Coconut Oil: What you should know

Categories Extension Daily, Food
Every day it seems like we discover new health benefits where we least expect to. In recent years, coconuts, specifically coconut oil, have sparked interest among dietitians and health enthusiasts.  Articles and ads promoting weight loss, Alzheimer’s disease prevention and cardiovascular health – It’s no wonder people are going coco-nutty.

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a by-product of the coconut fruit. The oil is made by pressing the white meat inside the coconut. It has a sweet, tropical smell and smooth texture. Because of its high saturated fat content, the oil is solid at room temperature and it cooks well at high temperatures.

The Facts

While the benefits from coconut oil seem extraordinary, the stunning 121 calories per tablespoon says otherwise. Not to mention the 92 percent saturated fat content, that’s a higher percentage than butter. Typically, the recommended intake of saturated fat per day is no more than 10 percent. While one or two tablespoons a day may seem harmless, consuming too much saturated fat raises bad LDL cholesterol levels and increases the risk for heart disease.

But what is interesting to dietitians is the boost in good HDL cholesterol levels. Supporters of coconut oil say that this outweighs the negative effects the oil has on your body. More studies are needed to prove these claims.

Tera Glenn, a human nutrition diet and health agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers advice.  “With any food that is high in calorie content, you should be careful about the amount you use,” she said. High calories do not cancel out the benefits of any food,” Glenn added.

Linia Patel, a sports nutritionist, and dietitian agrees. In her blog, she recommends sticking to the guidelines and suggested amounts of daily fat intake, and choosing unprocessed saturated fats like extra virgin coconut oil.

What can we learn from coconut oil?

Coconut oil can be added to your diet if used occasionally and in small amounts. A healthy diet should have a balance of fruits, vegetables, fats, and grains. Each category has a variety of nutrients that benefit your body.

If you plan to incorporate coconut oil into your diet, remember moderation is key. “Keep in mind healthy fats like fish, nuts, and avocados are great for us, but they will have more calories per serving,” added Glenn.

The future of the coconut crop isn’t looking too sweet. Time Magazine reports, that “Drought, storms and an insect-born disease called, “Lethal Yellowing” have led to a shortage in supply.”  As prices rise and supermarkets run low of this product, there is a good chance you will not be able to afford it.

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