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Over the past few years, coconut oil has been called a superfood, which helps you to break belly fat and increase your good cholesterol. The sweet and nutty trendsetter was used in many cookbooks as a substitute for olive oil or rapeseed oil – and that costs a bundle in the store.
A recent survey found that 72 percent of Americans call coconut oil "healthy food," but many nutrition experts are unconvinced.
The problem is that coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat – a type that has a large amount of fat Risk factor for heart disease, which causes more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year.
Let's talk about fat first. "In terms of calories, all Fats equal: butter, coconut oil and olive oil. They all have the same number of calories, but differ in terms of their health, "says Mary Donkersloot, a Beverly Hills nutritionist and host of a weekly web video series titled The Smart Eating Show .
Fat is not the enemy of our diet, although we had to believe in the 1990s when low-fat cookies and ice cream began to emerge on the market. (Remember the excitement of the SnackWell?) Fat helps us stay fuller for longer Eating some fat can actually help us eat less and possibly lose weight, but what fat we eat is important – and how much.
Indeed, one tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated Fat – a big part of what is recommended for the whole day, says Donkersloot.
The US government recommends saturated fat below 10 percent I your entire daily calorie intake. For some people, this can be up to 22 grams per day, although the American Heart Association recommends going further – more like 13 grams. A tablespoon of coconut oil will take you much further. Forget the dessert!
Concern about too much saturated fat in our diet is confirmed by 50 years of research showing that a diet high in saturated fat with an acetic acid content in Associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, says Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School of Tufts University, which also heads the University's Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory.
Lichtenstein and her colleagues studied several studies looking at what happens People have replaced saturated fats found in foods such as tropical oils and meats with unsaturated fats like those in olive oil, rapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil. As recently reported in an AHA Advisory, these studies showed that the swap was associated with a 30 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. That's similar to what people can expect when they take statins, she says. The advisory was published in the journal Circulation .
Why does the idea exist that coconut oil is somehow good for us? Nobody is really sure.
"Why things like coconut oil slipped under the radar somehow is a bit unclear, but it does not match the recommendations that have been made in the past 30, 40, 50 years," he says.
While some studies have linked the main type of saturated fatty acid in coconut oil – lauric acid – to elevated levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol, it still increases LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol in the Advisory, citing several studies.
And while the enthusiasts point out that coconut oil is high in antioxidants, there is little evidence that the oil after refining is as much as most of us keep it in the store.
Some research that suggests that saturated struggle may be more neutral than previously thought has led some to question the AHA and the government's recommendations on saturated fat.
But Lichtenstein and many others are not convinced. She says these studies did not consider the types of foods that replace saturated fats in the diet, and that the saturated fat factor trumps the potential benefits of coconut oil.
So, if you like cooking with coconut oil, that's okay – "Every now and then, if you make Thai, do it," says Donkersloot.
But do not think about coconut oil health elixir. And remember, when it comes to good nutrition, including fats, it's all about balance, says Lichtenstein. And there is solid evidence of the health of other plant-based oils, such as extra virgin olive oil.
With the increasing popularity of low carb diets containing more fat in recent years, it is no wonder that consumers are confused about which fats are affected by it. And most oils contain more than one kind of fat. Iowa State University has a handy graph that lets you compare the percentage of fats in ordinary oils.