Friday, November 30, 2012

FAQ Friday: Is Coconut Oil Really As Great As They Say?!

Sure, use coconut oil in your cooking and/or baking, but don't expect miracles from it, because no matter what Dr. Oz has told you the research simply doesn't support a majority of the so called "coconut oil miracles".  

 There is a small amount of research out there, but nothing that is set in stone.  Most of the research is very preliminary.
Source: iStockPhoto

Working in a supermarket I get asked about coconut oil often.  Obviously I want to provide the most honest and research-based answer. I'm not going to tell someone that coconut oil is this amazing alternative to, let's say...butter or canola oil, unless I actually believe it to be true.  That being said, using coconut oil to replace your cholesterol and saturated fat loaded butter, or your trans fat loaded shortening, can be a great idea if you are someone who bakes often and uses these ingredients a lot.  Afterall, the saturated fat found in coconut oil (Lauric Acid, which is a Medium Chain Triglyceride) is supposedly (and most likely) a better form of saturated fat, which has been shown to increase your good HDL cholesterol.  Not so bad, right?  Sure.  Does this mean more is better? No, because it might also increases your LDL ("lame" or "lousy") cholesterol.  It still needs to me limited in your diet. Period.

The type of saturated fat found in butter isn't quite as good on your good "HDL" cholesterol.

Just because all the possible benefits of coconut oil may not be supported, that doesn't mean it's not delicious.  I am still confident in recommending coconut oil for its ability to add unique flavors to many foods. I especially love it in raw foods like the carrot cake bites I made last Easter.  But I certainly don't use coconut oil because I expect it to help me keep my weight off or reduce my chances of getting Alzheimers Disease.  The holidays are here and I've noticed there have been so many great holiday recipes on the internet, which include coconut oil. Among some of the most delicious-sounding ones are the following;

The New York Times wrote a great article about other ways to use coconut oil.  I mean, it's definitely a delicious-tasting alternative to butter and shortening.  Heck, some people even saute with it. Pretty cool.  I've never been one to use it a lot, however, because it's not low FODMAPS (or at least, I don't think it is.  Coconut it off limits, so I just assume coconut oil is too.  Not really sure though, as it hasn't shown up on any lists as good or bad).

But let's get back to the title of this post; be careful not to get too caught up in the hype of the "mad-scientist".

Source: iStockPhoto

Bottom Line About Lauric Acid (taken from The New York Times article above): 

Any number of health claims have been made for lauric acid [found in coconut oil]. According to proponents, it’s a wonder substance with possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties that could also, in theory, combat H.I.V., clear up acne and speed up your metabolism. Researchers are skeptical.
“There are a lot of claims that coconut oil may have health benefits, but there is no concrete scientific data yet to support this,” said Dr. Daniel Hwang, a research molecular biologist specializing in lauric acid at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
But, he added, “Coconut is good food, in moderation.”

Like I said be before, be careful not to get too caught up in the hype of the "mad-scientist".  And you might be thinking, "What about coconut oil and weight loss?".  The Center for Science in the Public Interest published an interesting article  about coconut oil, which reported on some studies that showed modest (and positive) effects on weight loss (mainly due to the Medium Chain Triglyceride; Lauric Acid, mentioned above), but those studies were not long-term and the research on coconut oil and weight loss is still in its early stages.  There just isn't enough proof yet that convinces me that you should be dropping your olive oil and running for the coconut oil on the shelves as a way to lose weight.  So, use coconut oil if you want, but until we know more about it I would also continue to use other oils, such as olive oil (an oil with years and year of research supporting its health benefits).  

QUESTION:  Have you ever used coconut oil? What's your favorite application?

Thanks for reading!

The Candid Rd


  1. I love the taste (sauteeing with it is my favorite), but I agree with your points! It's kind of like the whole egg debate...we'll probably find out in a few years that tropical oils are as athrogenic as we once thought, including coconut oil. I love the taste, but the verdict is out on its "awesomeness"...I totally agree. Great post, love it!

  2. great post to clarify the hype about coconut oil. I simply dont like the blog world to turn something into all good or bad. Moderation in anything is the key.
    I use coconut oil for stir fries, together with soynsauce it's delicious

  3. the only way I really use coconut oil is when cooking rice - I love the flavor it adds!

  4. I'm so glad to read this post. I do like coconut oil in certain things. It makes some awesome chocolate chip cookies, by replacing butter...they taste great and stay nice and soft. I also like to use it in homemade granola. It is also a great fat alternative for those that have milk sensitivities and can't have butter in baked goods. But I like to use it in moderation, because I don't fall into the hype of ANY particular food being a miracle food. Thanks for the info.

  5. Coconut oil is my go to oil, but I don't use it everyday. Sometimes I dry saute or water saute, sometimes I saute in coconut oil. I use it (unrefined organic) in all my baking and I love the taste and texture it gives to baked goods. But I use way less than most recipes call for because it's just not necessary to use a ton of oil and have something taste good. With oil I believe in moderation, and if you are eating a plant-based whole food diet than a little oil can be beneficial. But more is not better :)

  6. First, lol "mad scientist" ;)

    I'm so glad you wrote this post! It seems like in the past year, the number of times I've been asked about coconut oil has exploded. I've heard of people taking the possible health benefits out of hand and just putting it on everything. Not a good idea. Like you said, moderation is key. I like how you pointed out the taste benefits of using coconut oil in some recipes - an important thing to think about!

  7. Great informative post Gina, thank you. I laughed at the mad scientist! Sounds like, with everything, it is fine in moderation. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. Insightful post you have in here! In our family, we are only using coconut oil when frying. I have read in an online prescription pharmacy reviews that frequent use of cooking oil is not healthy and can be dangerous to your health.

  9. I usually use coconut oil for cooking and baking. But I recently love using it as my natural hair conditioner and skin moisturizer. Love its effect on my hair and skin. Really feels so soft and smooth.

  10. I'm always a bit suspicious when it comes to "super foods." Great reminders about moderation!

  11. I still find it puzzling to see how people are just finding out about how good coconut is health-wise (my friends living in asia have been vouching about it even long before this current trend). I don't think you'd need to keep some nasonex nearby when you consume it, too.