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Is coconut oil really that beneficial?

The reputation that coconut oil has as a healing power is not new; from improving skin and hair care to boosting immunity and even weight loss, the health claims of this tropical oil are endless. But the question remains: should you switch to using coconut oil in your diet? Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons.

The pros

  • Its tropical taste lends a distinctive flavor to dishes that differs from other fats or oils.
  • It's solid at room temperature, which means it's versatile and can be used in baked goods as well as for sautéing and stir-frying.
  • For vegan eaters, it's another source of plant-based fat.
  • Consuming coconut oil may raise your HDL, or healthy cholesterol.

The cons

  • Consuming coconut oil can cause your LDL, or unhealthy cholesterol, to rise. This is undesirable in terms of heart health.
  • Simply adding coconut oil to your diet means you're increasing your total fat intake rather than replacing the type of fats you're consuming. This can raise your cholesterol.

The bottom line

Because of the high saturated fat content, it would be inadvisable to completely switch from using liquid oils, such as olive oil, to using coconut oil for all your cooking and baking needs. However, it is okay to occasionally use it for a vegetable saute or in a baked good when you're looking for that distinct flavor. Just be sure to stick with liquid-at-room-temperature oils for everyday cooking.

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