One thing's for sure in the food world: coconut oil is in. Maybe coconut oil is the new kale? Or kale is the new coconut oil? I don't know.
Seems like coconut oil has generated a lot of hype lately, but are the health claims based on science or is it just another food fad?
Recently, a reader sent me the question: "Could you do a post about coconut oil? I've heard conflicting opinions about whether it is a healthier alternative or not... What have you seen about it?" -- Lauren
This is a great question, in large part because it's so relevant right now. I can't even count the number of health claims I've seen and heard associated with coconut oil; from things like malnutrition and liver disease to baldness and stomach pain. Quite a spectrum, huh?
These types of claims can be found from a simple google search as well as "health/nutrition" books, but are they true? Meaning, is there ample scientific evidence to support these claims?
According to current reputable health sources, no. Many of the health claims are simply not well-substantiated by research. Here's what we know to be true about coconut oil: it has no cholesterol but is high in saturated fat, which should be limited in our diets. Instead of cooking with coconut oil (or eating it by the spoonful, which I no joke have witnessed), I recommend using heart-healthy oils low in saturated fat like canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, etc.
Here are some helpful, credible references on coconut oil that summarize the consensus of current research:
Whenever you're wondering about the latest miracle food or supplement, I encourage you to look towards these types of reputable organizations for information in addition to your doctor or registered dietitian (RD).
Thanks for your great question, Lauren!