The Truth About Coconut Oil: Is it Bad for You?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the bashing that coconut oil has taken this past week. The media is having a field day with The American Heart Association’s recently released report advising against the use of coconut oil. The report claims that coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, leads to cardiovascular disease, and “has no known offsetting favorable effects.”
What??? Let me just start by saying, coconut oil has numerous health benefits. The statement about coconut oil not having benefits clued me in immediately that this was not a credible source of health information. Coconut oil is a powerful antioxidant. It contains saturated fat necessary for many bodily processes. We cannot thrive without saturated fat. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a powerful anti-fungal agent. Coconut oil is antiviral and antibacterial, making it a super immune system booster. It contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are a great source of energy. Further, coconut oil is not readily stored as fat in the body, like other types of fat are.
When I first heard about this from one of my clients, it made me laugh. This latest headline is a relic from the past, from the days where fat was portrayed as bad and we were led down the dark path of high sugar, carbohydrate and trans fat consumption. This report has been re-circulated many times, and apparently will continue to make news even after the cholesterol/saturated fat/heart disease link was proven to be based on junk science.
After I laughed, I got mad. This type of misinformation is what confuses and frustrates consumers. Many people end up following the health advice they hear on the news, which leads to people eating egg whites and throwing away the nutrient dense yolk, depriving themselves of the vital fat and cholesterol that are essential for good health. Others end up just giving up and eating whatever is quickest and easiest (which usually means fast food and processed foods) because they get tired of the conflicting information they hear in the news. We can’t discern what’s actually true and follow misguided health advice, only to find out years later that what we were told would keep us healthy is actually killing us.
Well, I’ll tell you one sure way to know when health advice has gone bad: when it comes from a major organization whose primary goal is profit. The American Heart Association is the same organization that promoted trans fat rich, cholesterol free margarines for years, leading to countless early deaths. Many of the organizations that give dietary advice are funded by big food companies and tend to promote foods these companies produce. Take the advice you get from a health association, a corporation or mainstream news with a grain of salt. Their main goal is to make money, not increase the health of the population. When you keep this in perspective, it’s easier to keep things straight.
In an attempt to scare people into consuming more vegetable oils, the reports have stated that coconut oil is 80% fat, comparing it to butter and beef fat. This is the second point where the credibility of the source is lost. Because of their saturated fat content, coconut oil, butter, and beef tallow are all better suited for cooking than vegetable oils. Heating unsaturated vegetable oils damages the fat, causing it to oxidize, and is directly linked with atherosclerosis. Cooking vegetable oil turns it into a trans fat, something we all know we should avoid. Saturated fats are more stable and don’t become dangerous when heated. Yet the American Heart Association recommends against using these health promoting traditional fats. What would they have us cook with then? Their answer is vegetable oils. And if they previously told us trans fats should be avoided but now tell us to to cook with oils that become trans fats, does this not seem contradictory, ignorant, and just plain irresponsible?
Besides, saturated fat is not the enemy. When you don’t eat enough saturated fat, you are not satiated and tend to gravitate toward sugar. It is already well known in the health community that sugar is the main culprit behind inflammatory processes and diseases like cancer, heart disease, and auto-immune disease. Low fat diets can be sustained for only a short time before they start to cause hormonal problems, thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, and accelerated aging. A USA Today article even stated, “people who cut saturated fat out of their diet might not necessarily reduce their heart disease risk because people tend to fill the void with sugar, white flour and empty calories.” These are the real dangers to our health. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is deadly because it encourages the use of inflammatory oils and increases the likelihood for higher sugar consumption when saturated fat is restricted from the diet.
I advise my clients to avoid inflammatory oils, especially canola and soy, in favor of organic virgin coconut or avocado oil, grass-fed ghee, and grass-fed beef tallow when cooking. I recommend extra virgin olive oil for salads and raw grass-fed butter for spreading, but never heating.
The USA Today article recommends opting for vegetable oil instead and concludes by saying “you can put coconut oil on your body, but don’t put it in your body.” This statement shows a complete lack of understanding that whatever goes on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream. I always tell my clients to make sure whatever they put on their body, whether it’s facial cleanser, body wash, lotion, or sunscreen, is something they would eat. A large percentage of what is applied to the skin is absorbed by the body, so we need to choose our personal care products very carefully. I have used coconut oil as my primary face and body oil for 15 years and recommend it for its hydrating and antioxidant properties.
The lack of integrity we see in the mainstream media is just one of the reasons I don’t watch television. Most of the health or nutrition information we see on network news is not really news, but merely stories based on bogus “studies” that have been paid for by multi-national corporations in order to increase product sales. Please realize that most television networks and newspapers are now controlled by multi-national corporations. They have big pockets, which yields big influence on what we see as “news” and will not allow a story to be aired if it means possibly hurting their bottom line.
So, here’s how you can end the confusion when it comes to health related information. Always do your own research. Look for who funded the “study” and know that so-called studies don’t prove anything to be true. If you have enough money, you can “prove” anything to be good or bad, depending on which way you want that study to go. Always follow the money. Stop watching the news. Pick up a book. And most of all, use your common sense. We can cite all kinds of research from hundreds of nutritional and medical journals all day long, but that doesn’t take into account inner knowing and common sense. There is no one perfect diet for everyone. What is right for you may not be right for me. If we learn to tune into how our bodies respond to the foods we eat, we are guided to what is most healthful for us. Doesn’t it just make sense that foods found in nature, in their whole form are going to nourish the body and mind, while genetically engineered, processed, refined, adulterated foods that were created in a lab will not have all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that create abundant health?
All we have to do is look around us, and we can clearly see that following a processed food diet does not serve us.