For a consumer browsing the web, the conflicting information about the health or unhealthiness of coconut oil is confusing. What should I know?
Coconut oil comes in two primary forms. Unrefined coconut oil (also called virgin coconut oil) that provides a rich flavor and refined coconut oil that is good for cooking at high temperatures.1
Celebrities, digital influencers, and even some doctors talk about the virtues of coconut oil. But the evidence is less supportive. About 90% of the coconut oil is saturated fat which is associated with poor cardiovascular health.2 In the figure below, saturated fat is displayed in red; flaxseed has the lowest amount all the way up to coconut oil with the highest amount of saturated fat.
Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain saturated fats, which may offer some health benefits like raising HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”); however, the research is still inconclusive. Others have made claims of benefit for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or viral infections.2 Again, the research evidence we have right now does not support these claims. Overall, the evidence is that coconut oil is NOT beneficial for health.
If you enjoy the taste of coconut oil, use it in small amounts for special occasions. Regularly choose heart-healthy oils rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, like canola and olive oils.1
For more information, check out the resource from Dietitians of Canada: cheers.fyi/CoconutOil