Last month, a Harvard doctor referred to coconut oil as “pure poison,” which set off a social media firestorm. What’s all the fuss about? Another doctor was quoted as saying coconut oil is safe to use in moderation. What, exactly, is moderation?
This is what we know from 30 years of research: Coconut oil is high in saturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat is a risk factor for high cholesterol, which in turn, is a risk factor for heart disease. Yes, there have been a handful of studies that claim that saturated fats are not a risk factor for heart disease, or at least not as big a factor as was once believed. But we have more than 30 years of research that says it is.
Keep in mind that fat is only one piece of the puzzle. Other important factors include total caloric intake, smoking and the one we have no control over — genetics.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 13 grams per day if you need to lower your cholesterol. One tablespoon of butter contains 7 grams of saturated fat; 1 tablespoon of coconut oil equals 14 grams; 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 1.9 grams; and 1 tablespoon of canola oil gives you 1.1 grams saturated fat.
Is coconut oil poison? Of course not; nor is it heart healthy. It is heart healthy to choose fats that contain less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil or canola oil. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats, like corn oil or sunflower oil, are also a wise choice. Keep it simple.
Leanne McCrate is an award-winning dietitian with more than 15 years of clinical experience. She is registered with theCommission on Dietetic Registration. Have a nutrition question? Email it to DearDietitian411@gmail.com.