There is no topic more confusing in the world of nutrition than fat. Are they good? Bad? Which ones should you eat and how much? Research is now pretty conclusive that vegetable oils (like canola) are bad for your health in excess, and healthy, natural fats (like coconut) are far superior.
While marketers claim that canola oil is “the world’s healthiest cooking oil,” most health experts now disagree.
Short History of Canola Oil
Canola was first used for industrial purposes, which made sense because it is cheap to produce and people couldn’t eat it due to harmful substances it contained (note: canola oil was and sometimes is still referred to as rapeseed oil). Rapeseed became what is now called canola oil when Canadian scientists learned how to make it edible by creating seeds that weren’t as bitter tasting. Today, the vast majority of canola oil is genetically modified.
To get a (scary) glimpse into the process of actually producing canola oil, check out this video.
Nutritional Value of Canola Oil
This highly processed vegetable oil contains about 7 percent saturated fats, 63 percent monounsaturated fats, and 28 percent polyunsaturated fats (1). When the no-fat/low-fat craze hit popular nutrition practices in the 1950s, oils like canola were considered healthier because of their low saturated fat content. Thankfully, studies have now shown that saturated fat is really not the cause of heart disease and other conditions previously associated with it (2) and that healthy saturated fats in the diet are actually quite important for optimal health.
Monounsaturated fats are the same ones found in olive oil and are healthy. Polyunsaturated fats are where the problem lies, as the SAD (Standard American Diet) is usually far too high in these types of fats, and this can cause generalized inflammation in the body (We do need some polyunsaturated fats, but not many. Also, these fats are far more delicate and prone to oxidation, so most canola oil (and other vegetable oils, such as corn and soy) are rancid before even hitting the shelves thanks to the high heat used in their processing.
Coconut Oil: Why is it Better?
A much healthier alternative has increased in popularity over recent years, although it is a fat that has been used historically across cultures. Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat, so it’s had a bad rap. However, now that we know that saturated fat is actually nothing to be feared, consider some of the incredible benefits of coconut oil:
Coconut Oil Supports Weight Loss
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that have been shown to increase your energy expenditure and help you burn fat. One study found that 15-30 grams of MCTs per day can actually burn an extra 120 calories (4), which is definitely significant if you’re trying to lose weight.
Coconut Oil is a Powerful Antibacterial
The lauric acid in coconut oil makes up just about 50 percent of its fatty acid content and is a powerful anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agent. It can work effectively to kill harmful fungi, bacteria and viruses and can also help fight candida (yeast) infections. Feel free to use coconut oil as a topical ointment for fungal infections, or consume it to treat internal yeast overgrowths.
Coconut Oil Makes You Feel Full
Most fats have a higher satiety index than other foods, meaning they will fill you up for longer. Coconut is no exception and can help reduce your hunger dramatically, control cravings and (consequently) help you lose weight (5).
Coconut Oil Improves Cholesterol Levels
Contrary to popular belief, certain saturated fats (like those found in coconut) can actually work to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol without having a major effect on LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This means that coconut oil can help prevent heart disease (6).
Keep in mind that coconut oil becomes solid when the temperature drops below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is completely normal. A serving of coconut oil is 1 tablespoon, which contains 120 calories (7). Swapping coconut oil for canola oil (and other vegetable oils other than olive oil, for that matter) in your cooking is an all-around good move for your health.