Health Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil - Nutrition Facts, Charts, Uses

Virgin coconut oil has been given rage reviews by the many celebrities and natural health advocates as a Superfood. However, this would appear to be very hard to justify because coconut oil has one of the highest level of saturated fat of any of the popular vegetable oils and is equivalent to many meat and dairy shortenings.

The percent of saturated fat in various animal and plant derived oils is shown below

  • Coconut Oil 87%
  • Butter 60%
  • Lard 40%
  • Palm Oil 50%
  • Margarine 18%
  • Olive Oil 14%
  • Canola Oil 7 %

So what's going on? Why are the health benefits of coconut oil being promoted for all sorts of things from weight loss, memory enhancement, stress relief, controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and dental car and improved digestion?

Coconut oil has other beneficial uses including hair care and skin care.

This article summarizes the nutritional facts for oconut oil in comparison with other common oils and reviews the evidence for and against the claims that it is a Superfood.

Source
Source
Source

Traditional Recommendations about Saturated Fat in the Diet

The famous Seven Countries Study has been the source of modern advice about the need to avoid saturated fats, and the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This study found that the inhabitants of Crete, derived about 40 % of their energy from fat, but they had the smallest heart disease rate, and the highest average life expectancy in all the Countries (similar to Japan).

The study found that most of the fat in the Cretan diet came from eating fish and olive oil, which are much richer in unsaturated fats than meat and dairy products.

The study concluded that saturated fat were harmful and there were advantages to replacing them with unsaturated fats. This lead to the popularity of Mediterranean diets. Total fat in this diet is about 30% of calories, with less that 10% saturated fat.

The principal aspects of this diet include moderate wine consumption, low consumption of meat and meat products, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), high consumption of vegetables, high consumption of fruits, high consumption of unrefined cereals, legumes and high olive oil consumption.

Unexpected Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

There are several mysterious things about coconut oil. A study done in the 1950s examined the cholesterol levels of population on two isolated Polynesian atolls: Pukapuka and Tokelau.

Coconuts were the chief energy sources on both islands with people on Tokelauans getting about 65% of their energy from coconuts and 34% for the Pukapukan inhabitats (see tables). The average serum cholesterol levels was 175mg for Pukapukan and about 210mg for Tokelauans.

The higher level of serum cholesterol levels in Tokelauans was attributed to their higher consumption of saturated fat.

However is no evidence that the relatively high fat in the diet and saturated fat intake are having harmful effects. Vascular disease is uncommon in both populations.

Interestingly the cholesterol levels were much lower than predicted from their diet and amounts of saturated fat consumed, about 70 to 80mg lower. This shifted the cholesterol levels from moderate to low risk (< 200 mg).

The relatively high level of fish in the diet and fatty acids derived from seafood may explain for this as well the high fiber in their diets.

However, it could to the benefits of coconut oil itself, in not increasing the serum cholesterol levels as high as expected.

Observed and Predicted Cholesterol Levels for two Polynesian Communities

 
Pukapuka
 
Tokelau
 
Risk Levels
 
 
 
Observed (mg)
Predicted (mg)
Observed (mg)
Predicted (mg)
Low Level Risk (mg)
Moderate Level Risk (mg)
High Level Risk (mg)
Males
170
238
208
290
<200
220
>240
Females
176
251
216
296
 
 
 

Food Composition for the Two Polynesian Islands

Food
Pukapuka
Tokelau
Coconut
34%
63%
Taro/breadfruit
15%
18%
Cereals
30%
3%
Sucrose
4%
3%
Fish (+ meat)
17%
13%
Daily Food Intake
 
 
Drinking nuts
1
2
Mature nuts
1
1.25
Taro (g)
150
100
Breadfruit (g)
nil
400
Cereal (g)
180
20
Sugar (g)
17
21
Fish (g)
150
230
Canned meat (g)
30
small

Bad Oils - High in Saturated Fats

Oil Type - Serving Size 100g
Calories (Cal)
Sat. Fat (g)
Mono. Fat (g)
Poly. Fat (g)
nutmeg butter
882
90
4.8
0
coconut oil
860
86.5
5.8
0.25
palm kernel oil
860
81.5
11.4
0.22
babassu oil
882
81.2
11.4
0.22
cocoa butter
882
59.7
32.9
0.41
palm oil
882
49.3
37
1.27
cottonseed oil
882
25.9
17.8
7.06
shortening, soybean (hydrogenated) and palm
883
25.02
42.51
3.41
rice bran oil
882
19.7
39.3
4.76
wheat germ oil
882
18.8
15.1
8.39
peanut oil
875
16.77
45.86
4.32
soy margarine, hard, hydrogenated
716
16.7
39.3
2.95
soybean oil
882
15.65
22.78
7.85

