The benefits of coconut oil: knowing how to distinguish between true and false

In recent years, coconut oil has become a very popular item with several health contributions. Collectively, coconut oil has been found to reduce cholesterol, risk of cancer as well as to facilitate weight loss. However, it does come with its downsides. For example it is high in saturated fatty acids which, as we know, should be limited. That said, let’s talk about the pros and cons of coconut oil so we can decide just when and how to use it.


Coconut oil is extracted when the fresh inner coconut meat is firmly pressed. This natural process is free of impurities which is why it’s referred to as virgin oil implying that it’s a high quality product. But it’s important to differentiate between coconut oil and copra oil ( a coconut derivative) which should never be confused. Copra oil, also called coconut oil, is obtained through the same process as virgin oil but the inner meat is dried rather than fresh when pressed. As the inner flesh of the coconut undergoes the drying process, it is exposed to contaminants. The copra oil is then bleached, refined and deodorized. These treatments affect the oil by reducing levels of micronutrients and introduce impurities which when absent give virgin coconut oil its level of quality.

That said, I recommend the high quality “virgin” coconut oil which is both organic and cold pressed.


– Coconut oil is bad for your health.

According to the many articles found on the internet in recent years, coconut oil has miraculous properties. It reduces cholesterol, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, the risk of cancer; however it’s reputation precedes its actual benefits. According to a recent study by the well-known American Heart Association, coconut oil is not recommended for daily use. The study revealed no positive health effects therefore debunking the miraculous claims.

Coconut oil is extremely rich in fatty acids. In fact, 85% of these fatty acids are saturated and are found in products like butter, lard and palm oil. As we all know, saturated fatty acids are dangerous to health if they aren’t consumed with moderation.

Overall, it’s important to remember that coconut oil is not bad as long as you are already healthy and it’s consumed in moderation. Keep in mind that daily intake of saturated fatty acids should not exceed 12% of our DRI. That said, coconut oil is an excellent alternative to products like butter because it supports very high temperatures. But products like olive, colza, walnut and linseed oils are better as they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids which are more beneficial to individual health. Polyunsaturated fatty acids unlike saturated fatty acids reduce levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides and in doing so, they reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

– Coconut oil helps you to slim down.

No, coconut oil is not a miraculous weight-loss product. As we saw earlier, coconut oil is very rich in saturated fatty acids and fat does not burn fat. However, if you consume it in small quantities from time to time, it’s harmless. Remember, balance is essential and moderation is the key.

– Coconut oil has many different uses.

Coconut oil does not decompose with heat nor does it become toxic. Therefore it is an ideal alternative for butter when baking pastries or pies. I recommend that vegans avoiding animal products hold this substitution in mind.


With regard to cosmetics, coconut oil is a magic oil, that is if you like smell of coconut products. Its rich fatty acid and vitamin E content, give it amazing moisturizing properties making it extremely nourishing for both skin and hair. It is also an ideal makeup remover because it leaves skin soft and non-greasy.

To conclude, coconut oil, consumed in moderation and as an alternative to products like butter, isn’t harmful to your health. However, olive, rapeseed, walnut and flax oil stand as better alternatives because of their richness in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Moreover, do not forget; coconut oil is not a slimming agent so look elsewhere to meet your weight-loss goals! 😉

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There are several types of saturated fatty acids. The majority of them that are present in coconut oil are medium chain fatty acids. Further, they are easily absorbed by the body compared to others and are directly used as energy substrates. They are not stored by the body and this is why it’s long been said that coconut oil does not contribute to growth. But like all fatty acids, excess consumption can be harmful to your health.

Article written, by Amelie Vincent, dietician

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