July 14, 2017 | by Tracey Graber RD, CDCES

The American Heart Association recently came out with new information regarding the health benefits of coconut oil. Polyclinic dietitian, Tracey Graber, breaks down the consumption of coconut oil:

Myths about coconut oil

In recent years, coconut oil has been lauded as a healthy choice in oils due to its medium chain triglyceride (MCT) content. MCTs are fatty acids that are metabolized more quickly than other types of fats.

There is research claiming that 100% MCT oil may speed up the metabolic rate which helps burn calories. This is still up for debate, however, coconut oil has only about 13-15% MCTs - the rest of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat.

It has high saturated fat

Saturated fat is the type of fat that is known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase risk for arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 6% of total calories. Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, that is 13 grams of saturated fat per day. One tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat. Yikes!

The Verdict

The take home message is that coconut oil is not the healthiest oil. You are much better off choosing an oil that is lower in saturated fat such as olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, avocado, or sesame oil. These oils contain largely unsaturated fats, which are much healthier for your heart. As with all fats, use them sparingly. A heart healthy diet is one that is overall low in total fat with the majority of that fat intake coming from unsaturated sources. Fats have many calories and excessive amounts of fat in the diet can put you at greater risk for weight gain and heart disease.

However, there are benefits!

While the American Heart Association says coconut oil is not ideal for heart health, it can still be used as a moisturizer for your skin and hair. Coconut oil has been linked to curing dry or flakey skin and excessive hair loss. You can learn more here.