November 29, 2012 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Dear Doctor Mama,
I love the flavor of coconut milk and prefer to use it to flavor coffee each morning, as well as the occasional cereal, and to add for soups or where milk is an ingredient. I also like to use coconut oil for cooking and occasional skincare when my skin is super dry.
Equally qualified professionals say completely opposite things about coconut milk and oil. What do you say?
~Leigh in CA
Thanks for your question!
Coconut oil sure has made the big time as the latest, greatest cure-for-all-that-ails-you, hasn’t it? I have to admit, any time I see something all over internet with broad-sweeping claims attached to it, I tend to be a little suspect.
That’s not to say that I don’t think coconut is great. But I really don’t think it’s a miracle for much of anything beyond making my no-bake cookies taste amazing.
That said, let’s take a look at what the science says about coconut oil.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but it doesn’t seem to raise your bad cholesterol. Instead, coconut oil may raise the hearth-healthy HDL cholesterol. So that’s a good thing.
For people with problems absorbing fats (like those with Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis), coconut oil is an excellent way to boost fat intake, along with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This is because most of the fat in coconut is in the form of something called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The nature of these fats is that they bypass the normal route of fat absorption, getting right into the circulation after passing through the liver.
Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, a fatty acid also found in human breast milk. Lauric acid may have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial effects in the body. One study showed that coconut oil may keep people with eczema from developing skin infections.
There is some evidence that coconut oil has antioxidant and bone protective effects.
There’s also some preliminary evidence that coconut oil may promote abdominal fat loss.
In her book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, Sally Fallon makes the case for adding coconut oil to the diet. I really love most of the ideas and concepts in her book, but I struggle the paucity of original research cited. Overall, though, the message to decrease processed foods and most vegetable oils is one that I can get behind.
Because coconut oil is so saturated, it’s safer to heat than many of the highly unsaturated fats (like safflower and sunflower oils).
If you’re looking for some suggestions,
Native Forest makes a Coconut Milkthat’s packaged in BPA-free cans. This is what you use to make curries and such.
As a milk substitute, I like So Delicious Organic Coconut Milk.
I hope that’s helpful.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is for educational and/or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.