Have you been confused lately about what you should be eating in order to keep your cholesterol in a healthy range? Is there the “right” food plan out there? High fat diet? Low fat diet? Paleo? Vegetarian? There is so much conflicting information out there and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. A few doctors and researchers are working hard to bring the latest facts and findings to the general public.
Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., is one of these professionals and has written extensively about heart disease and diabetes. He is one of my go-to authorities on these topics. His article “Is Coconut Oil bad for your Cholesterol?” clears up some confusion on the issue of dietary fat and cholesterol. I will give you the highlights in layman’s terms, but here is the article link if you would like to read it for yourself: http://drhyman.com/blog/2016/04/06/is-coconut-oil-bad-for-your-cholesterol/.
There is a certain “profile” that puts you at higher risk for heart disease. Small LDL (“bad” cholesterol) particle size, along with high triglycerides and the presence of systemic inflammation (measured as CRP, or c-reactive protein) is considered to be the most at-risk profile according to Dr. Hyman. It is important to understand, too, that systemic inflammation is at the root of all disease, so we want a low CRP number. Small LDL particles can cause clogs as they imbed themselves in small spaces, which can eventually lead to heart disease. This is something that can be tested, but it is not a standard test. You have to request it and you should check to make sure your insurance will cover it.
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and has numerous health benefits. These fats are utilized very efficiently by the body for energy; they boost metabolism, burn fat, balance hormones, control the appetite, and improve the lipid profile. In terms of the lipid profile (the point of this article), coconut oil increases LDL particle size and reduces inflammation (that CRP number). This oil increases the HDL (“good” cholesterol), which is very important for protecting the heart. What most people don’t know is that consuming SUGAR actually decreases the HDL! Not good!
So how can we consume coconut oil? You can cook or bake with it, or you can melt some and drizzle it on a salad. Some people like to add it to coffee or smoothies. I prefer to sauté vegetables and cook my morning eggs with it. I also pop my popcorn in it, and sometimes I’ll just eat it straight. It is important to buy unrefined, virgin oil. Also, it is in a solid state below approximately 74 degrees F. Most experts agree that we need 1-3 tablespoons a day in order to receive the health benefits, but any amount will yield some benefits.
I could go on and on about the health benefits of coconut oil, but wanted to stick to the topic of cholesterol and heart disease risk. However, I do want to mention that if you have had your gall bladder removed, coconut oil is essential. The gall bladder’s function is to break down and utilize dietary fat. When you no longer have this tiny organ, your body is unable to properly digest fat. Healthy fats are extremely important and our bodies (and brains) NEED them. Fortunately, coconut oil is easily digested, even in the absence of the gall bladder. That is great news for so many people!
How do you incorporate coconut oil into your diet?