Coconut is one of the rare plant sources of saturated fat. Primarily found in animals, saturated fats were found to increase bad LDL cholesterol, the leading risk factor for heart disease. If you believed the doctors who told you to stay away from red meat and butter, then you probably stayed away from coconut oil as well. The American Heart Association STILL hangs on to the notion that eating coconut oil increases your risk of heart attacks.


The once villainous coconut oil has now become the darling of the natural-foods world. Coconut oil is indeed about 92% saturated fat and it does raise LDL. The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that also raises good HDL cholesterol. When it comes to heart disease, the ratio of LDL to HDL is a more important measure than just a high LDL.
Coconut oil helps to fight off harmful germs because when lauric acid enters the body, it is converted into monolaurin, a potent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compound. The oil has also been found to help normalize blood lipids and protect against damage to the liver by alcohol and other toxins (but this doesn’t give you carte blanche to drink as much coconut rum as you’d like). As a medium chained fat, lauric acid is more easily digested and rapidly converted into energy (rather than stored as fat) than longer chained saturated fats, causing a boost in metabolism and aiding with weight loss. But before you head out and buy this tropical “miracle,” check the label. Refined coconut oil — which is generally what you’ll see in stores — involves some sort of partial hydrogenation process that causes harmful trans fats. Steer clear of the refined stuff and choose organic virgin coconut oil.