Coconut Oil: Fad or Here to Stay

I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard quite a bit about coconut oil over the past few years. Coconut oil became popular after the paleo diet was all the rave for crossfitters and fad diet lovers. I absolutely keep coconut oil in my pantry, but I also have olive oil, avocado oil, ghee and a few other options as well. There are pros and cons to coconut oil in my humble dietitian opinion. Let’s review.

Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fat. In most cases, saturated fat is the “bad” fat, and unsaturated fat is the “good” fat. But not all fats are created equal. The saturated fat found in coconut oil is mainly lauric acid which is a medium chain triglyceride or MCT. This type of fat is metabolized more easily into energy in the liver compared to long chain triglycerides.

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I do recommend coconut oil for clients and patients with absorption issues, but in general, I would not recommend coconut oil as your main source of fat. Some research suggests that lauric acid is used readily for energy instead of being stored as fat. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of research on the benefits of unsaturated fat that is found in olive oil. Unsaturated fats can help improve cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated and trans fats. In general, olive oil is a better choice than coconut oil when it comes to cooking. However, coconut oil may be used more often when baking or cooking with high heat due to its high smoke point and the consistency and flavor it provides.

If you do choose to use coconut oil, then be sure to buy organic, virgin coconut oil that is not refined.
Coconut oil actually has quite a few other uses besides being part of your diet. You may want to use that jar of coconut oil for your hair and skin. Coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer that is used like a conditioner for your hair or as a lotion for your skin. If you want to get a little creative, you can try making a body scrub with coconut oil and sea salt or sugar.

Before you try any food trend or fad diet make sure you do your research! Or you can always ask a Registered Dietitian.