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August 4, 2022  |  Food & Drink

Is coconut oil a healthy fat?

Coconut oil has seen a recent rise in popularity, purporting health benefits including curing chronic conditions, supporting weight loss and burning fat. Aside from its use in beauty products and cosmetics, coconut oil can replace common cooking oils in the kitchen for use in everyday recipes and baked goods. But since coconut oil is, by definition, fat, is it actually better for you than other cooking oils?

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is oil processed from the fruiting body, or nut, of the tropical coconut palm tree. It’s often in the form of a solid, similar to lard. At around 78 degrees, the coconut oil will melt into a liquid. You can also find liquified coconut oil that always stays in liquid form, which may be easier to use for certain recipes.

Is coconut oil safe to eat?

If you purchase virgin or extra virgin coconut oil, it’s safe to consume. Some products also include the words “cooking oil” in their packaging. These options are food-grade, which has a higher safety standard than cosmetic-grade coconut oil. Never consume coconut oil made for cosmetics, as it is not food-grade and may contain other ingredients, such as essential oils.

Choosing healthy fats

Limit saturated fats

Saturated fats are fat molecules with large quantities of hydrogen molecules. They’re often solids at room temperature. Saturated fats can be categorized as small-, medium- and long-chain fatty acids. Long-chain fatty acids raise blood cholesterol the most. Coconut oil contains both medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids.

Though saturated fats occur naturally in foods like meat and dairy products, they can also occur in plant-based foods like coconut oil, cocoa butter and palm oil. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fat in your diet to 6% of your total daily calories, or roughly 11 to 13 grams. 

Opt for plant-based and avoid tropicals

According to the American Heart Association, several healthy fats have less saturated fat than coconut oil. Generally, the guidance is to find plant-based oils, avoiding tropical plants like coconut and palm oil. Here are some other options to use as alternatives to coconut oil:

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Olive
  • Peanut
  • Safflower
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

So, is coconut oil good for you?

As with many types of fats, coconut oil is neither outright bad for your health, nor has it been proven to be a cure for any disease or condition. It’s a type of fat high in saturated fats that should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

FAQ

Q. Is coconut oil healthier than butter?

A. Not necessarily. According to the Mayo Clinic, coconut oil contains roughly 50% more saturated fat than butter. You should keep your saturated fat intake to under 13 grams a day, according to the American Heart Association. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 11 grams of saturated fat, so it can easily fill up your allotment for the day. Butter and coconut oil are both fats that contain saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation.

Q. Is coconut oil good for your heart?

A. No. Coconut oil is rich in saturated fat and raises low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, which is dubbed the “bad” cholesterol. It also increases the “good” cholesterol, but that doesn’t eliminate the negative effects of eating it. The best option to reduce your risk of heart disease is to eat less saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fat.

Q. Does coconut oil clog arteries?

A. Eating foods that contain coconut oil can increase your risk for heart issues later on. Introducing fatty plaque buildup to your arteries can cause them to harden, narrow and restrict necessary blood flow. Small amounts of coconut oil may not lead to heart trouble, but regularly consuming foods rich in saturated fat can lead to heart disease.

Q. Does coconut oil go bad?

A. Coconut oil is susceptible to light, oxygen and heat exposure. Every container should have a “best by” date or expiration date, which is an approximation. When stored properly, the oil can last between two to five years or until the expiration date. To extend the life of coconut oil, store it in an airtight container somewhere cool, dark and dry, such as a pantry. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Avoid using contaminated utensils to scoop out oil, as they can leave behind food residue and cause the oil to mold. If you notice mold or discoloration, it has gone bad.

What you need to buy for cooking with coconut oil

Best Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil, Pack of 2

Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil, Pack of 2

If you want to test out coconut oil before committing to a larger container, these small jars are a great deal. They provide enough oil for multiple recipes, are USDA-certified organic and have a light coconut flavor.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Nature’s Way Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Nature’s Way Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

For those who regularly cook with coconut oil, this bulk 32-ounce container is a smart option. The oil has a smooth consistency and pleasant scent. It’s also USDA-certified organic.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Carrington Farms Organic Liquid Coconut Cooking Oil

Carrington Farms Organic Liquid Coconut Cooking Oil

This liquid cooking oil is flavorless and can be more convenient if you prefer not to have to melt your coconut oil before using it. It’s a handy option if you want to refill decanters or sprayers for even more convenience in the kitchen.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Kitchen-Best Evo Stainless Steel 16-Ounce Oil Sprayer

Evo Stainless Steel 16-Ounce Oil Sprayer

This 16-ounce oil sprayer protects cooking oil from sunlight and has an ergonomic handle for a comfortable grip. It sprays evenly, and the drip tube extends to the edge of the bottle. It works best with liquid cooking oils.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Zulay Kitchen Glass Olive Oil Dispenser

Zulay Kitchen Glass Olive Oil Dispenser

This all-inclusive oil dispenser package is suitable for liquid coconut oil. It includes a 17-ounce bottle, two spouts, two caps, two sealing corks and a filling funnel. All parts are dishwasher-safe, and it’s available in three colors.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Katy Palmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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