Is fat good for you?

Some might be wondering what the hype is about coconut oil. You see all kinds of coconut products in stores. Is this just another trend? 

First, a little background. Until a few years ago, not so many people questioned the familiar low-fat diet. Americans have been eating much more poultry than red meat and avoiding all types of fats since the mid 1950’s, when a scientist called Dr. Ancel Keys “discovered” that fat causes heart disease. That was when the “fat is bad” idea got started. After several decades passed, the number of people with heart disease did not decrease and the obesity and diabetes rate skyrocketed. People started to question the theory.


One of the reasons for the hike in the obesity rate is that the food industry replaced the missing fat with sugar to provide missing flavor. As Julia Child said, “Fat gives things flavor.” People started to eat more carbs than ever to replace the fat they eliminated. Those carbohydrates like refined white flour and refined white sugar are made into fat in your body and spike your insulin level. They might eventually cause diabetes in some cases.


 So, how does coconut oil enter the picture now? For the last few decades, mono-unsaturated fat found in olive oil or canola oil was said to be the healthiest among others. But now, much research shows that saturated fat, like butter or healthy meat/poultry fat and coconut oil, are also healthy fats that are necessary for human growth, including the development of the brain. Furthermore, coconut oil has the special kind of saturated fat called “medium-chain triglycerides” that are said to have all kinds of health benefits and are not likely to be stored as fat in your body. It might be hard to accept for people who grew up believing that fat is bad for you, but now many people believe that some fat is actually good for you. Of course, there is still more research happening, and this doesn’t mean a diet of fat only is good, but more and more research is showing these natural saturated fats to have health benefits. 


When thinking about what is good for the body, I remember my mother saying: “Go with moderation. Everything is a balance.” Because there are too many different ideas out there to confuse you, I believe it is important to stick with what nature provides, and eat a balanced diet as seasonally and locally as possible. 


 Although coconuts seem like a healthy addition to your diet, it is true that the hype surrounding coconuts is raising concerns as well. Coconut oil consumption grew 780% between 2008 and 2012 and is still increasing. There are problems with emissions because of the distance the coconuts have to travel, and also the coconut farmers are some of the least paid. If you love coconut oil, look for “organic” and “fair-trade” products to be a responsible consumer, but it seems that “moderation” is the key here as well.


At Urban Greens Food Co-op you can buy all types of healthy food and products from ecologically sustainable companies, both local and non-local through the buying club, and soon from the upcoming market! If you need more information about the products when ordering from buyers club, you can call or email Urban Greens and the volunteer staff can help you. Some helpful advice also is to look into the Associated Buyers website. Their product numbers correspond with those of the buying club.

-Toyoko Schieferdecker - volunteer blogger, member-owner