Over a year since research out of the American Heart Association said coconut oil isn’t healthy, dietitians are still telling people to avoid eating much of it.
Coconut oil is more than 80 percent saturated fat — far beyond butter (63 percent), beef fat (50 percent) and pork lard (39 percent), according to the American Heart Association. It has “no known offsetting favorable effects,” the AHA said in a past advisory stating coconut oil could actually increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease.
The data wasn’t exactly new, but it did ignite a firestorm of conversation about coconut oil, which in recent years has been marketed as a health food and even a solution for weight loss in some circles.
Ginger Hultin, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and registered dietitian, told it she still doesn’t recommend people add coconut oil to their diets but says a small amount shouldn’t hurt. By small, she says less than a tablespoon a day. She doesn’t endorse heaping spoonfuls into smoothies or coffee.
A tablespoon of coconut oil is about equal to the amount of saturated fat adults should eat in one day, according to AHA recommendations. Luz Varela, director of communications at AHA, said the AHA has held the same position on saturated fats for more than 30 years and has published no updates since last year’s advisory.
Most medical professionals recommend instead reaching for oils high in monounsaturated fats (including olive oil and avocado oil) and those high in polyunsaturated fats (such as canola oil).