Wait, Is Coconut Oil Actually Bad For You?

Do you need some help softening cracked heels (after all, who doesn’t)? What about smoothing flyaways? And while we’re at it, finding something to do some teeth whitening would be great. Lucky for us, there’s coconut oil—beloved by all for its universal application (aka: when in doubt, use coconut oil).

That is until the American Heart Association (AHA) threw a bit of wrench into everyone’s food and beauty routines by calling this go-to staple unhealthy. Did we read that right? The anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, fat-burning, miracle substance is actually unhealthy? Well, it depends on who you ask. So before you decide to stock up on a lifetime supply or you swear off of it completely, let’s dig a little deeper to see where coconut oil actually stands.

Why are experts saying coconut oil is unhealthy?

As you may know, coconut oil is really high in saturated fat. While there is some level of debate over the actual health benefits and/or risks of this type of fat, there is no denying that coconut oil is literally filled with it. In fact, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, which is much higher than butter at 63%, beef fat at 50% and pork lard at 39%. Just for reference, only 14% of the fat in olive oil is saturated, while the other 73% of it is monounsaturated (which is very heart healthy).

So, what’s the verdict on saturated fats?

At one point, saturated fats were considered extremely unhealthy (hence why margarine used to be recommended in place of butter, which is high in saturated fat). However, recent studies have found that saturated fats, especially those that occur naturally, are far healthier than trans fats, which are found in heavily-processed foods.

Just because saturated fat is the lesser of two evils, though, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s super healthy. According to the AHA, saturated fats can raise your levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol), which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

But this doesn’t change the fact that many saturated-filled foods are totally delicious—beef, pork, cream, butter and cheese—just to name a few. So if you can’t live without these foods, including coconut oil, the AHA recommends that you stick to roughly 13 grams of saturated fat daily. Which for all you coconut oil lovers out there, that’s just one tablespoon.

Health Pros vs. Cons:

Like most things, coconut oil isn’t all bad. In fact there are many health benefits that you may enjoy when consuming it, but only you can be the judge of whether or not these health pros outweigh the cons:

·         It supports a healthy metabolism (thanks to medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
·         It may improve brain health (thanks to MCTs that are broken down into ketones)
·         It fights off bacteria and yeast (thanks to its high lauric acid content)
·         It may help to keep hunger at bay (thanks to MCTs)
·         It can give your energy a boost (thanks to MCTs)
·         It may help to reduce inflammation (thanks to polyphenols)

Should I still use it for other things—like shaving or moisturizing?

You bet! Just because coconut oil doesn’t top the charts for consumption, doesn’t make it any less of a sidekick for all of your beauty needs. A few of the popular ways you may want to use it are:

·         For shaving your legs
·         To heal your cuticles
·         To moisturize your lips
·         To remove eye make-up 
·         To prevent bug bites
·         To nourish your hair
·         To soothe dry skin

Going (coco)nuts:

The truth is the health status of foods is constantly changing—one week something’s healthy and the next week it’s not. For now, the hotly contested item is coconut oil, but next month it will be something else. So how can you possibly keep it all straight?

Well, for starters, you have to take generalized health information with a grain of salt (which may or may not be healthy). Instead, focus on your own unique health needs and what your body needs to feel its absolute best. To help you discover what that is, GMC’s Nutrition & Weight Management offers several helpful services, including nutrition consultationsand Diet by Design.

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