There has been a new report released by the American Heart Association stating that coconut oil is ‘as unhealthy as beef fat and butter’. This is because coconut oil contains high levels of saturated fats, which is almost six times higher than olive oil. Saturated fats are considered unhealthy as they can raise bad cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease!
Is it a myth?
The American Heart Association said, “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,”
It is very confusing about which fats to eat. Animal fats, such as pork lard, are generally seen as bad! The healthier alternatives are plant oils, such as sunflower and and olive oil. This is based on how much of one particular type of fat – saturated fat – these products contain.
Eating a diet which is high in saturated fat can raise the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, which means it can clog the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated. That is more than, butter which is 63%, beef fat which is 50% and pork lard which is 39%! Although many claim that the mixture of fats in coconut oil make it a healthy option, the AHA state that there is no good quality evidence for this. They also say that people should limit how much saturated fat they eat, by replacing it with unsaturated vegetable oils like olive oil and sunflower oil.
Difference between good and bad fats
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which can be found in some foods. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is said to be bad because it can be deposited in the walls of arteries and cause hard plaques to build up! This can can blockages, which can result in having a heart attack or stroke!
However high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is good because it carries Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to your liver where it is flushed away from the body! Having high levels of HDL cholesterol has the opposite effect of LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, swaps such as olive oil and sunflower oil can lower cholesterol by the same magnitude as cholesterol lowering drugs!
Dr Frank Sacks, lead author of the AHA advice, said: “We want to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels.”
For someone looking to lower their blood cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating around 2,000 calories per day, that is about 13 grams of saturated fats.
In the UK, the Public Health England states the average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. It also states that the average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day! In order to advise people to cut down on saturated fat, the nutritional labels on food products show how much saturated fat is in them.
However, experts say that fat is an essential part to a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids which helps the body absorb vitamins, such as A, D and E.
Victoria Taylor from the British Heart Foundation said: “To eat well for your heart health it is not just about reducing fat but reducing specific types of fat and taking care over what these are replaced with – unsaturated fats and wholegrains, rather than sugars and refined carbohydrates.
“Any change should be viewed in the context of a whole diet approach. The traditional Mediterranean diet has benefits for a range of risk factors for heart disease, not just cholesterol levels.
“We recommend replacing the saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats – using oils instead of butter and choosing foods like avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds instead of foods high in saturated fats like cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fatty meat.”
Low fat tips
- Bake, Poach, Grill or steam food rather than deep frying or roasting food.
- Spoon off fats and oils from casseroles, stews, roasts and curries.
- Get rid of visible fat and take skin off meat before cooking.
- When making a sandwich, try not to use butter or spread. You may not need to use it if you’re using a moist filling.