Is Coconut Oil Good For Your Heart?

Coconut oil has surged in popularity over recent years, and has been called a superfood with various health benefits. But is coconut oil good for your heart?

Well, when we look at the nutritional profile, we can see that coconut oil contains 50% more saturated fat than butter.  

If you’ve read my article about butter vs olive oil, you know that olive oil is a heart healthy substitute for butter, what do you think the conclusion is about coconut oil?

Or if you’ve delved into research about saturated fat intake and heart health, you might already have some thoughts on whether coconut oil is beneficial or detrimental.

Nevertheless, let’s dive into the research and the ongoing debate surrounding its use.

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is derived from the meat of mature coconuts and is used in cooking, cosmetics, and traditional medicine. 

Its nutritional profile includes a high content of saturated fats, making up approximately 90% of its total fat content, a significantly higher percentage than butter, which contains around 64% saturated fat. 

Additionally, coconut oil contains small amounts of vitamins E, as well as polyphenols that possess antioxidant properties.

Understanding Fats and Heart Health

Fats are a vital component of our diet, but not all fats are created equal. LDL cholesterol or low density lipoprotein cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because high levels can lead to plaque build-up in arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

HDL cholesterol or high density lipoprotein cholesterol is, known as “good” cholesterol, and helps transport cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, where it is processed and eliminated from the body.

How These Fats Affect Heart Health

The American Heart Association (AHA) has a science advisory that suggests replacing saturated fat with healthier unsaturated fats can lower cardiovascular risk

Where are Saturated Fats found in food?

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Red meat
  • Cream
  • Palm oil
  • Lard
  • Dark chocolate
  • Coconut oil

What are Unsaturated Fats found in food?

This means coconut oil should be replaced with healthier fat like olive oil. 

Why?

AHA’s recommendation that saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of daily calories for healthy Americans.  That’s around 13 grams of saturated fat a day for someone consuming a 2000 kcal diet.

How Much Saturated Fat is Found in Coconut Oil?

One tablespoon adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats. This is almost your total daily allowance of saturated fat recommended by the AHA (1). 

A picture of Veronica, and an image of the 30 day heart healthy eating challenge.

Coconut Oil and Blood Cholesterol Levels

The impact of coconut oil on blood cholesterol is complex. Some studies have stated that coconut oil can raise LDL cholesterol levels, which is concerning because high LDL is a risk factor for heart disease.

Other studies have said that coconut oil can also increase HDL cholesterol, which helps remove LDL from the bloodstream and is protective against heart disease.

However, the net effect on heart disease risk is still uncertain. That’s because increasing HDL cholesterol does not necessarily offset the risks associated with higher LDL cholesterol.

And unfortunately, and more importantly, we don’t know if coconut oil contributes to future cardiac events and premature death, as the current research is unknown.

So if coconut oil can increase HDL cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels is it heart healthy?

Watch The Summary

The Debate: Is Coconut Oil Heart-Healthy?

According to a survey in the New York Times showed 72 percent of the public, compared with 37 percent of nutritionists, called coconut oil “healthy.”

Why is that? Well the debate over whether coconut oil is heart-healthy involves several arguments on both sides.

Proponents of coconut oil highlight its antioxidant properties, with polyphenols that may protect cells from damage. Some sources suggest that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can boost metabolism and promote weight loss. 

However, the coconut oil used in this study was a special 100 percent medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13 percent to 14 percent of this medium-chain triglyceride.

So to replicate the results of this study,  people would have to consume large quantities,  150 grams (or 10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day, to get a similar amount of MCT.

Also its important to note that when a lower MCT profile was studied,  no improvement in cardiometabolic risk markers was found.

Recommendations for Coconut Oil Use

From the information above, it is recommended to use coconut oil sparingly for heart health.  Instead I recommend favoring unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and avocado oils. 

That’s not to say you can never use coconut oil ever again. 

If there is a favorite recipe of yours that uses coconut oil, go ahead, but it’s important to be mindful of your remaining saturated fat allowance intake for the day.

Ultimately, replacing most of your saturated fats with unsaturated fats, is the heart healthy choice. 

Final Thoughts

What do you think of the research? Do you use unsaturated oils as an everyday choice? For me, I’m excited for the research to come to help us answer this question with more data and draw definite conclusions. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And as always, consult with a healthcare professional or dietitian for personalized dietary advice, especially concerning heart health.

Image of Veronica Rouse with Free 7 day heart healthy meal plan freebie.

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