It’s used for stir-fries and roasting. Scooped into smoothies. Swapped for butter in baked goods. Heck, plenty of people even use it as a moisturizer or a mouthwash.
We’re talking, of course, about coconut oil. It’s touted as the healthy fat that’s good for your heart and great for losing weight. But does it actually live up to all the hype? And more importantly, should you really be using it on everything?
Not necessarily. Despite what you might see on Pinterest or Instagram, coconut oil isn’t exactly a miracle food. Here are three things you should know about the healthy fat.
Adding coconut oil to everything won’t help with weight loss.
Coconut oil contains a type of fatty acid that findings suggest can boost calorie-burning more than the acids in other sources of fat, like olive oil. But like other fats, coconut oil is calorie-dense. So if you want to use it to support your weight-loss efforts, it’s still a good idea to eat it in moderation. For instance, instead of adding a big scoop of coconut oil to your smoothie, try adding a teaspoon or two in place of your usual nut butter or avocado.
Other fats may be better for your heart.
Most experts agree that the saturated fat found in coconut oil is better for heart health than the saturated fat found in animal foods—like red meat or full-fat dairy. But even so, it likely isn’t as healthy of a choice as unsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (or “good”) cholesterol. When researchers reviewed the results of 21 studies, they concluded that cooking with an unsaturated fat—like olive oil—would be better for cholesterol and heart health.
When you only eat coconut oil, you might miss out on other good stuff.
You know how nutrition experts say that you should eat a rainbow’s worth of fruit and vegetables? When it comes to healthy fats, it’s the same story. Like different colored fruits and vegetables, different types of fats offer different nutritional benefits. By mixing things up, you get a little bit of everything. So go ahead and stir coconut oil into your oatmeal for breakfast. Then try something else. Add avocado to your salad or sandwich at lunch, and at dinner, roast your vegetables with olive oil.
The bottom line? Coconut oil can definitely be a part of a healthy diet. So if you’re cuckoo for the stuff, it’s perfectly fine to keep eating it. Still, it’s a good idea to eat a lot of different kinds of fats instead of sticking to just one. So keep a bunch of tasty fats in your pantry—and switch it up!