limit saturated fats, as they are all bad and the leading cause of artery blockages and alarming cholesterol levels.
One particular study, ‘successfully’ found a strong link between saturated fats and coronary heart disease. It tracked the individual health of over 73,000 women and 42,000 men over the span of 30 years. You might agree that those statistics are quite hard to argue against. Or are they?
Why Are Saturated Fats Not To Be Blamed?
Critics wisely point out that those participants in the 30-year study who consumed high levels of saturated fats also ate more refined foods and less fiber, fruit, and vegetables.
In other words, their diets were not healthy.
It’s only in relatively recent times that medical experts are starting to find flaws in the one for all warning of all saturated fats are bad for us. If it was as simple as limiting saturated fats, then why does heart disease remain the number one cause of death in America? Because it’s not just saturated fats, we need to worry about. We need to focus on the quality of our foods sources.
A conflicting study published in 2016 placed 46 men on a 12-week trial of either a high-fat, low-carb diet or a low-fat, high carb diet of equal calories and recognized no notable increase in the risk of cardiovascular complication.
The biggest point to note, however, is that the diet of these men was low in processed foods including low processed fat sources such as butter and cold-pressed oils. This study is the first of many, that make a stand in the quality of foods, in particular, saturated fats that we put in our body.
An Overall Balanced Diet Is the Key to Heart Health
It’s quite clear from studies that you cannot simply focus on one aspect of your diet to achieve a healthy lifestyle free of heart disease. Saturated fats are only one piece of the puzzle. Eating a healthy diet is about maintaining your intake of nutrient dense foods such as:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Lean meats such as poultry, fish, and grass fed meats
- Dairy such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal
It’s not particularly about taking out all the foods you have been told are bad for you and living an ordinary life, where you feel you cannot enjoy chocolate, ice cream, and fried foods. Rather, focus on limiting these foods due to the high levels of fat, sugar or salt and ensure you add in the nutrient-dense options throughout the day.
Many refined diets made up of heavily processed foods lead to brain fog, low energy, and excess weight gains. When you begin to make small but positive changes in your diet, you will notice an increase in the quality of life, making it hard to go back to the way you used to live! As for coconut oil, it certainly makes up a part of your healthy diet!