Good Oils - Low in Saturated Fat

Oil Type - Serving Size 100g
Calories (Cal)
Sat. Fat (g)
Mono. Fat (g)
Poly. Fat (g)
safflower oil, linoleic
882
6.21
14.35
10.15
apricot kernel oil
882
6.3
60
3.99
canola oil
886
7.36
63.28
3.94
hazelnut oil
882
7.4
78
1.39
almond oil
882
8.2
69.9
2.37
walnut oil
882
9.1
22.8
8.61
flaxseed oil
882
9.4
20.2
8.98
grapeseed oil
882
9.6
16.1
9.51
sunflower oil, high oleic
886
9.86
83.69
0.53
sunflower oil, linoleic
882
10.1
45.4
5.45
avocado oil
886
11.56
70.56
1.89
corn oil
882
12.95
27.57
7.44
soy margarine spread (70% fat)
629
13.63
33.47
2.84
olive oil
875
13.71
72.43
1.42

The table below compares the nutrients of coconut oil with that of many popular oils.

The two tables opposite show that coconut oil has the second highest level of saturated fat (87%) of all the vegetable oils shown.

There is more saturated fat in coconut oil than in butter and lard.

Reviews of various research have shown that moderate amount of coconut oil did not raise cholesterol levels as expected.

This occurred when the coconut oil was eaten with a well-balanced diet, including seafood and vegetables, by people with an active lifestyle, whole coconut.

The Heart Foundation and various other advisory bodies believes that the research supporting the health benefits of coconut oil is inconclusive.

Other research has suggested that like cholesterol itself, which has so-called good and bad variants, not all saturated fats in the diet are bad.

Coconut oil is rich in medium-length fatty acids that are much better for heart health than the long-length fatty acids found in meat, dairy and other animal products.

About 50 % of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid which has antioxidant properties and other health benefits.

Coconut oil is much more stable at high temperatures than many other oils and this provides benefits as well.

Conclusion:

Coconut oil has better health benefits than expected from its high level of saturated fats, especially when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

Oil Type Serving Size 100g
Calories (Cal)
Saturated Fat (g)
Monounsat. Fat (g)
Polyunsat. Fat (g)
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin K (mcg)
almond oil
882
8.20
69.90
2.37
39.19
7.35
apricot kernel oil
882
6.30
60.00
3.99
3.97
 
avocado oil
886
11.56
70.56
1.89
 
 
babassu oil
882
81.20
11.40
0.22
19.12
 
canola oil
886
7.36
63.28
3.94
17.43
71.43
cocoa butter
882
59.70
32.90
0.41
1.76
25.00
coconut oil
860
86.50
5.80
0.25
0.07
0.74
corn oil
882
12.95
27.57
7.44
14.26
2.21
cottonseed oil
882
25.90
17.80
7.06
35.29
25.00
flaxseed oil
882
9.40
20.20
8.98
17.50
0.00
grapeseed oil
882
9.60
16.10
9.51
28.82
 
hazelnut oil
882
7.40
78.00
1.39
47.21
 
nutmeg butter
882
90.00
4.80
0.00
0.22
 
olive oil
875
13.71
72.43
1.42
14.26
59.56
palm kernel oil
860
81.50
11.40
0.22
3.82
25.00
palm oil
882
49.30
37.00
1.27
15.96
8.09
peanut oil
875
16.77
45.86
4.32
15.59
0.74
rice bran oil
882
19.70
39.30
4.76
32.28
25.00
safflower oil, linoleic
882
6.21
14.35
10.15
34.12
7.35
sesame oil
882
14.20
39.70
5.67
1.40
13.24
shortening, soybean (hydrogenated) and palm
883
25.02
42.51
3.41
 
 
soy margarine spread (70% fat)
629
13.63
33.47
2.84
5.57
 
soy margarine, hard, hydrogenated
716
16.70
39.30
2.95
3.12
 
soybean lecithin
765
15.01
10.98
6.16
8.16
183.82
soybean oil
882
15.65
22.78
7.85
8.16
183.82
soybean oil (partly hydrogenated)
882
14.90
43.00
5.11
8.09
25.00
sunflower oil, high oleic
886
9.86
83.69
0.53
41.07
5.71
sunflower oil, linoleic
882
10.10
45.40
5.45
41.10
5.15
walnut oil
882
9.10
22.80
8.61
0.37
14.71
wheat germ oil
882
18.80
15.10
8.39
149.41
25.00

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

More by this Author


Comments

No comments yet.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working