Like all oils, coconut oil is almost 100% fat and so each 100ml provides a massive 900 calories. But of even more concern, over 90% of this fat is saturated fat, predominantly the cholesterol-raising fatty acids known as lauric, myristic and palmitic acids.
By comparison, butter has just 52g of saturated fat/100g, so it’s just over 50% saturated fat.
To put coconut oil in context, the recommended daily limit (reference intake) for saturated fat is 20g for women and 30g for men.
Two tablespoons a day
If all of this came from coconut oil, it would equate to just over 20ml for women and 30ml (two tablespoons) a day for men, leaving no room for contributions from other nutrient-rich sources of fat such as meat, dairy products and eggs.
So how come this oil has joined the ‘superfood’ league and is this justified?
In an open access paper in the March issue of Nutrition Bulletin, Lockyer and Stanner discuss the evidence for some of the many claims being made in the popular press and via the internet.
They conclude that all oils are high in calories and that the current dietary advice on oils in relation to obesity prevention and also heart health stands firm.
Unsaturated fatty acids
Foods rich in saturated fat should be replaced with sources of unsaturated fatty acids. Oils made from rapeseed, sunflower seeds and olives are particularly rich in this type of fat and only small amounts are needed.
Use of coconut oil should be limited or not consumed at all. Indeed, the government campaign Change4Life lists coconut oil with foods that they say should be ‘left on the shelf’.