Food Topics Health Trends

Take Me Out: Does Coconut Oil Need to Go?

Recent news is saying coconut oil is unhealthy. But is it really?

The American Heart Association (AHA) has published an article recently that is shaking up the nutrition world.  Recently, in the news, people have been bashing coconut oil, and others have been defending it.  So what’s with all the hubbub?

The AHA article in questions showed that lowering saturated fats (i.e. butter, and animal fats) with polyunsaturated vegetable oils (i.e. olive oil and flaxseed oil) lowered the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 30%.  The AHA recommends that people follow a low-saturated fat diet for optimal heart health.  You can read the article here.

So what’s this got to do with coconut oil?  Simply put:  Coconut oil is high in saturated fats.  Many “tropical oils” are high in saturated fats.  In fact, before my hiatus to do schoolwork, I briefly wrote about this.

Fat Comparison.PNG

This is a table from a Wikipedia page on Peanut Oil.  There’s a lot of information here, but we are specifically looking at the saturated fat category.  As you can tell, coconut oil is 86% saturated fat!  This specifically is what is worrying about coconut oil.

Does this mean coconut oil is Satan and eating is is going to send your arteries straight to Hell?  I don’t think so.  Personally, I think most of the news surrounding coconut oil is a pissing contest between two sides, and for some reason people don’t like neutrality.

Dr. Willet at Harvard’s Department of Nutrition had this to say about coconut oil “what’s interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives ‘good’ HDL cholesterol a boost…Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it ‘less bad’ than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease.”

What is the Punk’s advice here?  I would limit eating sources of saturated fat, like what the AHA says, including coconut oil.  Notice my word-choice though.  Limit.  Not eliminate, just make sure that you aren’t eating a shit-ton.  And this does not mean that you can’t use coconut oil in other ways, such as a lotion or in your hair, as I’ve heard people do.

I also would keep the flavor in mind.  Coconut oil has a flavor, like olive oil.  I personally would not cook my meats in coconut oil, but I would with olive oil.  However, coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you can try making baked goods, or use it in recipes where the coconut flavor is desired.  Just be aware how much you are eating.

So what do you think?  Is coconut oil bad, good, somewhere in between?  Feel free to leave a comment!

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

5 replies on “Take Me Out: Does Coconut Oil Need to Go?”

These news aren’t wholly unexpected, while the saturated fat scare has been largely over-exaggerated so has the opposite end of the spectrum of keto-worshippers. It _shouldn’t_ come as a surprise to anyone that too much of a good thing can make it go bad. Just like there is a point where too much sugar, or too much of a mineral or vitamin, becomes a problem too much fats and/or proteins over a prolonged period will naturally also pose problems.

I think calling coconut oil bad or unhealthy is fear mongering hyperbole but if you think that replacing all your sugary treats with coconut oil treats and putting a tablespoon of coconut oil in your coffee instead of sugar is going to solve all your health issues you are probably in for a rough surprise.

It should probably also be added as an addendum every time a diet is under scrutiny that an active lifestyle goes a long way to negate the bad effects of your diet, because there is no diet with no drawbacks, and should always be at the forefront of a healthy lifestyle.


I totally agree with you that all things need to be in moderation. Obviously eating a whole jar of coconut oil is NOT going to be healthy.

Another opinion piece by a dietitian I follow was published. She basically said that coconut oil does not offer any real benefit, and the 120 Cals from 1 Tbsp. is better spent elsewhere (you can read more here:

As for the active lifestyle bit, that is outside of my area of expertise. I focus more on the diet side of health, though I am sure there are plenty of exercise based blogs out there that share your opinion!


Shortly after writing this comment I wanted to change some things I said because I didn’t feel like I thought about them long enough, too much posting on Reddit has ruined me. I don’t suppose the ability to edit comments waiting for approval is something that is within the realm of possibility?

My wording made it seem like I was implying coconut oil or sugar was good for you which was not at all my intention.

The message of moderation is something I feel should be further at the front of the nutrition conversation. Tell someone who’s knee deep into keto that all those saturated fats probably aren’t all too great for you and you’re likely to either be shouted at, downvoted, or have a very long conversation about how sugars are the real culprit and fats are gods gift to man.

But tell them that you agree that fats aren’t all bad and that you believe that you should keep it varied and do regular visits to the doctor to confirm for yourself that you are in fact in the green when it comes to cholesterol and they might be a lot more inclined to listen to you.

Likewise all these posts by various sites coming out saying “… Is the new wonderfood!” or “… Might be slowly killing you!” does nothing but create stress. Which is a documented phenomenon with a name that escapes me at this time. Being told that “This might not be great for you but a little bit every now and then isn’t going to kill you.” is a much more “progressive”, for lack of a better word, way to go about it.


I usually will briefly edit replies (only to change some grammar, NEVER to change the message!)

If you ever feel the need to get a hold of me, feel free to send me a DM on Twitter (my username is @Nutrition_Punk). I’m still setting up ways for people to contact directly with me. Expect a contact page to be up sometime in the future!

In terms of social media, there are a lot of people who follow diets for one reason or another and do not accept evidence or credibility there of. There is some evidence that a ketogenic diet does have a lot of benefits. Like you said, there are A LOT of news articles about “X Will Save YOU!” and “X Will KILL You!” which makes it harder to find some evidence of truth.


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