Is coconut oil safe to consume? In the past few years, coconut oil has received a surge in popularity in the West for its supposed health benefits.

However, more recently, it has been under increasing scrutiny. A Harvard professor, Karin Michaels, famously lambasted the oil in a viral video, describing it as "pure poison" because it is mostly saturated fatty acids which can clog the coronary arteries.

Despite the contrasting claims surrounding it, many Americans still consider coconut oil as a "superfood," a term used to describe food that is nutritionally dense and generally good for one's overall health. A survey in 2016 found that 72 percent of Americans believe that coconut oil is healthy.

The same survey revealed that only 32 percent of health experts believe that coconut oil is healthy.

Coconut Oil Is Rich In Saturated Fat

The problem of coconut oil stems from the fact that is loaded in saturated fat. In fact, according to nutritionist and host Mary Donkersloot, in an interview with NPR, a tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat.

The American Heart Association recommends the public to keep their intake of saturated fat below 13 grams per day. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion gives a little more leeway, allowing up to 10 percent of a person's total daily calories.

While fat is not entirely bad as many are led to believe, saturated fat is a whole other story. Nutritionists still warn that saturated fat, which comes from animal products including meat and dairy, can lead to high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Is Coconut Oil Good Or Bad?

Sources claim that coconut oil can help in weight loss, improve the appearance of the skin and hair, boost brain function, and promote dental health. Lauric acid, a type of saturated fatty acid in coconut oil, has also been found to increase the level of HDL a.k.a the good cholesterol.

However, Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University, warned that the saturated fat, which still increases LDL levels, trumps the potential health benefits of coconut oil.

Still, occasionally consuming coconut oil isn't fatal. Professor Lichtenstein clarified that cooking with the tropical oil once in a while is fine, but she and other nutritionists warned about treating it as a superfood. At the end of the day, balance is the key to good nutrition.

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