Is Coconut Oil Good for You, or the latest health fad?

coconut oil


When the American Heart Association issues a Presidential Advisory turning the tables on coconut oil, suggesting canola oil instead all kinds of people are scratching their head.

USA Today leads with Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy, citing a report by Frank Sacks, MD saying, “You can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body”. There’s bound to be confusion over something we thought was good for us. Is it a debunked myth or have we learned something new?

The report suggests using vegetable oil instead of coconut. It is based out of concern about how fats relate to cholesterol and heart disease. Saturated fats can increase LDL and HDL, but the report doesn’t give the whole picture of cardiac health. To get a complete picture we need to look at the particle number. When the American Heart Association issues a bunk report suggesting the converse of what we know to be true it leaves a person wondering if it knows what it is talking about. We know vegetable oil is highly processed and high in omega 6, which leads to inflammation.

Chalene Johnson calls the AHA statement “bull”.

Chris Kresser issues a report on why saturated fats aren’t the culprit.

Food Babe wonders… Can you trust the American Heart Association with health information?

Dave Asprey seems to believe coconut oil is Bulletproof and the AHA is backing big pharma in a scare tactic campaign.

While we chew on that let’s take another look at what we know about coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Uses

  • Coconut oil is good for hair. The nourishing oil has been used for centuries making it suitable for all hair types. It can also be used as a hot oil treatment, mask, or in homemade hair products.
  • To moisturize and nourish skin. The same qualities that make it good for hair also make it good for skin. Many people use it as a natural moisturizer.
  • Aids in digestion. Its antimicrobial properties can help fight irritation and infection from Candida
  • Great fat for cooking. It is a stable oil, so it doesn’t breakdown easily at high temperatures like other oils do. It doesn’t go rancid easily either. It has a multitude of uses. It is good for grain-free baked goods, eggs, stir-fries. I used it to make sweet potato chips and granola this week.
  • It gives a mental boost via MCT oil. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are fats found in foods like coconut oil. They are metabolized differently than the long-chain triglycerides found in most other foods and have health benefits.
  • It is a natural sunscreen, with minimal protection. Depending on the source it carries an SPF on 4-15%. Not for use as full protection, but possibly a mild everyday use.

Which kind is best? Expeller or cold-pressed?

The oil needs to be extracted from the roughage. Expeller or cold-pressed are the most common methods and can be found in both refined and unrefined varieties. Expeller has been used since ancient times and is chemical free. Essentially the expeller acts like a screw, goes into the nut, and causes the oil to run. In a mechanical process, the nut is squeezed, the temperature rises and chemicals are often used during the process.

Cold-pressed is done in a heat controlled environment where temperatures don’t exceed 120 degrees, resulting in a high-quality oil. Expeller-pressed may be processed at around 210 degrees. The term “cold-pressed” isn’t regulated in the United States like it is in Europe, so it could mean anything processed under 400 degrees.   

Refined or unrefined?

Refined oils are processed at upwards of 400 degrees, which degrades the quality of the oil. Some people choose a refined oil despite its lessened nutritional qualities because it can typically withstand higher cooking temperatures before reaching its smoke point. Most coconut oil on the grocery shelf, unless otherwise labeled are refined. The oil comes from dried coconut meat called the “copra”. Copra is defined by the industry to mean the meat was removed from the shell and needs to be refined further to produce oil. Oil that comes from the copra needs to be dried, sometimes using chemicals in the process, usually in the Philippines.

Unrefined oil is referred to as “virgin”. Coconut oil by nature is refined because it doesn’t come directly from the meat of a coconut picked off a tree. Unrefined can still be a good choice. The oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried. A quick drying method is commonly used. When wet milling is used the coconut milk is expressed from the fresh meat before it is boiled or separated from the milk by way of a centrifuge. It’s such a quick process that it doesn’t require any additives and isn’t exposed to high heat.

As for me and my house, we will continue using and ingesting coconut oil. What about you? Will you continue to use coconut oil and if so which kind? Won’t you share your thoughts in the comments?