Have you heard?
There’s been a lot of hubbub in the news lately that coconut oil might not be such a wonderful cure-all after all.
It all started because the American Heart Association (AHA) released a report linking saturated fat to heart disease.
And we’re not just talking butter and lard here folks (which have been unfairly blamed for disease since the 1950’s, but that’s another story).
This report specifically targets coconut oil, stating that multiple studies have pointed toward coconut oil as the culprit in rising LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) levels, thereby contributing to heart disease.
But after hearing natural health experts spent years touting coconut oil as the most miraculous fat on the face of the planet (second to olive oil, of course,) it’s kind of tough to wrap your head around yet another flip-flop in nutritional advice.
Talk about disempowering…not to mention frustrating!
Here you are, trying your best to eat foods that will make you healthy and thrive, or at the very least, not die, and then the experts go and change things up on you, telling you that what you were doing to stay healthy could actually kill you.
Why does nutrition have to be so complicated?
Given that most of us plan our days around meals, shouldn’t we have figured out what to eat and what not to eat?
You’d think the science behind nutrition would be all squared away by now, but there are a few issues that most people aren’t talking about.
First, and most obviously, it’s incredibly hard to monitor what people eat and come up with conclusive evidence on nutrition, especially in the long-term.
You can put people on a strict diet for a few weeks or even a few months, but monitoring every bite someone puts in their mouth over the course of years? That’s not an easy game.
And, it’s not enough.
In order to come to any definitive conclusions, you’d have to compare this person’s nutritional intake to hundreds of other people who were monitored just as strictly, which is nearly impossible.
So what do nutrition scientists do?
They do their best.
They either study rats in order to produce more controlled environments than the complicated realities of day-to-day human life will allow, or they rely on people’s self-reporting on what they’ve been eating.
Here arise the issues.
While some humans might be rats, rats are not humans.
Also, when scientists do these controlled studies they tend to do them to the extreme, and then they generalize their conclusions onto everything else willy-nilly.
If you feed rats only onions, for example, those rats will probably die sooner than if they ate a more diversified diet. It shouldn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure that one out.
But most people aren’t eating any foods at the levels imposed on the poor rats in these studies, so the conclusions aren’t exactly valid for the average person.
Secondly, people are notoriously bad at reporting what they eat, so there’s that.
Just try keeping a food log for more than a week and you’ll see how hard it can be.
Those are pretty straight-forward issues that anyone should notice straight off the bat.
But the issue that most modern scientists seem to ignore entirely is the simple fact that we’re not all built the same.
Although we might share the majority of our genes, the .05% that aren’t the same can have a huge impact on how we relate to the world around us, including how we react to certain foods.
Allergies are a great example of this.
One person feels awesome when they eat a pint of strawberries every day, while their neighbor goes into anaphylactic shock if they so much as lick a strawberry.
And let’s not forget that there are many studies which show that saturated fat consumption has little impact on heart health.
Saturated fats like coconut oil have even been shown to have numerous health benefits, including cell integrity and improved immune response!
If scientists would study a food’s impact on people with different constitutions then we might actually be on to something, especially if they studied foods at different consumptive levels.
After all, a little of something might be good while a lot could be bad.
Unfortunately these kinds of subtleties are lost in most modern studies.
So, to eat coconut oil, or not to eat coconut oil? That is the question.
It depends on how your individual body reacts.
Short of having your vitals closely monitored every day, the best thing to do is not to go overboard on any one food and keep track of how you feel.
If you notice that your bowel movements are anything other than a well-formed daily (or twice daily) occurrence, if you have bad breath, if you get headaches, if your sleep isn’t so great, if your energy fluctuates or is never very good, if you have skin issues, if you feel achey, if anything is less-than-awesome in your body, then switch up your diet.
Start eating vegetables at every meal, including breakfast.
Stop eating so many refined and processed foods.
Try going all-organic.
Start using more herbs, like ginger, turmeric, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and so on.
Notice what changes as you change your diet, and be open to your reactions changing over the course of your lifetime.
You can still eat coconut oil (and grass-fed butter, lard, and so on) so long as you’re reasonable in your consumption and notice how your body reacts.
You wouldn’t eat a bucket of garlic because you know that you’d feel lousy if you did.
So don’t eat a tub of coconut oil every week, because you’ll probably feel lousy if you do.
Not even the AHA says to stop eating coconut oil entirely. They just “don’t recommend” it.
If you have some coconut oil on your morning toast or add 1/2 a tablespoon to your green smoothie you’ll probably be a-okay.
We’re all different.
We all have different dietary needs, and our needs change throughout our lives.
Pay attention to your own body and follow it’s wisdom.
It’ll let you know how you’re doing more clearly than any study ever can.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
How do you deal with conflicting nutritional advice? What kinds of foods make you feel your best?
Leave a comment in the comments section, you might just inspire someone else!