Is Cooking With Coconut Oil Really Healthy? 4 Facts You Should Know

coconutI admit, I've gone koo-koo for coconut oil. I love the taste; plus, coconut oil is supposed to have all kinds of amazing health benefits. I'm cooking with it, I'm slathering it on my skin, and I've even been spreading it on bread instead of butter. If I could, I would sleep every night in a tub filled with coconut oil, and I would rise every morning with the skin of a newborn baby, I'm sure of it. But are we getting carried away with the coconut oil craze? Here are 4 things you should know about coconut oil that might make you hesitate the next time you reach for that jar.

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1. You need to make sure you're buying "virgin" or unrefined coconut oil. It's not hard to find, but unprocessed coconut oil has the benefits you're looking for. Highly processed coconut oil is still out there, and it can raise your bad cholesterol levels.

2. Coconut oil should still be eaten in moderation. Yes, half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. This medium-chain triglyceride coverts quickly into energy and raises "good" cholesterol levels. But doctors caution against eating loads of it, the way you'd eat loads of greens. You still need to exercise moderation with this stuff.

More from The Stir: 8 Surprising Ways to Use Coconut Oil Besides Cooking With It

3. We're still learning about coconut oil's effects. So far the studies look promising. However, most of those coconut oil studies focus on short-term effects. We need to do more research into the long-term effect, especially on heart health. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the research shows only minimal health benefits of coconut oil over other saturated fats.

4. Coconut oil can't be all things to all people. When a so-called superfood gets that halo effect, we tend to attribute way more health benefits than that food can actually deliver. For those of you with specific health issues (like Lyme's disease), there are specific foods that may target your symptoms. But the rest of us need to be careful not to put any one food up on a pedestal. Eating a variety of healthy foods is the key.

Do you think the health benefits of coconut oil are exaggerated?

 

Image via Hafiz Issadeen/Flickr

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