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Is Coconut Oil All It's Cracked Up to Be?

By Sara Butler

Coconut is all the rage right now. But for years it was thought to be a source of plant-based fats people were better off staying away from for their heart health due to its high amount of saturated fat. Now you can’t go anywhere or read anything about coconut oil without it being touted as a superfood. So what’s the truth about coconut oil? Should you be adding it to your diet? Read on to find out!

Where Does Coconut Oil Come From?

Coconuts are members of the drupe family, which includes other goodies such as peaches, cherries, and plums. They have three layers: A hard exterior, fleshy fruit and a seed. Coconut oil is made from the fleshy, white fruit part of the coconut.

Coconut Controversy

When it comes to the fat in a coconut, about 90 percent of it is saturated fat. That’s a higher percentage of saturated fat than what you’ll find in butter or beef, and many have considered that kind of fat to be unhealthy.

The main type of fat in coconut oil is something called lauric acid. It has been linked to a positive impact on the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, but lauric acid has also been found to raise levels of bad cholesterol. The bottom line is that the science is still out on this one because the impact of lauric acid in coconut oil and its impact on blood cholesterol aren’t fully understood.

Should You Consume More?

Coconut oil is a great alternative to animal-derived fats. That makes it really helpful for people who don’t consume animal products, such as vegans or those who can’t tolerate dairy. Just as with other saturated fats, the science seems to support the idea that consuming coconut oil in moderation is healthy.

All the claims people make about coconut oil being a “superfood” are largely unverified at this point. It may have some benefits to your health, but it’s certainly not a miracle cure for anything.

What to Look For

If you want to add coconut oil in moderation to your diet then you should. You just need to be sure to look for the unrefined type. Unrefined coconut oil will provide the fullest flavor and contains the most phytonutrients to promote overall wellness.

Coconut oil is very versatile, just be careful when using unrefined coconut oil since it has a lower smoke point. You never want to go above medium heat when cooking with it on your stove top.

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