When it comes to natural oils, there’s a lot of debate about the various health effects of items like coconut oil. Coconut oil is a rich type of natural oil that has classically been used in candy bars, baked goods and other processed foods in the American food culture. In other food cultures, including tropical cultures, it has many different dietary uses.
The Debate Over Coconut Oil
As doctors grew wary of saturated fats, coconut oil was stripped from the list of ingredients for many prepared foods. Coconut oil has no cholesterol or sodium, but is extremely high in saturated fat. It’s also a high calorie food. A serving of 218 g includes 1879 calories and 189g of saturated fat or over 900% of the daily recommendation. With these kinds of numbers, it’s hard to see why doctors would now challenge the assertion that coconut oil is too rich for the common diet, but some are countering conventional wisdom on the health effects of saturated fats.
Coconut oil is one of the few saturated fat foods that doesn’t come from animals. Some doctors think this gives it a particular status regarding the health effects of saturated fats. Some debates include a study of ethnic groups like Alaskan Eskimos, where a food culture includes both the saturated fats of local fish, and other parts of the fish containing hormones that some experts say allow them to process the saturated fats differently. The debate over coconut oil involves this and other studies about saturated fats versus the unsaturated fats hat have largely replaced them on the American menu. Some nutritionists are starting to say that saturated fats may not be as bad as previously thought.
The bottom line is that the calorie count of coconut oil alone makes it a dubious prospect for addition to a weight-loss diet. By contrast, some forms of all-purpose soy oil contain less than a tenth of the calories and much less fat. Coconut oil also doesn’t have a lot of the additional nutrients that we see in many other plant-based foods, so it would seem that there’s not a lot of reason to seek it out for the dinner plate.
The best bet for many who are looking for a healthy diet is to focus on low fat, low calorie foods, as well as unprocessed or “whole foods” that help consumers to understand what is really going into their bodies. Coconut oil, on the other hand, has traditionally been one of those mystery ingredients that we didn’t always know about when chowing down on prepared, and often preserved, candies and baked goods. Although doctors make some compelling claims on both sides of the debate, some of the practical aspects of this food make it something dieters should use with caution.