Coconut oil….To use or not to….

Coconut oil….To use or not to….

coconut_oilCoconut oil and its usage has always been in the news. Every person is advised not to look at coconut oil. But I feel this is baseless.

Coconut oil is just like any other oil. It gives the same calories ie 9 calories as any other oil. The only hiccup is that it provides saturated fats. It does not contain cholesterol at all as we know no plant source can provide cholesterol to us. Excess intake of saturated fats can increase the cholesterol levels. In fact excess intake of any oil can increase the cholesterol levels.

  • It contains lauric acid which is known for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • The lauric acid also helps to prevent heart problems and does not increase the LDL levels which contributes to heart disease.
  • It contains medium chain triglycerides which do not contribute to heart disease and can be very useful for recovery from various diseases and in many gastrointestinal diseases as it is turned into a energy source and the absorption is much better and hence helps people who have digestive problems.

My great grandmother used to pour coconut oil over her idlis and dosas and she died of old age at 95 years without any complaints. But that was the only saturated fat in her diet. She had a lot of fiber in the form of vegetables and was a pure vegetarian. Coconut oil was the only source of fat in her diet and did not eat any junk in the form of home made chips etc. She continued to do house hold work such as cleaning and dusting of furniture and washed her clothes(not in the washing machine).

We can take a cue from this. If a teaspoon of coconut oil is added to a vegetable of quantity half kilo, it is not going to harm us. So coconut oil is safe from tempering our pulse and vegetable preparations.

But it is arguable to see that the cardiovascular disease are on the increase in the southern states in India. I can tell you why. In these areas, 90% of the people use coconut oil for cooking. Take a look at the cooking practices. Deep frying is done with coconut oil so the fat in it gets hydrogenated and voila! you are eating hydrogenated fats. Excessive snacking on fried food will definitely increase your LDL cholesterol.

Non vegetarian dishes are cooked with grated coconut and coconut oil. If the skin of the meat is not removed or if the fat is not trimmed, then the saturated content increases three fold. You are getting the saturated fats from coconut plus the fats from meats especially red meats like pork and mutton. Pork lard clubbed with other fats is very hazardous. The poor culprit has been coconut oil but not the red meat.

Hence the incidence of cholesterol problems is on the rise. Hence try to avoid the excess combination of saturated fats.

Keep the intake of any oil at minimum. The allowance is 4 tsps per day. It is safe to combine coconut oil and other oils in your diet. If you use coconut oil for tempering and other oil for cooking, it is quite safe as long as you are not deep frying and are within the allowance of oil intake. Do not add excess of coconut in gravies. You can search for other alternatives like yogurt for thickening.

Those who hype about coconut oils are those who do not use it in their cooking. The northern parts of India are more of meat eaters and their share of saturated fats come from butter, ghee and full fat milk products and for the south indians, our share comes from coconut oil.

Sanjana M Shenoy is a A dietitian from Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Having worked as a Dietitian for the Manipal Group of Hospitals namely KMC hospital Mangalore, India.She is also a consultant for corporate's like Infosys and others, conducting talks and presentations for various associations and local television shows.She consults at her Diet and Nutrition clinic "Nutrihealth" in Mangalore.Also is a visiting consultant to various hospitals in and around Mangalore and also runs an active online consultation.

14 Replies to “Coconut oil….To use or not to….”

  1. Thanks for the write-up. Very informative. I tell the same story to my friends and some ‘learned’ doctors who have a preconcieved notion about the ‘bad effects’ of CO….i.e, how my grandfather who HAD to have rotti’s (purifried in CO) every morning for breakfast and lived well beyond 75 and died of old age.

    It is said Virgin coconut oil is more beneficial than CO. Is VCO available in India or more particularly in Mangalore?

  2. Usually coconut oil is extracted from dried coconuts or copra. Extra virgin oil is not extracted in this way. I have not seen any brands so far. If I do find out,I will definitely let you know.

  3. I have read nuts are good for you. I mean the ones which you can eat, not the ones who ‘eat your head’ 🙂

    Now, how good or bad are peanuts for you with regard to formation of cholesterol and stuff like that?

    I eat about two fistfuls a day.

  4. In regard with cholesterol they are actually harmless. But if you eat about 100 grams per day then you will begetting too much of fats although in the form of mono unsaturated fatty acids. Excess of good fats too is not good. So cut down on it. Rather have 20 peanut halves.Its healthier….

  5. Dear All,

    My understanding is that Coconut Oil must be fresh. Smelling fresh oil itself energizes us.My Ayurvedic friend insists on freshness which is goodness. It is important to always obtain fresh coconut oil for cooking. May be Sanjana can give appropriate comment and advice to us.

    Best Regards

  6. For everyone who are interested in the coconut oil-

    We use extra virgin coconut oil since past 6 months in our diets. I am 31 with high cholestrol. I have not test my LDL and trig levels to confirm the benefits of the oil. I will report here once I do.

    The oil we use is called – Nutiva Coconut Oil Organic Extra Virgin
    you can purchase it on

    Stay healthy!

  7. Sanjana,

    If you compare coconut oil and peanut oil, which one would you prefer using in day-2-day cooking?

  8. Hi Vic,

    I would prefer to use both. I have been eating coconut oil in food from my childhood so I cannot give it up plus it is not a demon. Peanut oil would provide me with monounsaturated fats great for my system.

    I eat 2-4 teaspoons of oil per day. I love combining oils. I use coconut oil for tempering. It tastes great on veggies and dal. Other oils are mainly used in cooking gravies etc.

  9. Buy the oils close to nature. I remember in my younger days that I would help my grandmom dry coconuts in our yard. These were from our garden. Then my dad would take it to the mill. The smell was excellent and I am feeling nostalgic.

  10. Coconut oil is extremely good for you! The health issues in India have nothing to do with their use of coconut oil. This is the BEST oil to use for cooking because saturated fats do not break down. They are stable. Saturated fats do not cause heart disease and never did. 60-70% of the fats that have been found in patients who have heart disease were unsaturated fats. Do not use ANY vegetable oil that contains significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats, as they are inflammatory when heated. In fact, most are inflammatory on the store self. This is because they are heated to 500F degrees during manufacturing. INFLAMMATION IS THE #1 CAUSE OF DISEASES. Find the truth!!

  11. dear santana,
    very nice to see your advices.i am suffering with fatty &enlarged lever in size 16.9cm.
    i am also suffering with jaundice bilubin total approx.2.1 for last 2to 3 advice
    how i can come out from this problem.i donot use alcohol &use vegetarian food.

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