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    Is Cooking With Coconut Oil Healthy?

    Is Cooking With Coconut Oil Healthy?

    Close up of a medicine bottle with a label on the side

    Coconut oil has been touted as a good-for-you fat that helps with weight reduction, metabolism, and lowering cholesterol, but in reality it’s a highly saturated fat that can cause atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to clogged arteries and result in a heart attack or stroke.

    Coconut oil is full of saturated fat

    Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut, which is 82 percent saturated. This means that just 1 tablespoon of coconut oil contains more than 11 grams of saturated fat. That is nearly the total daily limit of 13 grams recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Recently, the AHA published a statement reaffirming that saturated fats raise your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and should be limited to10 percent of your total fat intake.

    A point of confusion about coconut oil that separates it from other types of saturated fat is that it also contains a good amount of medium chain triglycerides or MCT oils. These oils are processed by the body differently than other fats. Some research has shown that increased intake of MCT oils can promote weight loss and boost metabolism. However, in these studies, a special 100 percent MCT oil is used and it’s noted that coconut oil in its traditional form is not a replacement for similar results. 

    Opt for vegetable or olive oil instead

    Eating a good diet is about trying to make healthier food choices every day. Consuming less saturated fat and choosing more unsaturated fat sources is a step in the right direction.  

    Instead of coconut oil, try cooking with an oil that replaces the saturated fat with unsaturated fat, as this can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease. In general, you want to use oils that have less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and no partially hydrogenated oil or trans fats. Also avoid cooking with shortening, lard, and stick margarine as they contain hydrogenated fats.

    I recommend an oil that is primarily unsaturated, such as these choices:

    • Canola oil
    • Olive oil
    • Peanut oil
    • Safflower oil
    • Corn oil 
    • Soybean oil  

    You can also choose specialty oils:

    • Avocado oil
    • Grapeseed oil
    • Tree nut oils (almond, walnut, etc.) 

    As you try different oils, you may find that some have distinctive flavors, so it’s a good idea to have more than one type in your pantry.

    4 Heart-Healthy Fats to Add to Your Diet

    Healthy oils can be used for things like:

    • Salad dressings, marinades, dips and sauces
    • Sautee,’ stir fry, or roast vegetables
    • Coat pans to keep food from sticking
    • Drizzle on foods for flavor
    • Substitute for solid fats in recipes

    Try this summer vegetable recipe with olive oil



    • 1 small butternut squash, cubed                                             
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
    • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced                                     
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed                                          
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed                                                  
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 red onion, quartered                                                                 
    • Salt and ground black pepper


    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the squash, peppers, sweet potato and Yukon Gold potatoes.  Separate the red onion quarters into pieces and add them to the mixture.
    3. In a small bowl, stir together the thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss with the vegetables until they are coated.  Spread vegetables evenly on a large roasting pan.
    4. Roast for 35-40 minutes in the oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and browned.