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 you can about a product (especially a food product) before consuming it. Several ingredients may cause a 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, fiber, and antioxidants, so I believe natural coconut products can 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?

Evidence now is available to show that saturated fat (i.e., what is in coconut oil) doesn’t associate with an 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 one tablespoon in their smoothie, then using it for cooking 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 fats, such as extra virgin olive oil. However, we should use it in moderation when the recipe suits the coconut flavor.  

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

Evidence is now available to show that saturated fat (i.e., what is in coconut oil) is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease*. We also know that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can be a great energy source. 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, 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?

I LOVE extra virgin olive oil for its antioxidant and polyphenol properties. Still, I also use coconut oil in my diet, and they both have beneficial nutritional profiles. It’s best to use some common sense, have both in the pantry, and use whichever one suits your best recipe, 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 coconut milk or cream, then it should just be coconut meat and water; if it’s coconut yogurt, it will be coconut with added cultures and for coconut oil, an unrefined, organic, extra virgin coconut oil is best. 

Do 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 help fight off any bad bacteria in the gut.  

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

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

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

There’s nothing better than Hot Chocolate made with coconut milk; mix 1 tsp cacao powder with coconut milk from the carton (a tiny bit of sweetener) and heat on the stove. I also love using coconut oil in my homemade chocolate and adding 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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