Coconut oil: Good, bad or fad?

BRONWYN WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2012
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GLOWING: Miranda Kerr says she's been taking coconut oil since she was 14.

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Miranda Kerr is such an avid spokeperson of coconut oil anyone would think she bathes in the stuff. She drizzles it over her salads and even plops a spoon of the stuff into her green tea.

The supermodel says she has been taking it since she was 14 and can't live without it. Thanks to Kerr's praise, coconut oil is quickly getting a reputation as a seriously beneficial product.

Coconut oil used to get a bad rap due to its high levels of saturated fat, but studies have since shown that the saturated fat in coconut oil are different to most other fats and possess unique health properties.

The fat in coconut oil is largely made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Unlike other saturated fats, MCFA doesn't heighten cholesterol and it can help to protect against heart disease.

You may have heard that coconut oil has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. This is because of coconut oil's high percentage of lauric acid, a "miracle" compound because of its unique health promoting properties.

On absorbtion, the body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

It has even been said to clear up acne, but as of yet there are no scientific claims to support this. Supporters claim, however, that the product gives skin and hair a healthy glow and shine.

But experts warn too much coconut oil can be dangerous, as a 15g tablespoon of coconut oil contains around 135 calories.

"Saturated fat is an issue, particularly in New Zealand," says Sarah Hanrahan, dietician at the NZ Nutrition Foundation.

"I think you have to be sceptical about any claim of a magic food. We need variety, we need to enjoy food and we need to eat it in appropriate amounts."

Kerr has up to four tablespons a day, but on a supermodel diet of mainly raw and organic food, the rest of her calorific intake is likely to be quite low. 

So will you get a supermodel body by drinking coconut oil? Hanrahan doesn't think so.

"Miranda Kerr is blessed with a very good set of genes. No amount of coconut oil is going to turn you into her," she says. Sorry guys.

HOW TO USE IT

Inside: Add a healthy boost to your meals with a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil. Drizzle it on salads, add it in last to a cooked meal or add it to your smoothies.

Outside: Coconut oil can be used as an all-over body moisturiser; it is easily absorbed and great for rough and dry skin. Also try it as an eye makeup remover and as a hair conditioner.

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- Stuff

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