Beware of coconut oil’s fat content
Believe it or not, coconut oil has six times more saturated fat than olive oil per tablespoon, with a hefty 12 g of saturated fat per tablespoon. “For many, that’s more than half the daily recommended amount,” says Edwina Clark, MS, RD, head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly, a mobile app and website that provides recipe recommendations. And science confirms it; in a recent report published in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association found little to no difference between coconut oil and other highly saturated oils like butter and lard. It’s true that not all types of saturated fats are created equal. Coconut oil is particularly high in lauric acid, a type of saturated fat shown to raise good cholesterol (HDL), similar to unsaturated fats. The problem with lauric acid, unfortunately, is that it also raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol levels as well. By contrast, Clark notes, the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat that are abundant in olive oil and other vegetable oils have been shown to lower LDL and total cholesterol levels. Check out the subtle signs that you’re eating too much bad fat.
Watch out for overuse
Once you fall in love with coconut oil, with its tropical taste and umami effects, you may be tempted to sauté, fry, broil, and bake it into everything you prepare. “Coconut oil can be used to add a pleasant coconut-y flavor to toast, granola, nut butters, smoothies, popcorns, and soups,” Clark says. “Just remember a little bit goes a long way.” In general, olive oil (especially extra virgin olive oil) and other vegetables oils such as canola, safflower, and sunflower oils are still the best choices in the kitchen.” Limit coconut oil to one to two teaspoons per day to stay within the recommendations for saturated fat and keep your heart squeaky clean,” Clark adds. (Check out these ways to use coconut oil around your house.)