Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Does it really burn fat?

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What’s the fuss?

Coconut oil is probably one of the most controversial food. Some regard it is a “superfood“, rich in antioxidant and other nutrients. Claims regarding what it can do ranges from burning fat, preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving endurance. But surprisingly, others consider it as a “devilfood“. Karin Micheals, a professor at Harvard, even went as far as calling coconut oil a “pure poison“.

 

What’s the truth?

Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil? Are the claimed benefits backed up by research or made up simply for propaganda?

 

Well, interestingly this debate on the coconut oil is actually related to changes in our nutrition guidelines and beliefs.

 

In the past, fats were considered bad and people consumed mostly carbohydrates in their diets. Of course, in the modern days, carbs often translate into highly processed, bad carbs, not complex natural carbs. As a result, obesity and diabetes skyrocketed, leading to new advice in the opposite direction “Avoid carbs and eat more fats!”

 

The pro-fat voice soon pushed avocados, olive oil and chia seeds into the spotlight. The public quickly learned about these new foods and called them “superfood“. While most food scientists and nutritionists agree that the fats in avocados and olive oil are healthy, compared to other fat sources, they couldn’t quite agree on coconut oil, a food composed almost entirely of saturated fat!

 

For decades, the heart associations educate people that saturated fat is bad as it increases cholesterol levels, putting people at risk for terrible heart diseases.

 

But coconut oil comes from plants, surely it is healthy?

 

Of course, coconut oil is not pro-inflammatory like meat. But compared to other vegetable oil that is lower in saturated fat, coconut oil does increase LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol” levels, make it less healthy. Therefore, it is all relative – coconut oil can be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on what you are comparing it to.

 

If you have been puzzled by coconut oil, don’t subscribe to either extreme – It is not a “superfood“, but it is also not a “devilfood“. There are both better and worse sources that can offer you the needed fat.

 

Does coconut oil really burn fat?

The fat-burning claim about coconut oil came from some evidence that suggested the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in coconut oil can promote fat loss. While it is true that coconut oil contains a lot of MCT, follow-up research has shown no difference in the fat-burning ability of coconut oil compared to other types of oil.

 

In fact, there are only 4 calories in 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate, but there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat! Correct – more than double. This applies to all oil types, including coconut oil! So by consuming lots of coconut oil, you can easily add 200-400 extra calories and that of course, will reflect on your waistline. To sum up, coconut oil doesn’t burn fat, instead, it could make you gain weight. You should avoid over-consumption of all types of oils, even if it’s vegetable oil!

 

Conclusion

For those of you already on a vegan, plant-based diet, coconut oil is probably in your kitchen a lot. Don’t throw it out, as it is surely much better than butter and improves the flavor of many dishes. However, also don’t over-use this one type of oil. In fact, be cautious of any claim of “superfood” as it is like just propaganda. The best way to eat healthily is always to have variety like we always advocate for at Vegan Palette. In this case of oil, have other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils in your kitchens, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.

 

To learn more about coconut oil and vegetable oils, I recommend Dr. Michael Greger:

Coconut oil

Is coconut oil good for you?

Does coconut oil cure Alzheimer’s?

Does coconut oil clog arteries?

What about coconuts, coconut milk & coconut oil MCTs?

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26946252

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326600

 

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author


Raymond_dietitian_from_Vegan_Palette_with_food_plate

Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.

 

 

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Map of the Vegan services in Brisbane

Vegan Palette Resource_ vegan services map brisbane
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Inspired by the Map of the Queensland innovation ecosystem, I created a special map for the vegans in Brisbane!

 

The Map of Services Available for Vegans – Brisbane is here to support all current vegans and those transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. The purpose of this map is to make the services and initiatives more visible to support vegan experience in Brisbane.

 

My hope is that by showing how extensive our support network is, more fellow vegans and vegan-curious friends will be excited to be on a journey of Health, Love, and Purpose.

 

Vegan Palette Resource_ vegan services map brisbane

 

This map captures both local and online services offered by national, international vegan communities, local business and societies, education institutions, non-governmental organisations, individual and group activities in Brisbane.

 

Work in progress and missing logos

There are so many great organisations involved that support a vegan’s journey. Some will be missed from the map, and many embarrassingly obvious. If this is you, I am really sorry, please comment below or send me an email at raymond@veganpalette.com.

 

Scope and context

The scope of the map is Brisbane, but also includes some services in Queensland, or worldwide. I highly recommend each region to have their own version of the map, to improve vegan experience Australia wide. Please feel free to use this map as a template.

Next steps

The map is not perfect, and I am sure there are missing services. But in the interest of shipping over perfect, it will do for this release and I will keep updating it based on your feedback.

Your feedback is welcome and appreciated. Please contact me via one of the following means:

Email: raymond@veganpalette.com

Facebook: @veganpalette

Instagram: @askveganpalette

 

You’ll love these

Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author


Raymond_dietitian_from_Vegan_Palette_with_food_plate

Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.

 

 

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Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube