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Do you cook with coconut oil? Find out what the buzz is about.

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, March 11, 2011 - 3:13pm

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Do you cook with coconut oil? Find out what the buzz is about.

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about coconut oil recently. I had seen it in raw chocolate truffles and heard of people using it in baking. But when Melissa Clark recently dedicated her weekly New York Times column to this once-lambasted fat, I knew I should start paying more attention.

Clark spoke with a researcher from Cornell who explained that coconut oil’s reputation as a cholesterol havoc-wreaker stems from studies of partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which, of course, was loaded with LDL-raising, HDL-lowering trans fat (LDL is often called “bad” cholesterol and HDL “good” cholesterol). According to the researcher, “virgin” coconut oil has a different structure, which may make it less of a health hazard. Rather than delivering trans fats, coconut oil is almost 100% saturated fat—specifically lauric acid, which increases both HDL (“good cholesterol”) and LDL (“bad cholesterol”), without changing the ratio of the two. In all, Clark’s sources agreed that coconut oil is probably okay to eat in moderation, i.e., once in a while, but we shouldn’t run to get it in our diets.

We wrote about coconut oil in our February 2009 issue and stated that coconut oil may slightly raise your metabolism, but only temporarily. We too cautioned that coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease. (Current recommendations suggest we keep our saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories—that’s about 20 grams on an 1,800 calorie diet).

What do you think about coconut oil? Are you using it or avoiding it?

Do you cook with coconut oil? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Kerri-Ann Jennings, Food & health news, Health, Nutrition

Kerri-Ann Jennings
Kerri-Ann Jennings is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University.

Kerri-Ann asks: Do you cook with coconut oil?

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