A Nutritionist Answers All Your Questions About Our Beloved Coconut Oil

Do you love coconut oil?

coconut oil
Image: Courtesy of Tijana Drndarski via Unsplash

As a consumer, it’s important to learn all that you can about a product (especially a food product) before you consume it. There are several ingredients that may cause pause or become beloved quickly due to their trendy nature — one of these being coconut oil. We decided to interview a nutritionist to find out their views on coconut-based products and learn more about what makes this cult-favorite so loved by many. Keep reading to learn more! 

coconut oil
Image: Courtesy of iStock

A Nutritionist Answers All Your Questions About Our Beloved Coconut Oil

What is coconut oil?

Coconut is a natural, plant based food that contains healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants so I believe that natural coconut products can definitely be used in moderation in a balanced diet.

Coconut oil in particular has copped a bit of slack recently — what is your response to this?

There is evidence now available to show that saturated fat (ie. what is in coconut oil) doesn’t have an association with increased risk of heart disease*. We also know there are many benefits of coconut oil. What research doesn’t show is the long term effects of someone having a tablespoon in their bulletproof coffee, plus 1 tablespoon in their smoothie, then using it to cook lunch and dinner as well as a slice of raw dessert with up to 1 cup of coconut oil in the recipe.

We need to remember it is just another oil that can have its place in our balanced diets, but I definitely wouldn’t say it’s superior to other healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil. We should use it in moderation when the recipe is suitable for that coconut flavor.  

Although known to have many health benefits, should people still be mindful of the high content fat in coconuts? 

There is evidence now available to show that saturated fat (ie. what is in coconut oil) does not have an association with increased risk of heart disease*. We also know that the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil can be a great source of energy so as long as it’s being consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet the high fat content should not be a concern as with other healthy oils.  

Do coconut products have a place in weight-loss?

Yes absolutely they can – they are whole food based products and a balanced whole food diet is the best thing you can follow for weight loss.

EVOO vs. Coconut oil — would you recommend one of the other? Why?

Personally I LOVE extra virgin olive oil for its antioxidant and polyphenol properties but I also use coconut oil in my diet too and they both have their own beneficial nutritional profiles. It’s the best just use some common sense, have both in the pantry and use which ever one suits the recipe you are making best as the coconut flavor won’t be appropriate with everything.  

Is there a way to ensure you’re buying into quality when it comes to coconut-based products? What should we be looking for?

Yes, firstly no additives or preservatives so if it’s a coconut milk or cream then it should just be coconut meat and water, if it’s a coconut yoghurt it will be coconut with added cultures and for a coconut oil an unrefined, organic, extra virgin coconut oil is best. 

Does coconut and its by products have any gut health benefits?

Although it is not known as one of the most potent foods for gut health, coconut naturally has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties which is helpful for fighting off any bad bacteria in the gut.  

Is there an instance where you wouldn’t be recommending coconut products to your clients?

 Some people who have nut allergies might need to be careful with coconut products and intolerances to coconut can be seen also so these people would need to limit or avoid their coconut intake.

What are some of your favourite ways to enjoy coconut products?

There’s nothing better than a Hot Chocolate made with coconut milk, just mix 1 tsp cacao powder with coconut milk from the carton (a tiny bit of sweetener if you wish) and heat on the stove. I also love using some coconut oil in my homemade chocolate and adding some toasted coconut flakes to the mix!   

* Siri-Tarino PW et al., 2010. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91, 3, 535-546.

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