Should we be nuts for coconut?

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

Coconut made the list of Food Trends for 2015. Why? One of the supposed health effects tied to coconut oil is protection against heart disease. Some say coconut oil will help you lose body fat, especially from your abdomen or trunk, where stored fat is most harmful to your health. Other claims are that coconut oil may prevent and even treat cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, boost brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease, stimulate thyroid function, and fight off bacterial, viral and yeast infections. Wow, that’s quite a list.

But does the balance of scientific evidence support these claims?

  • No research directly assesses the effects of coconut oil on Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or thyroid function.
  • Heart Health- Small, case control studies have observed a lack of association between coconut or saturated fat intake and coronary heart disease in communities for whom coconut is an important part of the diet. Because is grows there and is cheaper than other types of oil. It has not been shown to be superior to what we already use like olive oil, or other plant oils.
  • Body fat loss – There are very few human studies on coconut oil and body fat loss. One small study did compare a group trying to lose weight with one who used soybean oil. There was no difference in weight loss in the two groups, but the coconut oil group had a significant decrease in waist circumference. One small study is not enough to change the way we eat.
  • For more research data:

Should you use coconut oil instead of other plant oils?

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It depends on your use. Both olive oil and coconut oil have about 120 calories per tablespoon, but while olive oil has only 2 grams of saturated fat, coconut oil has 12 grams.  If you are doing cold dishes or salads, olive oil is superior. If you are trying to decrease your cholesterol and saturated fat intake, olive oil or any other plant oil is superior. Coconut has too much saturated fat.

If you consume coconut products to quench your thirst, watch out. One cup of coconut milk has 552 calories and 51 grams of saturated fat. One cup of whole cow’s milk has 146 calories and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. It may be a good alternative if you are lactose intolerant, but soymilk would be a better alternative.

Coconut water has been touted as a great drink after working out. If you do more than an hour of exercise it may replace a lot of electrolytes and potassium but only has 46 calories per cup. Skim milk would do the same with about 90 calories per cup.

If you have any questions about coconut or other nutrition topics don’t hesitate to call me at 601-403-2280.

By Dawn Vosbein.