Many people who are trying to eat healthier are also looking for super nutritious foods to include or increase in their diet. Of recent, a few of our traditional foods – like yellow ginger also known as turmeric and coconut everything – have been championed as some of the latest health food trends. Tonight in Healthy Living, we went looking for answers, specifically about the health benefits of coconut oil. We warn, though, that the answers may not be what you expect.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

If you’ve been following health trends then you’ve certainly noticed the spike in popularity of coconuts. Coconut oil is being heralded as great for your skin, great for your hair and even great for your health. But is this long standing ingredient in our diet really healthy or is it all just hype?

Doris Sutherland, Nutritionist

“There have been many benefits shown about coconut oils specifically those related to heart disease, weight loss but we have to be careful when reading these information.”

Nutritionist Doris Sutherland warns that coconut oil is a fat and not necessarily a good one. The body needs fat to maintain organs and aid in digestion and metabolization. But we only need a limited amount.

Doris Sutherland

“There are two types of fat: the ones that can increased the HDL which is the good cholesterol and the ones that can increase the LDL which is the bad cholesterol.  There are different types of sources of fat. Those that are the mono saturated and polyunsaturated which are considered the good fats as well. The saturated fats are the ones that tend to increase the bad cholesterol and also the over cholesterol in our body.  We find that there’re are tropical oils like the palm oil and coconut oil that have up to ninety-two percent saturated fats and then we have the corn oils, the sunflower and canola and olive that have a lower content of saturated fat.”

To put this in perspective: Coconut oil has about ninety percent saturated fat, real butter has about fifty percent and lard about forty percent. Fats are recommended as a part of our daily diets, but we should be focusing on more heathy fats and less saturated fats.

Doris Sutherland

“Fats can go up to about twenty to thirty percent of daily recommended intake of a person. However when looking at saturated fat, we’d want to have at least ten percent or less of saturated fat in our diet. We get ten percent from only one tablespoon of coconut oil.  When you have more than the recommended amount of saturated fat you increase your total cholesterol, you increase your total bad cholesterol, you sometimes decrease your good cholesterol and when you increase all of these you tend to increase your chance of heart disease and stroke.”

So, why is it that quick internet search lists tons of reasons why coconut oil is good for us? According Sutherland, these studies must be put into perspective.

Doris Sutherland

“Coconut oil as a benefit is something that is just starting to become studied. There are studies that shows that coconut oil does reduce the risk of heart disease but when we look at those studies closer we see most of these studies have been done with Pacific Islanders where other than consuming coconut oil, coconut water and the flesh itself. They do follow a healthier traditional diet. They do consume more fish, more fruits and more vegetables.  If we’re using coconut oil it will be best to use in moderation because until now there has been studies that increase the risk of heart disease or we use in moderation or in combination with other vegetable oils that have not shown up until today any negative benefits. It can be used for flavor but in moderation and the minimum amount. Its nots something that we try to eliminate completely from the diet unless the person is already experiencing  signs of heart disease or high cholesterol but if the person is healthy, if the person is athletic, if the person is following a healthier diet consuming at least three to five servings of vegetables per day. You are consuming two to three servings of fish a week then that can allow you to have some coconut oil.”

Don’t worry though, it seems the rest of the coconut does not disappoint.

Doris Sutherland

“When it comes to the fruit itself, its best to consume the flesh and the coconut flour – its high in fibre. Foods that are high in fiber will help to reduce the cholesterol. The coconut water is very, very good because it contains a lot of potassium which would help bring down the high blood pressure. So coconut itself does have some benefit.”

Marleni Cuellar

“And the milk?”

Doris Sutherland

“…the milk as well. The amount of saturated fat found in the flesh the milk as well as the water does not have as much as the oil.”

Channel 5