Healing Foods Part 3 – The Coconut Oil Craze

coconut 1

Read any blog at the moment that specializes in food or nutrition and the subject of coconut oil is bound to appear. It is recommended for everything from hair & skin care to stress relief, lowering cholesterol levels, weight loss, and boosting the immune system. It is even purported to be effective in treating kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer.

As always, I need to remind you that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and you should seek the advice of a medical professional before embarking on any radical changes to your diet. Having said this, I got curious as to whether there was any truth to the hype or whether people bingeing on the stuff were just coo coo for coconuts. So I did a little research and discovered that there is quite a debate regarding whether coconut oil or canola oil is better for you.

Apparently both oils have about the same number of calories and the same number of grams of fat per ounce. The difference lies in the type of fat: coconut oil contains 11.8 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, which means it’s around 90 percent saturated fat while canola anola oil is 61 percent monounsaturated fat, 32 percent polyunsaturated fat — with a mix of omega-6 and omega-3 — and 7 percent saturated fat.

Depending on whether you are reading a pro canola, or pro coconut oil site, the benefits and or risks of consuming coconut oil seem to alter quite radically – the canola folks claim coconut oil causes heart disease (because of the high concentration of saturated fat) while the coconut supporters claim there is a misconception concerning the effect of the oil on heart health. According to an article on www.livestrong.com  “It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as you commonly find in vegetable oils. Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis.” I think there is enough evidence to suggest that there is some benefit to coconut oil but there is no doubt that most of us should continue to cut back on the amount of fat that we consume of any type.

I also think the real message here is simply “let the buyer beware”. Just because popular culture says that a product is healthy does not mean that it is — sometimes is can turn out to be something that makes you really sick. If you doubt this, consider that as recently as 1950 the tobacco companies circulated advertising which recommended cigarettes as a weight loss aid and a beneficial throat soother!

The internet is a wonderful resource and there is lots of beneficial information that can help everyone live longer. Take it upon yourself to become an educated consumer particularly where food, supplements and over the counter medicines are concerned, and when in doubt exercise moderation until you are sure how a new food is going to affect you.

Namaste

 

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