What's the Deal with Coconut Oil?

by Linda Cole, Certified Nutritionist, Cole Chiropractic Clinic

The oils you use to cook with have a profound effect on your health, and specifically for our chiropractic patients, can worsen joint pain. Every cell membrane in your body is made up of fat (known as cholesterol), and how those cells operate and communicate with each other depends on the types of fats you eat. Cell membranes made of the proper ratio of omega 3 fats will give off anti-inflammatory chemicals, whereas cells made of bad fats will give off chemicals that cause inflammation and eventually disease in the body.  

So, Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is made from the nut of a coconut palm tree. It can be processed in many ways, but I recommend using extra virgin coconut oil. Other forms are processed with chemical solvents to take away the coconut flavor and bleach the color. Chemical solvents give me the jeebies, so I stay away from them.  

Health Effects

Coconut oil is 87% saturated fat. The kind that raises cholesterol. However, modern science has proved that dietary cholesterol is not as dangerous as was once thought. As long as you aren't eating coconut oil straight from the jar by the spoonful, I think it is a perfectly acceptable fat.

The reason it has become a go-to oil is that it contains no PUFAs. What's a PUFA, you ask?

PUFAs are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Without getting into the nerdy chemistry, there are two kinds of PUFAs your body needs; omega 3 fats (from fish, and flax seeds) and omega 6 fats (from corn oil, soybean oil, and margarine). The problem, in our Standard American Diet (known as SAD) is we get way too many omega 6s (the kind that cause inflammation, joint pain, diabetes, and depression) and not enough omega 3s (which prevent inflammation, joint pain, heart disease, dementia and some cancers).

To prevent adding any more omega 6 oils to the diet, it is better to use non-PUFA oils like coconut oil, olive oil and (yum) butter. Coconut oil should be used instead of Crisco (a trans fat which is disastrous to your health) in baking and sauteeing. It has a coconut flavor which is excellent in curries and exotic in stews.  

Just like every other facet of your diet, eating a variety of oils ensures that you get the different fats your body needs. Because restaurants use cheap vegetable oils (omega 6s) I try not to use them at home. You get plenty of omega 6 oils in your diet from eating out. In fact, the big problem is that our bodies need a ratio of 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fats and the SAD is more like 20:1. It's one of the big reasons we are seeing so much obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety in the population.

The Take-Away

I don't usually recommend a big clean-out and throw away of food. But if you have trans fats in your cupboard, please get them out of the house. Your health is worth more than the few dollars you throw away. Try to substitute coconut oil for use in baking, sauteeing, and my fave, homemade popcorn. Use olive oil for sauteeing, dressings and in soups. Butter is delicious and great for an extra oomph of flavor when baking or sauteeing. Buy quality oils and check those expiration dates. Rancid oils are as bad for your health as using the wrong type of fat.

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