Katelynn: My question for you is in regards to coconut oil. I did see that you had answered a question or two relating to this topic, but I was hoping for a little more explanation. I have recently seen coconut oil popping up in the lives of many friends, and I’m unsure as to the health benefits of it. I did some quick research the other day, and the articles and information I found didn’t seem to promote the use of coconut oil (granted, the research is limited and more should be done). The people I know are using coconut oil while trying to lose weight, and have replaced it with every other oil they use (no more canola, olive, nadda). I guess my question is, is it healthy to use only coconut oil? And is it as healthy as everyone on my Facebook boasts that it is?
Prevention RD: There isn’t a lot of research, as you mentioned. What we know is that coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride meaning it is absorbed directly into the blood stream and does not post the risks of atherosclerosis and high LDL levels like other saturated fats. HOWEVER, it’s still a fat! It is still packed with calories. It also has a very unique taste that personally, I just can’t use in everything (not that I would anyways). I love canola oil for its omega 3 content and olive oil for its low omega 6 fatty acid content and flavor. I use coconut oil in desserts where I want that particular flavor. There are a lot of oils that all have their pros and cons and marrying just one oil isn’t what I would recommend for a balanced diet. Does that help a bit? 🙂
Callia: I was reading some of your (very helpful) posts about the relative merits of different oils, with a view to improving the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in my diet. From what you’ve written, I was all set to try flaxseed oil for salads, and canola oil for cooking. But I can’t find canola oil on the shelves here in the UK. I understand from this article that “commodity rapeseed oil” (which I can find) is much the same thing. But I must admit the article rather put me off from a flavour perspective! So I started hunting around and found this neat little table. I grabbed the data and sorted it – first by sat-fat content, then by omega-6:omega-3 ratio, and finally by smoke point. Assuming that the data are correct, and that my criteria make sense, it looks to me like the best oil for frying would be Macadamia nut oil, with Canola and Mustard (not that I’ve ever seen *that* on the shelves) a close second, and Walnut and Avocado not a bad third (I did read somewhere that Walnut oil can go a bit bitter at high temperatures though). I’ve not factored in cost yet, so I’ve no idea if that would be practical in the real world – but I just wondered whether the data in the table looks reputable to you, and whether you’d agree about which oils look “best”. Also, I wondered if there are other factors to consider when choosing a cooking oil for healthy eating, besides sat-fat, omega-6:omega-3, smoke point, flavour and cost? Thanks for taking the time to read this question! Love the blog – made quinoa cakes for the first time this week, absolutely delicious 🙂
Prevention RD: Love your name! 🙂 Great question. I would definitely go with the rapeseed oil (“aka” canola oil in the states). Try and find an organic version or one that is without GMO’s, but I recommend canola oil all the time, particularly because of its low cost, high smoke point, and high level of omega 3 fatty acids! I do hope that helps. I have no personal experience with macadamia nut, walnut, or avocado oils, unfortunately.
Lizzie: Hey Nicole, what are your thoughts on/responses to this article?
Prevention RD: There probably isn’t enough bandwidth to accommodate all the words I’d love to say, but frankly, I disagree with quite a lot of what the article says. It’s written very well in that it is very vague — something that those outside the nutrition profession are great at. I mean, what is a “high protein” diet anyways? The article sure doesn’t specify, and yet I have seen in real life, excessive protein intakes (3+ grams per kilogram of body weight) over years cause long-term kidney damage. My biggest hot point was probably point #2, the comment about saturated fat not being linked to heart disease. There is a plethora of decades worth of research stating otherwise. In fact, saturated fat is the leading cause of elevated LDL-cholesterol levels. It’s not fat that’s the issue – it’s the types of fat (i.e. saturated and trans). I do agree with the point made about omega 6 fatty acids, for what it’s worth. I think the best part of the blog post was the comments. My personal favorite:
It is true that I haven’t said anything to refute what you wrote and I do not intend to. Those who want to make true life changes will seek the expertise of a dietitian and not a blog (yours or anyone else’s). We are the only profession that will devote an hour to a client and listen to them talk- doctors, nurses and physician assistants will not. I’m not trying to belittle your blog or the articles you write, but people need more than bullet points to make true changes.
I saw a client today who has a history of bulimia and she previously sought nutritional counseling from her trainer at the gym. I’m not putting down trainers, I know you are one, but he forbade her from eating ketchup among other things. KETCHUP! YOU NEVER RESTRICT WITH A PATIENT THAT HAS STRUGGLED WITH AN EATING DISORDER- you will set them up for failure. It’s human nature. If someone tells me not to touch something, I’m going to touch it. This trainer made her FEAR food to the point where she no longer trusted her own judgement and with the exception of lunch (which consisted of grilled chicken and lettuce), ate nothing. That single comment had caused her a lot of angst. Luckily she reached out for help, but I now have to work on getting her to trust her internal hunger cues, but most importantly, food. Nobody should fear any food. Perhaps this is why I have such a distrust of non-dietitians dispensing nutritional counseling. I’ve seen it cause more harm then good countless times.
I tell you this story because as a med student who will one day become a doctor, you will not be able to help her. You won’t have the time. Bullet points will not work. I agree with Fran, you’ll see what we’re talking about one day. It’s not going to click now, but one day it will and hopefully you’ll remember us.
My personal motto: All foods fit….unless you have an allergy or a sensitivity to it, then it does not fit.
I wish you many successes in your future, but remember, nutrition is individualized and foods should not be demonized.
I think the “regular” readers of my blog fully recognize that I do not demonize foods and I eat everything…in moderation, with a large emphasis placed on a plant-based diet, abundant in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion on nutrition and I disagree with a lot of people. I’ve also learned that that’s okay. The work that most RD’s perform on a day-to-day basis is not working with well-educated individuals with deep pockets for groceries, but rather, helping individuals make small, impactful changes to influence the long-term complications of chronic disease.
I see a patient on a regular basis who can converse with me fact-by-fact about nutrition from iron to selenium to omega 3 fatty acids. The patients takes a handful of vitamins every morning, reads nutrition research, attends conferences put on by leading nutrition professionals…and he eats unhealthy choices at fast food restaurants 2-3 times per day. I don’t understand it, but knowledge is part of the picture…the rest is hard work, dedication, and willpower. It’s not easy, it’s not always simple. But when it comes to nutrition, I am main stream and am reluctant to ever side with any extreme whether it be veganism or organics or saturated fats.
That was a really long answer, Lizzie — see what you do to me! 🙂
Do YOU have a question you’d love answered? Please post as a comment or email me at preventionrd (at) gmail (dot) com.