Is using coconut oil really that bad for you?

In defence of the coconut stuff by our health-conscious vegetarian digital features editor

coconut oil
(Image credit: Mood Board/REX/Shutterstock)

In defence of the coconut stuff by our health-conscious vegetarian digital features editor

We've all heard the benefits of coconut oil for skin and coconut oil for hair and although I admittedly soak my coarse, natural hair in it before washing it, this oil, otherwise known as 'copra oil' has been a firm favourite ingredient of mine to cook in for even longer.

So when news broke that cooking with this oil is just as unhealthy as eating beef fat, I scratched my head and wondered, really!?

Let me give you the low down.

According to the American Heart Association, copra oil is apparently just as unhealthy as cooking with butter, palm oil or beef dripping for your cholesterol level.

The study from the journal Circulation credits a survey that found that 82% of the fats found in this type of nut oil are of the saturated variety that can be linked to strokes and heart disease.

'Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favourable effects, we advise against the use of this oil,' concludes the report.

Of course, it's totally up to each individual of how they take in this information but with the media reporting how good - and then bad - fad diets are, it's hard to know what to believe.

To give you a few more facts, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported in May that palm oil contains high levels of carcinogenic contaminant glycidyl fatty acid when cooked at very high temperatures (over 200 degrees celsius).

With The EFSA saying that ‘there is sufficient evidence that this 'poses a cancer risk,’ it seems that the toxic cancer-causing chemicals, responsible for heart disease and dementia, can be found in other fried foods when cooked using sunflower oil, vegetable oils and corn oil.

Their report concluded that out of all food oils, olive oil, coconut/copra oil, butter and lard produce much lower levels of these harmful chemicals (aldehydes) with coconut producing the lowest.

So, in my opinion, more research needs to be done into this fact before we condemn copra oil oil just to our bathroom cabinet.

Delphine Chui