Coconut oil, just one of many products of the coconut, is used in a wide range of culinary delights and as an all-natural base for beauty products. And yet we've all heard the horror stories of coconut oil slathered on movie popcorn. So which is it: wonder food or diet woe?
Does it work? "Coconut oil was falsely crucified back in the 70s and 80s," Dr. Lopez says. "That's because they were testing partially hydrogenated coconut oil, instead of unprocessed, virgin coconut oil. Any partially hydrogenated oil is bad for you because they contain trans-fats, which are known to be bad for your health and heart."
Dr. Brar adds that coconut oil is often recommended as a "fat-burner" because of it's high content of medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are metabolized more like carbohydrates than fats (they can be used directly by working muscles and the brain as an energy source), and they're less likely than other dietary fats to be stored as body fat.
Is it safe? Our experts were unanimous in their love of all things coconut. Dr. Lopez explains that not only does it burn belly fat, but it can handle high-heat cooking without oxidation. Calton swears by coconut oil for her skin, saying, "while it may feel greasy, it actually reduces acne because MCTs are antibacterial and antiviral."
Dr. Talbott suggests adding a shot of coconut oil to your pre-workout smoothie to enhance both brain function and muscle performance. But he adds one caveat: Oil is still oil when it comes to calories, so moderation is key if you're trying to lose weight.