Vegetarian Sources of Saturated Fat, Are They Healthy?
Coconut and palm oil and commonly known vegetarian sources of saturated fat. Here is a table of the types of saturated fat in the different sources of fat and oil:
Coconut oil contains a lot of lauric acid – a medium chain saturated fat. Because of the characteristics of its fat, it’s very stable at room temperature and is great for cooking. Many vegetable oils have a low smoke point – the point at which heat starts to break them down into fatty acids– and produces toxic by-products. At this stage any heart friendly benefits are lost. Coconut oil has a very high smoke point so you can use it in cooking without it being altered by the heat.
As with all foods, the quality of coconut oil depends very much on the production process. Organic, cold pressed coconut oil is much better than a highly processed variety which may contain transfats and be made with ether by a chemical process or extreme heat. Cold pressed means no heat or chemicals are used in the production process. Coconut oil is converted by our body into monolaurin – a chemical which is anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It is also anti-inflammatory and has healing properties.
Virgin coconut oil contains polyphenols and they may have beneficial effects on health. Studies have shown reductions in cholesterol with virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil intake appears to raise HDL levels – known to prevent heart disease. The reason for this is that coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids which are rapidly metabolized in the liver into energy and does not affect the synthesis and transport of cholesterol.
Studies on Pilipino and Pacific Islanders who have coconut as their staple food have traditionally indicated a low incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Population studies in Sri Lanka have shown that consumption of coconut does not increase the incidence of heart disease and has beneficial effects on cholesterol profiles.
Palm oil has similar qualities to coconut oil but large palm oil plantations are a cause of de-forestation and loss of habitat for orang-utans.
- Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. K.G. Nevin, T. Rajamohan. Clinical Biochemistry Volume 37, Issue 9. 2004: 830–835.
- Coconut oil predicts a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Feranil AB, Duazo PS, Kuzawa CW, Adair LS. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011;20(2):190–195.
- Coconut oil: atherogenic or not? (What therefore causes atherosclerosis?) Dayrit C. Philippine J of Cardio. 2003;31(3):97–104.