Coconut Oil Charms Health Food Community

You knew it would happen eventually. Coconut oil has been making headlines again — and this time it’s not playing the part of a villainous saturated fat. The New York Times ran a piece on the nutrient-rich hero of vegetable fats last week, and (wonder of wonders!) decided it was good for you, in addition to being downright tasty.

It seems the mainstream media is finally catching up with the science. Check out these choice tidbits from last week’s piece.

From the article:

According to Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University who has extensively reviewed the literature on coconut oil, a considerable part of its stigma can be traced to one major factor.

“Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data,” Dr. Brenna said. “Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn’t so bad for you after all.”

Imagine that! Studies done with fake saturated fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils (READ: “trans fats”), are finally being distinguished from studies done with real saturated fats. Let’s hope this trend continues so that all saturated fat can finally be publicly cleared of its maligned name.

The article even goes so far as to quote Dr. Brenna’s conclusion about saturated fats:

“I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong,” Dr. Brenna said.

Boo yah!

In your face, Dr. Oz.

Last week he had Gary Taubes on his show (author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat). It was an entertaining bit of television since they disagree so radically about saturated fat. Sadly, Dr. Oz was still spouting 20 year old, poorly-done science as the last word when it came to saturated fat. Like most doctors, he doesn’t realize that he’s fallen behind modern nutrition science. (And why should they? It’s not their fault that Nutrition is such a fundamentally small part of their curriculum and literature.)

Anyhow, watch this segment of the show, in which Dr. Oz and Gary Taubes go head to head on saturated fats.

How long do you think it will be before the Dr. Oz’s of the world catch up with publications like The New York Times, which is only just now catching up with contemporary nutrition science? (And contemporary nutrition science, by the way, is still just in its infancy. Hence the reason I keep spouting the “Food, Not Nutrients” adage.)

The New York Times article concludes by raving about how wonderful it is to cook with coconut oil.

I also like coconut oil for sautéing vegetables and aromatics, especially onions. They absorb the sweetness of the oil and pass that lovely nuance on to the whole dish. In one memorable meal, I sautéed scallions in coconut oil, which managed to perfume an entire pan of plump, juicy shrimp spiked with garlic, ginger and coriander.

And I may never go back to olive oil for roasting sweet potatoes, not when coconut oil enhanced their caramelized flavor while adding a delicate coconut essence.

But my favorite new way to use coconut oil is for popcorn. The oil brings out the nutty sweetness of the corn itself while adding a rich creamy sensation, without having to pour melted butter on the top. Of course, the movie theaters knew it all along.

Of course, I’m a fan of coconut oil and use it liberally in my cooking, along with butter, bacon grease, tallow, and ghee. If you want to try some but don’t know where to get it, please check out the listings on my Resources page.

Interested in the environmental impact of coconut products?

You may want to read more about coconut sugar production.

(photo by muhawi001)


    • says

      Researchers have shown that a single meal containing Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) generously found in coconut oil can elevate your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours. Coconut oil epitomizes the popular phrase “Eat Fat Lose Fat.”

      It appears Dr. Oz knows little about proper nutrition (specifically fats and oils) or possesses outdated knowledge that he refuses to admit and correct.

      His statements attacking saturated fats is a reflection of how ignorant doctors can be with regards to eating right. That’s one big reason why I never ask a doctor (M.D.) for nutritional advice.

  1. Liz Swift via Facebook says

    coconut oil also works great for oil pulling. In less than a week I totally eliminated the cold sensitivity in the tooth the dentist worked on last month.

  2. Charlotte Polizzo via Facebook says

    I’d like to see (well, not literally), one of these grown doctor’s who proclaim it doesn’t hurt -to have one themselves ! Let’s see who lines up first!?

  3. says

    I wasn’t trying to get off topic, as much as prove exactly what Krishnananda was saying above. NO ONE cares about your health, not dr’s, not the government, it is all about money, and to keep making money they will keep feeding us propaganda to keep all the little sheeple in line!!! Dr. Oz knowingly offers bad/poor advice because it benefits him, same as dr. phil or any of the other so called dr’s on tv shows. Yet many of the sheeple will watch those shows, and take every word for gospel with out using their own brain, and skills to find out if it is true or not! Sorry if you are pro-circ Diana and that this may have offended you, but having dr’s tell people they should mutilate their children really bothers me, as does Dr. Oz!!!

    • says

      I’m here to tell you that some dr’s do care and do know about nutrition. I am married to one – he’s an
      osteopath (D.O.) and is edcucated on how it’s good to eat the fats, the natural foods, and also to give the body a chance to heal on it’s own before pumping it full of medicine. So don’t say all dr’s are out of the loop. Some are, some are not and we can be glad that some are not.

  4. Dana Seilhan via Facebook says

    Yeah, and how about the Mayo Clinic offering dietary advice when they also offer bariatric surgery? Conflict of interest much?

