Ask Stephie: Coconut oil—A healthy fat source

In a previous article, I wrote about the different types of dietary fats and their effects on our health. I mentioned that saturated fats are the less healthy kind of fats and are associated with heart disease. However, coconut oil is a type of saturated fat that is actually good for you. I would like to dedicate this article to giving this “miracle oil” some special attention.

It is important to understand that there are different types of saturated fats, and the length of the fatty acid chain will determine if it is healthy or not. For example, the long-chain fatty acid food sources such as beef, pork and dairy products are associated with cardiovascular disease and are among the saturated fats to be aware of. Unrefined, non-hydrogenated, and cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, being composed primarily of medium- and short-chain fatty acids has a totally different effect on the body. The fatty acids found in coconut oil are burned almost immediately for energy, and are not converted to body fat or cholesterol.

According to Bruce Fife, a certified nutritionist and president of the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil’s direct effect on blood cholesterol has generally been shown to be neutral, and may indirectly lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise the HDL (good) cholesterol by stimulating the body’s metabolism. In addition, it has been well documented in numerous dietary studies that replacing long-chain fats with medium-chain fats results in a decrease in body weight gain and a reduction in body fat storage.

Coconut oil has been used for centuries in many cultures throughout the world as both a food and a medicine. It has been used to alleviate or treat such aliments as:

Skin disorders, rashes, and burns

Digestive problems and malnutrition

Diabetes, kidney and bladder problems

Disease-causing bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites


Weakened immune systems

Researchers have yet to determine precisely how much coconut oil is needed on a daily basis to gain the optimal health benefits, but the current recommended amount that may be suitable for adults is 3 ½ tablespoons per day. This can be achieved through cooking with coconut oil, applying it to the skin, or consuming the oil as food.

Coconut oil melts at about 76 degrees F, becoming a clear liquid that is great for cooking, baking or even frying. Below that temperature, it solidifies and has a soft buttery texture that can be used as a spread.

Keep in mind that pure, natural coconut oil—as opposed to the hydrogenated version often found in processed foods—is a saturated fat that is actually good for you!

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Readers can send their questions to Stephie via e-mail to

From the Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2006, issue

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