Is Coconut Oil Good for You?

If you don't know what to believe about coconut oil, don't worry -- you're not alone! Even though coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which could have beneficial effects on satiety, energy metabolism, and other body processes. However, more research needs to be done before we can know exactly how good coconut oil is for your health.

 

Claims About Coconut Oil

The Internet is full of articles describing the healthy qualities of coconut oil. Some even boast about its ability to prevent or cure various diseases. But is there any truth to these reports, and is coconut oil really good for you?
 
Some scientific studies argue that coconut oil is effective for weight loss, high cholesterol, diabetes, or skin conditions, while others say it is ineffective. Since its curative power is unclear, let's look at other effects coconut oil can have on your health, starting with how its fat content compares to that of olive oil and butter.
 

The Chemistry of Fat

Vegetable oils and animal fats are primarily made out of triglycerides. A triglyceride carries one, two, or three fatty acids. Fatty acids have many uses in the body, including the generation of energy. They yield the most energy per gram, which is why fats are high in calories.
 
Fatty acids are divided into three classes:
 
  • Saturated fatty acids
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids.
 
Beef and dairy products contain saturated fat, which is solid at room temperature. Olive oil is mostly monounsaturated fat and is a liquid at room temperature. Fish or krill oils, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are good examples of polyunsaturated fat.
 

Fat Content of Coconut Oil

The types of fat in common cooking oils are listed in the following table. Although coconut oil is a vegetable oil, it is more than 90 percent saturated fat, or about 12 grams per tablespoon. By comparison, butter contains about 66 percent saturated fat, or 7 grams per tablespoon. Both coconut oil and butter are solid at room temperature, due to their high amount of saturated fat. Olive oil, a liquid at room temperature, has the most monounsaturated fat and the least amount of saturated fat.
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