With 175.3 thousand shares this report So Coconut Oil Is Actually Really, Really Bad For You, is rapidly making the rounds on the internet. I’ve had several of you ask me what I think about it.
We do, in general, recommend that coconut is a healthy source of nutrients for our clients. Yes, it is high in saturated fat. If you already have exceedingly high cholesterol or coronary blockages, we would not recommend it to you as a major source of dietary fat. We would also not suggest it if you have some kind of allergy or delayed food sensitivity to it. Just because a food is awesome doesn’t necessarily mean it’s awesome for YOU! You are an individual with individual biochemical needs.
That being said, this article comes from the stance that saturated fats in all forms are the devil incarnate and should be avoided at all costs. (And don’t even get me started on their ridiculous comment that coconut water is “pointless – it doesn’t have any clear health benefits and it’s just a saltier version of normal water.” They probably fall into the camp that says that our appendix has no point either…)
Let’s consider our body. First, our body is predominantly made up of fats – those cells that make up your body are made of phospholipid bi-layers – another fancy word for fat. Your brain – it’s made up of about 70% fat. And your heart? Oh, it loves to use fatty acids for fuel.[i] In fact, the heart is one of the first places that fat goes in your body.
So the question to me is this: Is all saturated fat created equal and what else might be playing a role in heart disease?
To begin with, let’s consider the role of something called Arachidonic Acid in the body. No, this isn’t anything to do with spiders, it’s actually a name for Omega-6 Fatty Acids, which can be responsible for inflammation in the body. Inflammation is very important for your body. It lets it know where damage is so that it can send the necessary components for repair. After the repairs have taken place, the body uses Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the inflammation. Your body is full of innate wisdom when it comes to repairing itself.
You and I make arachidonic acid, as do all living creatures that are experiencing any kind of sickness or disease. So for example, animals that are mistreated, sick, injured, stressed out or kept in an unnatural manner (like being fed food outside of their normal food groups) produce an inordinate amount of the stuff. When we eat those animals, we increase our levels of inflammation exponentially. It has long been understood that inflammation is a major indicator of heart disease, so when we combine high levels of arachidonic acid with high levels of saturated fats from those animals, we set ourselves up for cardiac disaster.
I want to consider another thought as well which plays into this equation. Let’s talk pesticides for a second. Pesticides are designed to shut down a bugs heart and lung by disrupting the signaling in the nervous system. These chemicals inhibit a muscles ability to expand and contract like it normally should. The result? “Repeated and unchecked firing of electrical signals can cause uncontrolled, rapid twitching of some muscles, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and in extreme cases, death.”[ii] These chemicals are fat soluble. Why is this significant? Because, as I already told you, fats go straight to the heart first, carrying with them chemicals that are disastrous for your heart and lungs. And, by the way, animals that are not being raised with organic husbandry are eating food that is utterly saturated with those pesticides, furthering their inflammatory state, and yours.
So why is this important in our discussion about saturated fats and coconuts? Because a coconut does not contain arachidonic acid that has been converted into its inflammatory state, and if it’s organic, it doesn’t contain any harmful pesticides.
Are Saturated Fats Even The Culprit?
Dr. Axe lets us know that the “saturated fats in coconut oil actually help to increase the healthy cholesterol in your body, but also help to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols.”[iii] This article from Harvard confirms that coconut oil is “especially potent at raising good cholesterol.”
More and more research has been surfacing in recent years, including this interesting article from Business Insider’s science section and this article from Dr. Zoe Harcombe Ph.D., detailing that saturated fat is actually NOT the culprit in heart disease. In fact, European countries where their saturated fat content is lower actually have a 3-4.5 times higher death rate than those that enjoy saturated fats. All foods that contain fats contain all three types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated and in all instances, in healthy ratios.
Dr. Carolyn Lam published an article on Heart failure in Southeast Asia which lists the causes of heart failure in Southeast Asia. Why is this significant to a report about coconuts? Because this is where coconuts originated but throughout her report, you will not find one mention of causality between coconuts, saturated fat, and heart failure. Instead, her listed top causes of heart failure that impact Southeast Asia include hypertension and diabetes.
Years ago, we vilified eggs until solid research showed that consuming an egg a day did not contribute to heart disease. Vilifying coconut oil reduces it to a single nutrient and misses out on all the other health promoting benefits that it contains.
So if it’s potentially true that saturated fats and even cholesterol are not the villains that we have been led to believe they are, what is the best way for us to protect our hearts?
Here’s my ten cents worth:
- Choose organic, wild caught or grass fed meat. You’ll reduce your exposure to excessive arachidonic acid and pesticides.
- Eat fats as close to their original source as possible (cold pressed, extra virgin) and especially in their whole form – avocados, nuts, organic free range eggs, olives, wild caught fatty fish, and seeds.
- Choose organic produce which is free of pesticides, and eat lots and lots of vegetables – shoot for nine or more servings a day.
- Use the right oils for the right temperatures when cooking. If it smokes, throw it out.
- Reduce your processed carbohydrates and sugars. Want to know why? Dr. Hyman reports on this article from the JAMA which shows that sugar can raise your risk of a heart attack by 400%.
- Quit smoking.
- Lose weight.
- Reduce your stress.
- Move your body.
- For a brilliant list of over 50 ways to use coconut oil every day – check out this well researched blog post by Alice’s Kitchen.
Want some help to start making those changes? Contact us today!