Coconut use as a regular part of a healthy diet is trending right now, but the research on its health claims are mixed so far. Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat (about 90%), which is even higher than butter (about 64%)! Too much saturated fat in your diet can be unhealthy because it raises bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and adds extra calories, increasing risk of heart disease and weight gain. On the other hand, what is interesting about coconut oil is that it is a plant-based saturated fat, containing a unique molecular structure (MCT) that helps raise good cholesterol levels (HDL), perhaps making it a not so bad saturated fat. In addition, it provides a pleasant flavor to food. The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans recommends that no more than 10% of your total calories should come from saturated fat. Similarly, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 5-6% of your total calories should come from saturated fat to maintain a healthy heart. Do not hesitate to use coconut oil if you are cooking your favorite Thai dish, but at the same time do not replace your olive oil with coconut oil in your salad dressings. Oils from other vegetable sources with less saturated fat and more mono- and polyunsaturated fat such as olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil would be a better choice for your heart health. While you don’t need to totally cut out fat since it is a necessary part of your diet, you should be aware of the sources of fat and their portions and proper use. Saturated fat is an okay addition to your diet as long as you remember the 10% guideline, and up to 30% of your calories can come from fats overall. Overall, coconut oil can be a nutritious and healthy addition to your diet as long as it’s done correctly. Here’s my favorite sweet recipe of eating coconut! Enjoy and pledge with us today for the nutrition plan that is right for you!
Author: Shraddha Chaubey, MS,RDN,CD