Because it's a saturated fat, for decades coconut oil was deemed bad for our waistlines and our hearts, one of the last things to eat for weight loss. Fats that are solid at room temperature, as are coconut oil and its partner in disrepute, butter, were said to make us fat, and polyunsaturated oils, like canola and sunflower were supposed to be the healthy choice.
But what are the nutritional benefits of coconut and its relation to weight loss? And what is the coconut oil diet? it seems like every expert I speak with who is focused on functional or naturopathic medicine is crazy about coconut oil, the most recent being Kevin Dobrzynski, author of The HypoThyroid Diet. This passage in his book, which is actually a passage from the writings of a microbiologist named Ray Peat, especially caught my eye:
In the l940s, farmers attempted to use cheap coconut oil for fattening their animals, but they found that it made them lean, active and hungry. For a few years, an antithyroid drug was found to make the livestock get fat while eating less food, but then it was found to be a strong carcinogen, and it also probably produced hypothyroidism in the people who ate the meat. By the late l940s, it was found that the same antithyroid effect, causing animals to get fat without eating much food, could be achieved by using soy beans and corn as feed. Later, an animal experiment fed diets that were low or high in total fat, and in different groups the fat was provided by pure coconut oil, or a pure unsaturated oil, or by various mixtures of the two oils. At the end of their lives, the animals' obesity increased directly in proportion to the ratio of unsaturated oil to coconut oil in their diet, and was not related to the total amount of fat they had consumed. That is, animals which ate just a little pure unsaturated oil were fat, and animals which ate a lot of coconut oil were lean."
More about the dangers of polyunsaturated oils (which include canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed) can be found on Ray Peat's website, in Kevin Dobrzynski's book, on the website of controversial Dr. Mercola, and in the book Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly by Larry McCleary, among other places.
But despite the general consensus among the natural medicine community that coconut oil is a better choice than the polyunsaturated cooking oils, the dietary authorities continue to say the opposite. In the USDA's most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans the category "Foods and Nutrients to Increase" includes:
Vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut and soybean: These are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Use in moderate amounts in place of solid fats."
Listed under "Foods and Food Components to Reduce" you'll find:
Solid fats, including trans fats." (Note: Everybody on every side of this issue agrees that trans fats are a big don't.)
Who do you trust—the nutrition authorities or the alternative medicine crew? Is there such a thing as coconut health? What do you think—will you try eating coconut oil in hopes of losing weight? I've been using it for most of my cooking ever since I interviewed Larry McCleary on the topic, and I love the taste and how it holds up to high heat cooking. I've also lost a few pounds over the same period, though it could definitely be due to factors other than the coconut oil, as opposed to, say, the nutritional benefits of coconut.
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