Is coconut oil good or bad for your health?

As you may have heard, everybody is going nuts about coconuts! More specifically, coconut oil. It’s become so popular in recent years that one health food chain sold six tonnes across the UK in just one month. But what we all want to know is:

Is coconut oil good for our health? And is it worth buying? Read on to find out the facts.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is mostly made up of saturated fat, around 85 to 90 per cent in fact. We’ve known for a long time that foods high in saturated fat have a negative effect on your health. Particularly on your risk of cardiovascular disease, for example a stroke or heart attack.

Guidelines recommend that you only have small amounts of this type of fat in your diet. So this may make you wonder: should I eat coconut oil if it’s high in saturated fat? What’s the difference between coconut oil and other sources of saturated fat, for example butter or palm oil? And should I use coconut oil instead of healthy unsaturated oils, such as olive oil?

Is coconut oil good for your health?

Champions of coconut oil believe that the difference between coconut oil and other types of saturated fat lies within the specific fatty acids found in coconut oil. It’s thought that coconut oil behaves differently when compared with other foods high in saturated fat (eg butter) and so is better for your health.

This is because some types of fatty acids have a simpler way of digesting, absorbing and metabolising (burning as a fuel source) in your body. This is due to differences in their structure. Because of this, it’s been suggested that coconut oil may help to improve cardiovascular health, encourage weight loss, reduce appetite, and improve energy levels. But it’s not clear yet if coconut oil does actually act in this way.

What does the evidence say?

One thing we do know about coconut oil, is that during cooking it’s very stable at high temperatures because of its high content of saturated fat. This is a good thing in terms of taste and quality, and also means it doesn’t produce any toxins when cooking it.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, if you enjoy the taste of coconut oil, then as with butter and other foods high in saturated fat, you should use it every now and then and in small amounts. Just remember, with the limited amount of research, including coconut oil in your diet may not lead to major health improvements

Unsaturated fatty oils have long established benefits and are recommended as part of a healthy diet by the Department of Health and British Heart Foundation.

For me, the best answer to this debate, as with any food product, is that your diet should be all about moderation, balance and variety.

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This information was published by Bupa’s Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them.

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