To my Myth Buster Followers,

What is on the agenda today, let’s talk about coconuts…….are they good for us, or do they clog our arteries with those unhealthy cholesterol’s associated with heart disease?

Myth:- Saturated fats in coconut oil raises cholesterol levels and increases risks of heart disease?

Here’s what you need to know

Always use credible sources of information for dietary advise for your better health :- government and professional nutrition, dietary and medical organisations. Coconut oil comes from the flesh of the coconut which has a high saturated fat content that is responsible for ~85% of its calories, compared to olive oil 14% and butter 63%. What does this mean? This explains why coconut oil is like lard (pig fat) and butter, it’s solid at room temperature. Hence the name saturated fats, unlike majority of vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature and are named unsaturated fats, which are the healthy fats that reduce unhealthy cholesterol in the body and prevent our arteries from clogging. Unsaturated fats are healthier in our diets in their recommended quantities:- up to 1 tablespoon for women and up to 2 tablespoons for men, per day.

unsaturated fats
Friendly (HDL) cholesterols

saturated fats

works against unfriendly (LDL) cholesterols

to reduce the build up of plaque in the arteries causing heart disease


Due to the similarities of coconut oil to animal fats (solid in form at room temperature), coconut oil has received a negative reputation. However, today more studies are occurring and there is conflicting evidence that coconut oil is made up of medium- chain triglycerides (a specific type of fatty acid ), that the body processes better than other animal or dairy fats. These medium- chain triglycerides are said to boost the good (HDL) cholesterol in the body, but because it is a saturated fat does it raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol that increases risks of heart disease? Further studies reported with more stringent evidence, and have shown that replacing vegetables oils (unsaturated) with coconut oils (saturated) has raised the unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol levels in people. Until it is proven that coconut oil doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol levels in the body and the overall effects are better for long term benefit to your health, keep to the recommended levels of saturated and unsaturated fats (see the Australian dietary guidelines). Understanding the types of fats and how they are processed in the body is complicated, for more information see links below regarding coconut oil and medium-chain triglycerides.

FACT:- The average Australian has 28grams of saturated fat per day in an average daily intake of 8700kJ (2090 calories). The recommendations are 7% of your daily intake, which is 16g for the average adult requirements. At the moment the use of coconut oil in small quantities that replaces other saturated fats, e.g. butter, and doesn’t replace the unsaturated fats in your diet (vegetables oils, nuts, avocado) etc, so healthy cholesterol levels are safely maintained for better heart health.

Hot Tip:- Just because other cultures may have high intakes of coconuts, not necessarily coconut oil, with low incidence of heart disease, does not mean this will automatically apply to Australians.  Australians are already over consuming in animal (saturated) fats in their diet, to add or swap generous amounts of coconut fats has increased risks of greater harm. Other cultures may not consume any or as much animal foods, have different lifestyles (work the land, high activity levels), and are genetically predisposed to a diet with large quantities of coconut, but are not necessarily consuming coconut oils. Always seek dietary advice from a medical and Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) before making major changes to your diet.

Food supply and availability:- Australia produces small crops of coconuts, however future opportunity to expand into the production of coconuts may occur. Currently coconuts are produced and imported into Australia from leading suppliers from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia. Coconut nut oil is available from supermarkets, online suppliers, health, organic and chemist stores. The average price is $20 -$30 per kilogram.

Links for further reading:-

Coconut fats

Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans

The Truth About Coconut Oil

Saturated and trans fats

Ask the doctor: Coconut oil

Fats: Total fat & fatty acids


Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)

10 Tasty Coconut Oil Recipes

A healthy coconut recipe without the coconut oil

Breakfast bomb smoothie- “It packs a punch” (serves 2-3 people)

1 small banana

½ cup frozen raspberries

½ cup frozen blueberries

½ cup frozen mango

1.5 cups lite coconut milk

¾ cup low fat vanilla yogurt – or sheep, goat, coconut, Greek, plain or fruit

1 tablespoon of psyllium husk or dedicated coconut (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

½ cup ice


Health Tip- highly packed with vitamins, fibre, calcium, carbohydrates and protein – a complete meal to start the day and the psyllium husk is a very cost effective substitute to keep one regular

cocnut smoothy.jpg

Enjoy……Eat well, eat fresh

By Lyn Dunkley your Myth Buster,

NRG Dietitians Australia




For individualised advice to meet your nutritional needs, look for an Accredited Practising Dietitian

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