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Hilary asked...

Should I be using coconut oil?

I have read conflicting reports about coconut oil and whether it is good or bad for you to use on a frequent basis. I tend to use it for stir frys up to 3 times per week. I can see it is high in saturated fat, but apparently it is still 'good fat'. Should its use be restricted?

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The answer

Coconut oil is formed mainly from saturated fats (around 90% in total). Approximately half of this is made of lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride/ fatty acid. Medium chain triglycerides have fewer calories per serving than long-chain triglycerides (found in other saturated fats) and are more easily absorbed by the body – they are processed much like carbohydrates and are used upfront as energy. This is main reason why the consumption of coconut oil has been associated with aiding weight loss. Lauric acid is also known to have antibacterial properties which add to its health benefits.

In regard to cooking, all oils have what we call a smoke point that can tell us how well oil can handle heat. Researchers have found that some oils have a low tolerance for heat, and therefore when heated above their thresholds, can produce harmful chemicals that may become carcinogenic. This is linked to illnesses including cancer and heart disease. Coconut oil has been found to have a high smoke point and therefore is less damaged and chemically altered when heated and doesn’t denature, making it more preferable oil to cook with.

Balance is still important and considerations for the amount of oil used in cooking should still be monitored; include it in moderation as a substitute for more processed oils.

When opting for coconut oil and like products try to select those which are natural and unprocessed, for example virgin coconut oil. This way you can ensure it retains more of its medical properties.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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