Weight loss, lowered cholesterol levels, curing Alzheimer’s and preventing heart disease are all claimed to be benefits of consuming coconut oil. Coconut oil is getting a lot of attention regarding the potential health benefits it can provide. BUT is it really good for our health?!
Weight loss, lowered cholesterol levels, curing Alzheimer’s and preventing heart disease are all claimed to be benefits of consuming coconut oil. Coconut oil is getting a lot of attention regarding the potential health benefits it can provide because of the medium-chained triglycerides which assist in weight loss. However, at this stage the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited.
In fact what most people do not realise is that coconut oil is high in unhealthy saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat which raises bad cholesterol levels, clogs the arteries and increases the risk of heart disease. Did you know that just 2 tablespoons of coconut oil contains almost 1,000kj and 16g of saturated fat?
Saturated fats are also found in butter, dairy products, fatty meats, fried take-away foods and processed foods. Plant-derived saturated fats include palm oil, coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut cream. Vegetable oils are generally considered healthier options containing polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA). With coconut oil containing around 85-90 percent saturated fat it may not be a healthy option. Consuming coconut oil in place of other oils are inadvertently increasing our intake of saturated fat.
Australians are already consuming too much saturated fat and not only does this make weight control harder but puts us at risk blood cholesterol levels, raising the amounts of LDL ‘bad cholesterol’ and decreasing levels of HDL ‘good cholesterol’. Most Australians are consuming above the recommendations for saturated fat (less than 10% of your diet), so it is important to choose foods that are low in saturated fat for good health.
Not all fats are bad for us, good fats are essential for a healthy, well balanced diet as they increase the good cholesterol rather than the bad cholesterol. Healthier fats include PUFA’s (Omega 6 fatty acids: sunflower, safflower, soy, sesame oils and polyunsaturated margarine’s) and MUFA’s (Olive, canola and macadamia oils, avocados, nuts, and some margarines) which are high in omega 3’s and omega 6’s (Canola oil, margarine, fish and other seafood’s).
How can you reduce your intake of saturated fats:
- Try replacing coconut oil with other vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and olive oil
- Try swapping foods high in saturated fats for foods containing mostly PUFA’s and MUFA’s such as avocados, nuts, margarines and fish
- Check food labels and choose foods with the lowest amounts (less than 3g per 100g is best)
- Include healthier fats and oils through sunflower, safflower, soy, macadamia and sesame oils, nuts, avocado and fish
- Trim all visible fat from meat, remove skin from chicken and try to avoid processed meat (e.g. sausages and salami)
- Australian Government, National Health and Medical Research Council, Department of health and Ageing. (2013). Eat for health, Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/eatingwell/efh_food_label_example_130621.pdf
- Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). (2012). Coconut oil. Retrieved from http://daa.asn.au/for-the-media/hot-topics-in-nutrition/coconut-oil/
- Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). (2010). Choosing healthier fats and oils. Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/nutrition/healthierfats/Pages/default.aspx
- National Heart Foundation of Australia. (2013). Low fat message out – good fat message in. Retrieved from http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news-media/Media-Releases-2013/Pages/low-fat-out-good-fat-in.aspx
- National Heart Foundation of Australia. (2013). New research confirms fish oil is the good oil for heart health. Retrieved from http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news-media/Media-Releases-2013/Pages/fish-oil-good-oil-heart-health.aspx
- National Heart Foundation of Australia. (2003). National Heart Foundation of Australia: Position statement on dietary fat and overweight/obesity. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 60(1):174–6
- Public Health Association of Australia. (PHAA). (2011). Response to labelling logic: The review of food labelling law and policy. Retrieved from http://www.phaa.net.au/documents/110912%20PHAA%20Response%20to%20Labelling%20Logic.pdf