We've seen coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oils touted for their health benefits and as ingredients that can easily be substituted into recipes. One of our readers wondered about whether coconut oil is good for us, so we reached out to Dr. Selina Wang, Research Director at the University of California's Olive Center, in Davis, CA.
Dr. Selina Wang:
I don't recommend coconut oil for routine use in cooking at home, though it may be nice in baking due to its butter-like consistency. Unlike what some people believe (Dr. Oz included), there is no strong evidence that shows coconut oil is good for us. Coconut oil contains high levels of medium-chain saturated fatty acids (olive oil has high levels of unsaturated long-chain fatty acids). Some research shows that the body absorbs these medium-chain saturated fatty acids differently - they go directly to the liver to be used for energy and not be stored as fat. Therefore, some studies show coconut oil is a good oil to use for weight loss, however, more research needs to be done.
There are different types of coconut oils - some more refined than others (same as in olive oil). Unrefined oils have more antioxidants and are generally better to use than refined oils. Oils such as vegetable, canola and soybean are all refined, therefore unrefined olive oil or coconut oil is preferable.