Super food or super bad for you? How coconut oil could impact your body

In an effort to lose weight and be overall healthier, Tye’Ya Storms said she started to incorporate the so-called “super food” into most of her recipes about 10 years ago. (WWMT)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — It’s lunch time at Tye’Ya Storms’ Kalamazoo home, and on the menu: coconut oil.

“Coconut oil is a huge staple in my pantry and everywhere throughout my house,” said Storms.

In an effort to lose weight and be overall healthier, Storms said she started to incorporate the so-called “super food” into most of her recipes about 10 years ago.

“I use it for hair product, for face, for body. I use it everywhere — head to toe,” said Storms.

Thought she said she does follow a clean, healthy diet, Storms said she started incorporating coconut oil into nearly every aspect of her life. She’s lost weight and seen improvements in her hair, skin and nails.

But not everyone agrees with her.

“I think any time something comes out on the market that’s new and considered ‘healthy’ for you, there’s always going to be backups that say it’s not great or it’s not good or anything like that,” said Storms. “I think you just have to realize everything you do, you do in moderation.”

But is coconut oil really the answer to your weight-loss, health and beauty prayers?

The expert says…

Coconut oil has become increasingly trendy over the past few years, but a clinical dietitian from Ascension Borgess Hospital, Ellen Macalpine, said there is no good research to support the health claims.

Coconut oil is a fat, comprised largely of saturated fat, similar to butter, beef, lard, pork, cheese and cream.

Experts have historically recommended people limit saturated fats from their diet to avoid increase in LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association recommends 5 to 6 percent of total calories or about 13 grams to come from saturated fats per day.

To break down the numbers:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil = ~120 kcal, 14g total fat, 12g saturated fat
  • 1 tablespoon of butter = ~100 kcal, 11g total fat, 7g saturated fat
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil = ~120 kcal, 13g total fat, 1.8g saturated fat

Adding a tablespoon of coconut oil here or there can add up fast, according to Macalpine, and become a source of empty calories or calories that are not providing any additional nutritional value.

Macalpine said coconut oil would not be considered a super food, and warns to be on the lookout for food trends that are endorsed by non-medical professionals. She recommends focusing on moderation and eating a variety of foods to maintain a healthy diet.

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