Coconut oil has increased in popularity in recent years, and it is often touted as a healthier alternative to conventional cooking oils. While data suggests coconut oil is no worse for you than other oils, there is some debate. Some health professionals argue that coconut oil is a healthier choice than vegetable oil and other similar products.
On the other hand, other health professionals believe this type of oil is harmful, as it can result in heightened cholesterol levels in some users.
Weighing the pros and cons of coconut oil can help you determine whether you believe this product is healthy or unhealthy. If you do find coconut oil is healthier than leading oil alternatives for you, there are several ways you can work this product into your existing diet to gain the health benefits in your own life. However, if you think coconut oil may ultimately do more harm than good, you can learn what products commonly use it and what alternatives you can use instead.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
There are different types of coconut oil available for purchase at most leading supermarkets, but to ensure you are receiving the health benefits of this product you must buy virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is lightly processed, meaning it does not pose the risk of the harmful effects associated with consuming highly processed oils. You can opt for buying unrefined virgin coconut oil if you want to be cautious about your fat consumption, as concentrated levels of oil can spike your cholesterol if they are highly processed, regardless of its source.
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There are essential fatty acids found in virgin coconut oil considered good for your body, and consuming these fatty acids in small doses can prove beneficial to your overall health. One of the fatty acids found in coconut oil is known as lauric acid, and this component can help to increase your HDL levels. HDL is considered a good form of cholesterol, and an increase in HDL levels can help you combat the negative LDL levels associated with bad cholesterol levels.
In addition to the essential fatty acids found in virgin coconut oil, this product possesses antioxidants that can provide additional health benefits when incorporated properly into your diet. As with anything you eat, you must consume coconut oil in moderation to ensure you are absorbing the antioxidants without putting yourself at risk of becoming susceptible to the potentially harmful effects.
Potentially Harmful Side Effects of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is considered a saturated fat, which is generally regarded as harmful for your health. This is because saturated fats can increase your LDL levels and your overall cholesterol intake. When you have heightened levels of cholesterol you may be more susceptible to certain health issues, such as heart disease.
Typically, when you consume a tablespoon of regular coconut oil, you are consuming six times the recommended dose of saturated fat. Virgin coconut oil has less saturated fat, which means it does not provide the same health risk.
On the other hand, you should still moderate consumption of either version to avoid the potential issues associate with high saturated fat levels in your diet. If you consume too much coconut oil, the health risks associated with saturated fat may ultimately outweigh the benefits you get from the antioxidants found in the product.
Much of the information surrounding the coconut oil health debate is difficult to corroborate as there has not been enough research to determine its effects on the human body. Although people have been consuming coconut oil for years, there is no definitive research to determine whether this oil is better or worse for the human diet than other kinds of oils.
However, research into this field is ongoing. Thus far, preliminary reports have not found any notable health benefits to coconut oil compared to other options available on the market. It can take several years before enough research comes out to decide whether it is ultimately beneficial or harmful to consume regularly.
Cooking Oil Alternatives
Health professionals who are opposed to consuming coconut oil suggest cooking with olive oil instead, as olive oil does not contain a high level of saturated fat. Additionally, olive oil contains both polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, which are both essential staples in a healthy diet.
The presence of these fats helps to combat the health issues posed by saturated fats and provides a stronger balance in an individual’s fatty acid intake. When consumed in moderation, monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on heart health. However, it is important to not exceed the daily recommended servings for this fat.
While choosing olive oil over coconut oil may ultimately prove to be the healthier option, you do not need to avoid using coconut oil altogether. When you are practicing a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can incorporate ingredients as they occur naturally in a recipe.
For example, you can substitute butter or shortening with coconut oil in a recipe that needs a solid or thicker fat, as coconut oil is considered a healthier option compared to butter and shortening. You may enjoy preparing dishes that call for coconut oil as one of the main components, such as a curry dish.
On the other hand, you may not want to substitute coconut oil in every recipe. For example, it may not be a good idea to substitute coconut oil for olive oil when making a bread dipping oil, as the flavors present in olive oil are crucial for this classic Italian appetizer. It is best to use coconut oil only when a recipe or cuisine calls for it.
Another alternative to coconut oil is soybean oil. Live olive oil, soybean oil is primarily composed of healthier unsaturated fats, and consumption can help increase your HDL levels while decreasing your LDL levels. Additionally, both olive oil and soybean oil include plenty of antioxidants that provide numerous health benefits when eaten in moderation. Although coconut oil also has antioxidants, olive oil and soybean oil have a higher concentration of them.
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