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I have been reading a lot about coconut oil. Is it really good for my health, and, if so, how should I incorporate it into my diet?
Coconut oil is made up of about 90 percent saturated fat, but not all saturated fats are created equal. The fats in coconut oil are mostly composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that are more easily metabolized by the body. Also, coconut oil contains 50 percent lauric acid, a fatty acid known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Proponents of coconut oil claim that increasing your intake will help boost your metabolism, aid in weight loss and benefit your heart. The results look promising for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and even aiding in blood glucose control when virgin coconut oil is used in place of other oils. Coconut oil may also aid in calcium and magnesium absorption—important for bone health. However, I do not see enough evidence to promote coconut oil use for metabolic or weight-loss effects. If you’re thinking of integrating coconut oil into your diet, I recommend adding a tablespoon to your morning oatmeal or post-workout smoothie, using it in a homemade salad dressing or adding it to your favorite granola in place of other fats or oils. If you’re like many coconut oil fans, you’ll enjoy the distinct flavor, too!
Clinical nutritionist and certified sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci is the owner/director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.