    I’d contend ALL saturated fats are good for you. Coconut oil will give you instant energy on top of that ’cause it’s a medium-chain triglyceride. Apparently.

  5. Heather says

    I’ve taken to using my children’s pediatrician. Although not totally caught up with nutritional science he does two important things: 1) admit that I research and study far more on current nutritional science than he does so he doesn’t push nutritional info on me and 2) believe that whole, natural foods including animal fats are good for kids and would rather a child eat bacon and eggs cooked in butter than a jelly sandwich. By the time my kids are in high school I should have him educated fairly well on real food. It does help he already knew #2 before we’d ever met.

    • KristenM says

      Heather, if only more of us would make similar stands with our doctors. I hate confrontation, so I usually just nod my head and keep my more radical opinions about Nutrition to myself. Too complacent, I know!

  6. Elle says

    I was excited when I saw this article and Dr. Oz also. The article has helped my husband be less skeptical of the coconut oil in the kitchen. The Dr. Oz episode helped me talk to my mom about the nutritional changes I’ve been making. I thought Dr. Oz tried really hard to make Gary Taubes look foolish, but he handled it well.

  7. says

    Hey, hey, hey. It takes a lot to offend me, and that, I assure you, does not. I simply failed to recognize the association in this particular topic. I hardly feel that Oz “knowingly” offers poor advice, even though I am not his number one fan. I was interested in Coconut oil, not Dr. Oz’s opinion on circumcision, nor yours for that matter.

  8. says

    I think it’s important to also acknowledge that
    1) this is not new information. it is only new science.
    2) keeping up to date with modern science may not always prove helpful – modern science is temporary and often becomes moot later on.

    (preaching to the choir) Time tested traditional foods have been consumed over thousands of years. They are natural for humans. Grains were nearly impossible to eat in quantity, if at all available.

    Great clip from the show, and did anyone else catch that he soaks his walnuts? Too bad no one is talking yet about properly prepared/soaked/fermented grains. I also wonder if it occurred to either of those guys to consider why Dr. Oz didn’t feel good on that diet. Could it possibly be that he doesn’t have strong enough gut flora for good digestion? Could it be that most people don’t do great when they radically change their diet all at once?

    What’s frustrating to me is the compartmentalization of each topic. Fat. Carbs. Meat. etc. I liked that Mr. Taubes (who looks a whole lot healthier and calmer than Oz) at least interjected that diets don’t work the same in every persons body.

    I feel like what people are missing is THE WHOLE PICTURE. You can’t just pinpoint one aspect of real food eating. It’s all part of the picture. Fat. Carbs. Meat. Bones. Sustainability. Primal, real food being given to a stomach that can digest food. Even the NYT article takes a step backwards with this quote:
    “The oil brings out the nutty sweetness of the corn itself while adding a rich creamy sensation, without having to pour melted butter on the top.”

    How can you tout coconut oil while simultaneously throwing butter under the bus?

    Ok, back to eating my plate of bacon, smothered in butter and greens with a glass of kombucha. :)

    Thanks for your post!

    • KristenM says

      All excellent points! That compartmentalization of each topic is Nutritionism rearing its ugly head. So long as people eat REAL FOOD, the macro-nutrient ratio is practically irrelevant unless someone’s trying to lose weight or treat a health condition. That’s where I differ with Gary Taubes. How does he explain, for example, the Kitavans — a native people group that eat 80% of their calories in the form of sweet potatoes (hello CARBS), but are lean, fit, and disease free? I think Taubes does an excellent job at what he does — pointing out that the metabolic damage done by eating excess carbs, particularly refined ones, makes us fat AND debunking the “saturated fat is bad” myth. But many who read his work assume that means carbs are evil — nutritionism at its worst.

  9. Charlotte Polizzo via Facebook says

    @ Diane, if you really weren’t interested in her opinion you wouldn’t have bothered to respond in the first place. Seems like you’re the one who needs to be a bit nicer.

  10. says

    I love coconut oil. I have switched to using butter and coconut oil exclusively for cooking. I also like to eat coconut butter off a spoon (so good!).

    I used to like Dr. Oz, but it seems as though he is having to really contradict himself all of the time by having his own show to fill up space.

    I can’t believe he was giving a pass to the HCG diet and ignoring any documentation on saturated fat.

    I was mildly surprised that Taubes went on the Oz show as they totally hyped it up, but he did a nice blog post at about the experience.

  11. says

    Wow… I just became really thankful I’ve never seen Dr. Oz’s show before! If the measure of the health of a food is that “these foods are easy to eat so that is sustainable” (referring to pasta and fruit) than as long as the calories are in the right range, what is wrong with soda or sugar? I think many of us here have proven that Gary Taubes way of eating is in fact, very sustainable and does have many health benefits.

  12. Lisa says

    I really love it that Dr. OZ completely changed his entire diet for one day and was surprised he was constipated. That shows just an excellent understanding of the digestion process. Anyone with a dog (and I suspect a baby) knows that quick dramatic food changes causes… “issues”. And I REALLY love that Mr Taubes called it what it was “good entertainment.”

