You might think you’re being super healthy by cooking food with coconut oil, since it’s often sold in health food stores. But according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association, coconut oil might be just as unhealthy as butter or beef fat when it comes to your cholesterol levels. The study, published in the journal Circulation, cites a survey that found 72% of people think coconut oil is healthy, compared with just 37% of nutritionists.
82% of coconut oil’s fats are the saturated variety, which is linked to heart disease and stroke. In controlled experiments, people who consumed coconut oil had increased levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad variety) compared to ingredients like olive oil. Researchers found there’s not much of a difference between coconut oil and ingredients like butter or palm oil when it comes to your LDL levels. “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the report reads. The doctors believe the ingredient is marketed incorrectly as a health food.
Overall, the AHA recommends limiting the amount of saturated fat you eat full stop, and that includes coconut oil. Instead, use unsaturated vegetable oils, like olive oil and sunflower oil. And when it comes to coconut oil, stick to using it on your skin and hair.