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Coconut oil is it healthy?

I’m sure you’ve heard the many claims about the health benefits of coconut oil? Is there any truth to these claims and should we be ditching the tried and tested olive oil (extra virgin, of course), for coconut oil?

Let's take a look at the facts.

There are two main types of fat: Saturated and Unsaturated.

Unsaturated fats are proven to improve heart health and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, while saturated fats are generally found to do the opposite.

Coconut oil is around 90% saturated fat, however not all saturated fats are the same. Interestingly, the plant-based saturated fat in coconut oil and the saturated fat we find in butter, cream and meat appear to behave differently in the body.

Coconut oil has been proven to increase the ‘good cholesterol’ in the body, however, it does also increase the ‘bad cholesterol’. This means that the overall cholesterol ratio still increases, which is not something we want to aim for.

However, all is not lost! There are other proven health benefits of coconut oil that you may not be aware of.

Around 40% of the saturated fat in coconut oil is Lauric acid. Monolaurin is a component of Lauric acid that has been found to have excellent antimicrobial properties against bacteria and yeast and fungus. These antimicrobial properties have shown great results when used on the skin to reduce acne, eczema, dermatitis and other skin irritations.

A 2018 study also found coconut oil to be rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which means it is excellent for dry or sensitive skin and even improving wound healing.

So, What oil should I use? 

The most important thing to remember is that a healthy diet is more than simply the form of oil or fat you chose to use. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most well-loved and studied plant-based oils, and has proven cardio-protective effects on the heart and overall cholesterol.

Plants-based sources of oil and fats are best obtained from olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and tahini, all of which contain predominantly unsaturated fats. Coconut oil can still be part of a healthy, balanced diet, however, it shouldn’t be the predominant source of fat in the diet, as there are so many other excellent sources that we know to be very healthy!  

Written By Esther Rijk, Dietitian
Do you want to know more? Contact Esther at rijkesther@gmail.com