Okay. So, real talk.
An article was circling the internet last week about coconut oil, and how it isn’t healthy.
(Spoiler alert: IT ACTUALLY IS HEALTHY. But you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)
First, let me say that I’m not a doctor, nor am I a trained or licensed nutritionist. However, I have studied this stuff extensively, and have first-hand (albeit anecdotal) experience proving the benefits of coconut oil. Not to mention that the people who are actually trained in this stuff are completely bashing this article and the American Heart Association (AHA).
Let’s break this down. Here are some arguments the article makes against coconut oil, followed by my argument against (or sometimes, shockingly, for!) them.
Argument #1: Coconut Oil increases LDL (so-called “bad”) cholesterol.
Yes. But there’s a caveat: modern medical advice offers an extremely simplistic view of cholesterol. I’m not saying what they’re saying isn't true, but it’s not the whole truth. As is mentioned frequently in It Starts With Food, CONTEXT MATTERS. The biggest reason that high cholesterol promotes cardiovascular disease is that systemic inflammation is nearly always present.
Systemic inflammation: the system-wide dysfunction of the body that results from consuming an overabundance of allergenic and hard-to-digest foods (or other artificial and medicinal consumables) with not enough beneficial foods or other consumables to offset their negative repercussions. Systemic inflammation causes system-wide “repair mode” in which your body can never function properly because it’s always trying to fix the problem by digesting or otherwise trying to eliminate the offensive intruder.
If your body is systemically inflamed, it is not working properly, and all the defenses your body should have in place to properly store, break down, and/or eliminate the “bad” cholesterol are unable to perform as they should. So your “bad” cholesterol gets high, your doctor puts you on a statin (which, by the way, works to decrease systemic inflammation, [page 149, It Starts With Food] but with some nasty side effects), and your body never gets to the point where it can function properly.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’d prefer my body to start functioning properly all on its own.
Argument #2: Coconut Oil has “no known...favorable effects…”
Um, no. First, coconut oil is awesome. (Maybe I should just end this post here, with Dr. Axe’s article. This guy is awesome.) Second, in addition to it being good for just about everything under the sun, it’s super tasty. (Try roasting some carrot sticks with coconut oil and salt in a 400 degree oven - it’s life-changing.) According to Dr. Axe, coconut oil is a healthy, non-toxic fat that helps our brains, cholesterol levels, digestion, teeth, bones, etc.... basically our entire bodies. Plus, it’s anti-bacterial! And it’s a key ingredient in my daily toothpaste.
Argument #3: Coconut Oil is “almost 100% fat.”
Well, yeah. And that’s the point. I can’t stress this enough: our bodies need fat to work properly. Period. You won’t get your body working properly without it. Granted, you shouldn’t over-consume fat, but that applies to just about anything you put in your mouth. Eat it in moderation, but it eat it. Please. I work in senior care and I see so many cases of dementia, usually on a daily basis. Coconut oil and other healthy fats have been proven to help brain health.
Argument #4: Coconut Oil is high in saturated fat, and that’s a bad thing.
Nope. Just plain no. Here’s where context matters again. Saturated fats have been demonized in the mainstream, but really saturated fats aren’t the problem. Systemic inflammation is. (See a pattern?) You eat a big, juicy steak and a baked potato with real butter and think: “Saturated fats. I’m going to die of a heart attack.” Right? Well, not really, but again, context matters. If the meat is grass-fed (context matters with meat quality, too), the butter is 100% real (and preferably clarified and/or grass-fed) and you pair it with some excellent-for-you veggies, you’re good. Really. Saturated fats - especially in the context of a pro-whole foods, anti-processed foods diet - aren’t the enemy.
Argument #5: Coconut oil should be substituted for vegetable oils and olive oils.
Olive oils - maybe. Vegetables oils - NO. NO. NO.
So here’s the deal with vegetable (and seed) oils. They are toxic. Polyunsaturated fats (aka PUFAs) are present in vegetable and seed oils. Polyunsaturated fats aren’t all bad, but they can throw your omega-3/omega-6 ratio out of whack. Vegetable and seed oils contain higher levels of omega-6, which, when too high, can cause more inflammation in the body, leading to a slew of modern diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, etc.). Avoid like the plague.
One thing the article got right: Most people replace saturated fats with refined flours and sugars. The fact they included this is awesome, and is probably the best part about the article. It’s so true, and shows the biggest reason low-fat diets don’t work. I’ll say it again: context is important. Don’t replace the fats in your diet with refined foods and sugars. That will only hurt your brain and your overall health in the end. In short, healthy fats are good for you. So good, in fact, they should be a non-negotiable addition to your everyday diet.
What are your favorite fats? Are the ones you reach for helping your body get healthier, or are they making you sick?
Disclaimer: The recommendations in this post and on this site are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a qualified medical professional when changing your diet, fitness routine, medications, and/or lifestyle.
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