What does coconut oil do for you?

Coconut is a very trendy food right now. Coconut is thought of as a fruit, but technically it is considered a fruit and nut and a seed. There are several products made from coconut including: coconut milk, coconut water, and coconut oil. Advocates of coconut oil claim that it can provide therapeutic benefits for a myriad of ailments such as: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, digestive disturbances, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. However, some health professionals urge consumers to view coconut oil for what it really is which is a concentrated form of calories with few nutrients. Registered dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina say “the relative health effects of coconut oil consumption remain somewhat uncertain. Some people believe that eating coconut oil does no harm because it’s cholesterol-free; others claim it’s harmful because it lacks essential fatty acids.” Also, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. Someone consuming a diet that is high in saturated fat may be at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Several other health professionals feel that coconut oil may be a heart “healthier” choice than other types of fats. It is true that coconut oil is considered a saturated fat; however, the predominant type of saturated fat in coconut oil (lauric acid). Some studies have shown that lauric acid may help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which could help reduce risk of heart disease. Some dietitians recommend their clients to cook with unprocessed, extra virgin coconut oil instead of stick margarines. These margarines tend to be high in trans fats, which have been shown to contribute to atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries).

I personally feel that coconut oil, like other oils and fats, should be used in moderation. Fats can add great flavor and texture to many dishes, but they also add extra calories and those calories need to be factored in to be a part of a healthy balanced diet.

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