In Health, Healthy Hints and Hacks, Lifestyle

The Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth Service provides free comprehensive access to personalised diabetes management advice and support from a Credentialed Diabetes Educator. Meet our educators as they share some of the common concerns they hear from our members.

Narelle Lampard

Narelle Lampard

Narelle Lampard is an accredited practising dietitian. She has worked for Diabetes WA over the past 20 years and also for South Metro Health Service for 13 years. Narelle enjoys the diversity of experiences working in roles across both community and clinical health care. She especially likes facilitating group education sessions that assist people with diabetes to better understand and manage their condition.

Outside of work, Narelle likes to spend time with family and friends, read books, cook, travel and go walking in the bush. She regularly conducts DESMOND, which is a one-day diabetes self-management program.

Here, she answers a question clients often ask her when calling our Helpline.

“Is coconut oil healthy? Which oil is healthiest for cooking?”

There has been a lot of health hype around coconut oil over the past few years. It has been promoted as being beneficial for heart health, body weight, diabetes and reducing inflammation. But is this fact or fiction?

Coconut oil is a tropical oil made from the coconut palm fruit. Australia does not have a local coconut industry and imports all our coconut oil from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Coconut oil can be expensive, especially the organic versions.

Coconut oil contains around 92% saturated fat (mostly the long-chain saturated fatty acids called lauric, myristic and palmitic). You can clearly see coconut oil is high in saturated fat because it is solid at room temperature.

A recent article in the journal Circulation reviews all the evidence and concludes that coconut oil significantly increases total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels are known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The researchers also found no evidence that coconut oil lowered blood sugar, lowered inflammation or affected body weight as compared with other vegetable oils.

In summary, we should not view coconut oil as a healthy option for heart health. Ideally don’t use it as a regular cooking oil, but it can be used sparingly for taste and texture. Think of it as an occasional ingredient rather than an everyday staple.

So, what is the healthiest option for oil? As a dietitian, I have a few suggestions: Limit saturated fats that will have a negative effect on cholesterol levels. These include coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, lard, dripping, copha, tallow, duck fat. Include unsaturated fats that will have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.

For example: olives and olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and nut oils (macadamia, peanut, walnut), seeds and seed oils (sunflower, safflower, canola, soybean, sesame), rice bran oil, grape seed oil, oily fish. Watch quantities, as all types of fat are high in energy (kilojoules and calories) and can therefore contribute to weight gain. Choose Australian grown and locally sourced produce whenever possible.

My top pick? An Australian extra-virgin olive oil.

The Diabetes WA Helpline is available Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm for all people in WA.

The Diabetes Telehealth Service is for country WA only.

Call 1300 001 880

Start typing and press Enter to search