1) Coconut oil is a tropical oil, as are palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.
2) Though it’s called an oil, it can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid at room temperature.
3) One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, and no vitamins or minerals. In other words, coconut oil is high in fat and calories and devoid of nutrients.
4) It has no cholesterol.
5) Coconut oil also has a high smoke point that makes it resistant to oxidation (i.e. becoming rancid).
6) Coconut oil is used in many processed foods (especially baked goods and movie theater popcorn) because it’s relatively inexpensive and gives foods a crisp texture.
7) You can find endless uses for it in beauty magazines and blogs as it’s an effective and delicious-smelling moisturizer for skin and hair.
8) Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short- and medium-chain fatty acids. Forty-four percent are lauric (considered heart unfriendly) while 16.8% are myristic (heart friendly). A few studies have found this unique fatty acid combination improves HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios. Some experts think these studies are flawed, but most agree that the negatives of coconut oil (high in saturated fat) outweigh its alleged heart health benefits.
9) Experts also agree coconut oil is better than butter, other animal fats, and partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats, but it has more strikes against it than do liquid vegetable oils.
10) Anecdotal evidence finds some improvement in Alzheimer’s patients who add coconut oil to their diets. There has been no clinical testing or scientific evidence to prove these claims.
11) Lauric fatty acid has anti-microbial properties, though some of it is removed during processing.
The bottom line is that coconut oil is a saturated fat that should be used in moderation. (Saturated fat should constitute only 5-7% of total of total fat intake). There may be some promising nutritional and medicinal aspects of coconut oil; however, it’s important to look at your diet as a whole instead of focusing on certain foods or isolated nutrients. According to Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. “We can’t say coconut oil is healthy or not healthy, it depends on the rest of the diet.”
Alzheimer’s Association, Alternative Treatments.
Andrew Weil, M.D., New View of Coconut Oil, May 7, 2013.
JeffNovick.com, Marketing Junk Food: Don’t Go Cuckoo Over Coconut Oil, April 10, 2008.
WebMD Expert Column, The Truth About Coconut Oil, by Kathleen M. Zelman, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.