Coconut oil: Superfood or the fad that could make you fat?
Another week, another super food that’s going to magically make you thin and healthy. This time the flavour of the week is coconut oil. You can barely open a cookbook or watch a cooking programme on TV that isn’t heralding it as the second coming of healthy eating.
Even Joe ‘Lean in 15’ Wicks is a fan.
But is the coconut all it’s cracked up to be?
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is oil that comes from the ‘meat’ of matured coconuts. There are a few different types, just like other oils – refined, virgin, and extra virgin. Refined coconut oil is deemed to be lower quality and won’t have that distinctive coconutty taste and smell. Virgin and extra virgin coconut oil uses younger, fresher coconuts, has a lighter taste and is considered to be higher quality.
Is coconut oil good for you or not?
That’s the thing – it’s really not clear why coconut oil has suddenly become so popular. There is some evidence to suggest that it is kind to your skin, particularly if you have certain skin condition such as eczema, and that it can make you feel fuller. Some also claim that the mix of fats it contains is better for you. However, there’s actually very little to suggest coconut oil is any better for you than other types of oil.
In fact, it could be worse.
82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, higher than butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and pork lard (39%). It’s this saturated fat that’s the problem – it raises the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol (known as LDL), a fatty substance in the blood which can be deposited in the walls of arteries, causing blockages and leading to problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
It can all get quite technical with the different types of saturated fats and the amount of carbon atoms they contain, but it certainly seems like coconut oil isn’t quite as wonderful as people have been making out.
Of course, as with anything, if you like the taste of coconut oil then you can still consume it, you just have to do so in moderation.
Tips for consuming fats
Depending on which Shake That Weight diet plan you choose, you may still need a healthy evening meal, so controlling the amount and type of fat you consume is important. You may think you need to steer clear of fats if you’re trying to lose weight, but the fact is fats are an essential part of your diet because they help your body absorb vitamins. You just need to know what kinds of fats you need and how much to consume.
According to Public Health England, men should consume no more than 30g of saturated fats a day, while women should have no more than 20g.
The American Heart Association recommends that people should replace some of the saturated fats in their diet with unsaturated plant oils and vegetable oils, such as olive, sunflower and rapeseed oil. Foods that are rich in natural oils, such as avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds should replace foods high in saturated fats like cakes and biscuits – Sorry, we know that’s not as much fun!
Here are some more tips on how to reduce the amount of fat you consume:
- Trim excess fat of foods before cooking
- Choose lean mince over that with a high fat content – or turkey mince rather than beef
- Grill, bake, poach or steam food rather than frying or roasting
- Use oil sprays to reduce the amount you use
- Drain food of excess oil before you serve
To sum up, while there may be some advantages to using coconut oil, there simply is not enough evidence to suggest you should switch from other oils.