WELLNESS--Many of my patients have been asking me about the safety of coconut oil. Recently, the American Heart Association came out with a warning that coconut oil and other forms of fat such as animal fat is bad for us and may increase the risk of heart disease. This is outdated information and the old belief systems that healthy fats are bad for us are totally false.
Modern studies have shown time and time again that healthy fats including lean healthy animal fats are not damaging to the heart as once believed. While no one should just eat lots of fried fatty foods, healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, MCT oil, nuts, avocados and others are not the enemy of the heart or blood vessels. Sugar is.
About 80% of our cholesterol is produced in the liver, and a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates is far more damaging to the liver than a diet high in healthy fats such as coconut oil. I’m not going to speculate as to why the American Heart Association is using outdated studies from the 60’s to try to get people to convert from butter to margarine, but I will say that it’s not good advice. Very often margarine contains trans fats or hydrogenated oil and this is FAR more damaging than butter and other natural animal fats.
Keep in mind that fats, regardless of whether they are healthy fats or unhealthy fats contain more than double the calories when compared to protein or carbohydrates. This is an important point for those of you trying to lose weight. While it’s true that healthy fats are a far better choice than sugar or trans fat items like margarine, it’s still fat meaning if you are trying to lose weight keep the fat and all of your calories limited.
The long and short of it is that the low fat and “alternative fat” diet is outdated. If you want to eat the most healthy diet possible then eat a mostly plant based diet high in vegetables and some fruits like berries and apples along with smaller portions of healthy real fats and some lean protein. Picture your dinner plate with a small piece of meat or fish along with a lot of broccoli or other vegetable of your choice with olive or coconut oil drizzled over it. For the vegetarians out there, cooking with ghee and coconut oil are still safe options and will give you the fat you need and are not getting from animal products.