Is Coconut Oil Healthier Than Other Cooking Oils?

by | Jan 23, 2024 | Health

Recently, numerous “experts” have touted the potential benefits of coconut oil, claiming it aids in weight loss, promotes heart health, and offers protection against chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. However, before completely overhauling your oil choices, let’s delve into what the research reveals.

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Understanding Coconut Oil

To produce coconut oil, manufacturers extract the “meat” or white substance from mature coconuts, utilising machines to press the liquid from the meat. Wesley Delbridge, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that this liquid, commonly known as coconut oil, is predominantly composed of saturated fat, with 84 percent of its kilojoules derived from this type of fat. In comparison, olive oil and butter contain 14 percent and 63 percent of kilojoules from saturated fat, respectively.

Saturated Fat and Medium-Chained Triglycerides (MCTs)

Contrary to conventional beliefs, recent research suggests that saturated fat may not be detrimental to weight loss efforts or heart health. Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios, notes that the majority of coconut oil’s saturated fat consists of medium-chained triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) found in other vegetable oils, MCTs are easily digestible and may offer substantial health benefits. While a McGill University study showed promising results for weight loss with a diet rich in MCTs, further research is required to determine coconut oil’s specific impact.

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Cooking Advantages

Despite lofty health claims, coconut oil’s primary advantage lies in its cooking properties. White emphasises that the oil maintains stability at high temperatures, boasting a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil, butter, and certain unrefined oils. However, other oils like canola, refined safflower, sesame, soybean, and refined peanut oils may surpass coconut oil in smoke point, making them preferred choices for frying.

Cooking with Coconut Oil

While studies don’t advocate consuming coconut oil in excess, it can be a valuable tool in the kitchen, particularly for stir-frying, sautéing, or dishes benefitting from a tropical flavour. Despite its slight coconut taste, coconut oil is ideal for preparing stir-fry, seafood, and desserts. Grapeseed or olive oil might be more suitable for dishes like omelettes or spaghetti.

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Oxidation Considerations

Addressing concerns about oxidation, Jaime Mass, R.D., advises that as long as cooking is not done at high heat for prolonged periods, coconut oil is safe to use. Monitoring wisps of smoke is acceptable, but plumes indicate potential harm.

The American Heart Association recommends incorporating a variety of non-hydrogenated fats into your diet, including coconut oil as part of the mix, rather than relying on it as the sole fat source. While coconut oil may offer certain advantages, a diverse range of fats contributes to a balanced and healthy diet.

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