Is Coconut Oil Bad For You? Here’s Why Its Health Benefits Might Not Be Worth It

Health food stores are restocking their supplies of coconut oil now more than ever. It’s the fad eager dieters buy into immediately and skeptical health experts question regularly.

It’s still an oil. It still contains fat. Does that make it healthy — or unhealthy?

It’s great for your skin and hair. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for your diet. Here’s how coconut oil became a health food fad — and whether or not you can still use it despite the potential dangers.

What are the health benefits of coconut oil?

Coconut oil

Coconut oil | Rodrigo Bark/iStock/Getty Images

There are studies out there that suggest coconut oil could help you lose weight and fight disease. This research and those who promote it make claims that coconut oil can:

  • Increase fat-burning
  • Reduce hunger
  • Promote ketosis
  • Trigger fat loss.

However, experts are skeptical of these claims. There isn’t a lot of evidence to support the idea that coconut oil is better than other cooking oils. It increases fat-burning and promotes ketosis because it is a substance high in fat. Fat can also be filling, which might explain its supposed appetite-suppressing powers.

But it’s still a major fat source. And while this can be beneficial in some cases, it isn’t always the case when it comes to the coconut oil you might buy at your local grocery store.

Is coconut oil safe to eat?

Coconut oil isn’t poisonous. It’s completely safe to eat in small amounts if you want to use it in cooking. But the problem is that many people hear that it has health benefits and assume that means it’s good for you — and that more is somehow better.

Ice cream technically has health benefits too — it’s made with dairy, which contains protein. That doesn’t mean you should eat a side of ice cream with every meal. (Seriously. Don’t.)

Mayo Clinic reported in 2017 that coconut oil can raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol more than butter, lard, and beef. It contains mostly saturated fat — 12 grams per tablespoon, which is a lot. Three ounces (one serving) of lean beef only has 5 grams.

When you eat even 1 tablespoon of coconut oil a day, you’re putting yourself at risk for heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States.

Unlike coconut oil, olive oil contains healthy fats. Even though some research suggests people who eat coconut oil are healthier than people who don’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re healthier because they eat coconut oil specifically.

How to use coconut oil safely

Coconuts cut in half

Coconuts cut in half | Vignesh p/iStock/Getty Images

Phrases like “fat-burning” and “hunger-reducing” get people excited. Those desperate to lose weight will grab onto any trend that appears to promise fast, effortless results without thinking twice about the potential harms — or lack of substantial health benefits.

The fact that many forms of coconut oil contain saturated fat does not mean you can’t still use it in cooking. But you should treat coconut oil the same way experts recommend you treat all other forms of saturated fat. Use it sparingly — not in everything you eat. And if you’re doing it for the health benefits, it might not be worth it as part of your diet.

Buy organic or virgin coconut oil if you do plan to use it in cooking, which is minimally processed and less harmful per serving. It may not have health benefits, but it doesn’t put your heart at such a high risk, either.

You can continue using coconut oil in cooking if you want to. But the “health benefits” might not be worth it. It can serve as a great addition to a skincare or hair care routine, but most experts agree it doesn’t belong inside your body — especially in large amounts. You’re much better off using olive oil.

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