Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut butter, shredded coconut, coconut ice cream – looks like we’re in the middle of a Coconut Craze!
More and more, coconut-based products are showing up on grocery store shelves, and people are buying them up at rapid speed.
But is coconut truly healthy, and should you start eating more of it?
Honestly, we don’t really know yet. Scientists used to agree that coconut oil (one of the only plant-based foods that is very high in saturated fat) was something to avoid in a healthy diet. Now some research is showing that the saturated fat in coconut acts differently in the body than the saturated fat in fatty meats and dairy products. While the fatty acids in butter, cream, and some meats have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, the fatty acids in coconut oil (lauric and stearic acid) don’t seem to have the same effect.
This does not mean, however, that coconut products will reduce your risk of heart disease, or that they promote weight loss or an improved immune system. Coconut can be a tasty addition to our diets some of the time, but it is not a “miracle food” and should not serve as a substitute for other healthy fats.
In general, stick with what we do know for sure: most of the fat in our diets should be unsaturated. Oils that are liquid at room temperature – especially olive and canola – avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish are all good sources of unsaturated, heart-healthy fat.