November 19, 2013 in Features, Health

Trendy coconut oil offers health claims

Teresa Farney McClatchy-Tribune
 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Coconut oil is returning to the kitchen, thanks to a boost from those in the nutrition business who have taken a fresh look at the numbers.

Those numbers, according to an article in Today’s Dietitian by Aglaee Jacob, show the fat in coconut oil might raise “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol while also burning body fat rather than storing it.

“Some research has shown that increased coconut oil consumption leads to reduced cholesterol production, less oxidation (hardening) of LDL cholesterol and better ability to break up blood clots,” said Laura Brieser-Smith, a dietitian and owner of Healthy Designs nutrition counseling in Denver.

For those who avoid animal products, such as vegetarians and vegans, using coconut oil is becoming popular.

“If you’re going to fry something,” said Alan Roettinger, author of “Extraordinary Vegan,” “extra-virgin coconut oil is the best vegan medium for it.”

Lily Nichols, a dietitian and owner of a private nutrition business in Los Angeles, said, “Being mostly aerated, (coconut oil is) an optimal fat for cooking since the fats aren’t easily damaged by heat. I recommend it frequently to my clients, and the flavor is incredible.”

However, Patricia Kulbeth, a clinical dietitian at Memorial Health System Outpatient Nutrition Services, is cautious about coconut oil use.

“Coconut oil is still a fat and should not be excessively used,” she said.

Kulbeth’s point is that too much of any fat in the diet can cause weight gain and contribute to diabetes and heart disease.

“When any new food is in the news, people tend to eat too much of it,” she said. “This is my concern.”

Marleen Swanson, a dietitian and department chairwoman of culinary nutrition at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, is also cautious about coconut oil’s role in the diet.

Until further research indicates coconut oil is better than other saturated fats, it seems prudent to enjoy the great flavor of coconut oil in moderation. Here are some more numbers to keep in mind about coconut oil: One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, and no vitamins or minerals.


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