  13. says

    I was playing nice, I didn’t take any cheap shots at you and then call it a joke! Unless we weren’t reading the same post, it was about Dr. Oz and his bad advice, this instance being those types of oils, I was just pointing out that it was not his only mistake. And yes, some of the things he promotes as true, take only common sense, not a doctoral to know or figure out. If he made it through medical school, then he can not be so stupid. It has to be for personal gain or belief to mislead people the way he has. I brought up circ, because he does promote and recommend it. Yet the aap and ama neither recommend r.i.c. They say, it is not recommended because the risks are far greater than any health benefit it might offer, which they conclude is very little to none. So for a dr to go against the medical boards of our country and recommend it is both reckless and unethical. He has demonstrated that he goes with popular belief, not real facts.

  14. Karen says

    I wish there were more items like the coconut oil reassessment. And I wish they would come fast and furious! My son is taking Foods and Nutrition in school this year. I’m glad I had him read some things in Nourishing Traditions before he started. His teacher has, of course, lectured about how bad saturated fats are for you, that trans fats are good – I’m still not sure he heard that right – and uses margarine for cooking labs (my son “forgets” to add it), along with powdered milk and canola oil. And then they use chlorine bleach to “disinfect” everything after. Did I mention that this class is Foods and Nutrition, not Chemistry??

  15. Deborah says

    Before everyone gets too excited….PLEASE read more about the “dark side” of this. Countries have been cutting down their rain forest in order to make room for the coconut trees in order to satisfy everyones desire for cheap oil. It’s used in everything from candy to fabric softeners. There are too many other things that we already have to use from instead of putting a burden on something that is already burdened by our selfish needs.

    • Karen says

      I’m not sure how serious a concern this is. I am not suggesting that there is absolutely no reason for concern, however, as coconuts take about seven years to bear fruit, it is not too likely that people are clearcutting rainforest to plant new coconut groves, like they do to provide range for cattle. It is more likely that they are being more selective about which plants are allowed growing space, in much the same way we remove “weeds” from our vegetable gardens. And coconuts are still native vegetation to moist tropical climates, such as rainforest. I would rather pay people to grow native coconuts than non-native cattle. In the realm of food grade oils, I would hardly say that coconut oil is cheap, especially compared to say, canola. Finally, I would agree that using most readily available resources is important. Use rendered animal fats from other cooking, and butter, both items preferably from locally raised animals. Use items from further away as a secondary choice.

  16. Letty Sison says

    I was raised in a region in the Philippines where coconut is a basic staple. We drank the juice, cooked fish, meat, vegetables, even desserts with coconut milk.
    I could not believe when I came to America and noticed how some people demonized this fruit! I still use coconut milk in my cooking because I grew up with it and it is a basic ingredient of the foods I like.
    If coconut is bad for one’s health everyone in my town should have died before their time.
    Yet my relatives lived to be in their 80-90s !
    So glad that coconut is being recognized and consumed for its taste and nutritious values!

  17. Michelle says

    Does anyone know if coconut oil is interchangable for butter in baking recipes? It would put such a great spin on shortbread and other holiday baking (with cane sugar etc. of course!) lol By the way I also LOVE making popcorn with it – feels sooo sinful!

  18. Letty Sison says

    I just found out SILK introduced Coconut Milk!
    I have not drank coconut milk as it is but have been used to mixing it in cooking fish and desserts.
    It is so good with coffee I stopped using creamer!

    • KristenM says

      I’m a bit afraid of their coconut milk. I see that it has the same amount of fat as 2% milk, which is RIDICULOUSLY LOW for coconut milk (which is very HIGH FAT). So I looked up their ingredients and found this:

      All Natural Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Coconut Cream), Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavor, Dipotassium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2.

      The second ingredient is sugar, then there’s “natural flavor” (whatever that is), and the various creamy-enhancers like carrageenan and guar gum (those aren’t necessarily bad, although sometimes they are, depending on the source). I get why they’re fortifying it with calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, but they’re just like the dairy industry adding back in synthetic vitamins instead of using a real food to accomplish the same thing.

      If you really like it, why not make your own coconut milk tonic as a milk replacement? That way you can know exactly what’s gone into it and feel 100% safe drinking it.

  19. Leslie says

    I love coconut oil and with eggs in the morning YUM! I so agree, people need to realize it’s the junk that’s manufactured that’s killing us not the food God gave us.

  20. says

    I love coconut oil – and here in Bali we can still easily find fresh homemade coconut oil.

    But in the past few years, the commercial brands of coconut oil in grocery stores have almost all switched to palm oil. Besides the negative impacts on the environment and communities here (deforestation, orangutan habitat loss, conflict within local area), i would love to hear your thoughts on palm oil. It is in so many products here, i’m sure the West is also starting to find palm oil in many packaged processed foods.

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