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Coconut & Tropical Oils

Coconut and Other Tropical Oils

If you are not familiar with coconut or other tropical oils, these terms may conjure up thoughts of suntan lotion on a white sand beach. Coconut oil is however, a quickly rising star in the food world.

Prized for its ability to mimic butter in creating flaky baked goods and adding a creaminess to everything from smoothies to stir-fry, coconut oil sales have skyrocketed in recent months.

But, are tropical oils and specifically coconut oil healthy?

Tropical oils which include coconut, palm and palm kernel oils, contain various types of fatty acids but, unlike other plant oils, many of these fatty acids are saturated. In fact, coconut oil contains 92%, palm kernel oil 82% and palm oil contains 50% saturated fat. The term saturated fat may signal a red flag but, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the artery clogging material they were made out to be. Studies are currently being conducted to determine the actual effects of saturated fat from various sources on heart health and many proponents of coconut oil feel that it deserves to be in a category of its own.

Coconut oil has a bad reputation from the nineties when studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which creates trans fats, and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile.

According to research published in 2003 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coconut oil raises both LDL and HDL types of cholesterol, although it raised HDL, the ‘healthy’ cholesterol a little more.

Because  of this , consuming coconut oil may improve your “cholesterol ratio” which is a tool that your doctor or dietitian may use to evaluate your overall health profile.

Should you consume coconut oil? Keep in mind that saturated fats should be limited to 7%-10% of your calories because they may increase your risk for heart disease. If you generally have a diet low in saturated fat, and enjoy the flavor and versatility of coconut oil, use it sparingly as you would other fats.

If you have other questions or need more information, contact us at Healthy Directions at donna@healthydirectionspoway.com

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