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How is coconut oil Paleo?

by (3159)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:21 PM
Created April 10, 2011 at 3:16 AM

I consume coconut oil almost every day but as I took a spoonful out of the jar earlier I thought about how readily available the substance would be in this form to the 'paleolithic' Homo sapiens.

I am not versed on the processes of getting coconut oil from a raw coconut, so perhaps this is where my bemusement lies.

I'm not going to stop consuming it, I'm just curious-

How is coconut oil paleo if one couldn't obtain the substance in the form available in stores (e.g. straight up oil)?

If I'm missing something about the product, by all means enlighten me.

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1065 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Depends on what the animal ate and the environment it lived in. Your chasing your tail if you want to eat "exactly" like early humans.

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15385 · May 05, 2011 at 8:45 PM

If you believe that trans-fats are bad, the health effects of coconut oil can vary a lot depending on how it is processed. There is now "virgin" coconut oil which has not been heated, treated with chemicals, or hydrogenated, and scientifically is way better for you than the hydrogenated stuff. This might explain why coconut oil has gone from "bad" to "good" -- because unprocessed forms have come on the market.

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1773 · April 10, 2011 at 4:15 PM

"The point of paleo is limit the possibility of mistake" - Great wording, thanks.

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9647 · April 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

I agree with dveej, but I definitely know there are places where Dr. H has dropped a precautionary word or two about medium-chain fats, that we have less evolutionary experience with them, etc., which is maybe what Dave S. is thinking of? Or maybe KGH has changed his mind and I don't know about it, but I didn't think so. Here is a thread right here on the PH with two answers from Dr. H, but from about a year ago: http://paleohacks.com/questions/1405/why-are-coconuts-considered-paleo/

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4896 · April 10, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Have you seen pictures of the (extinct) rhinos and pre-hippos? what about bears, especially before winter? Some animals are very lean (rabbits famously), some quite the opposite.

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76 · April 10, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Dave S.: did Dr. Harris change his mind? http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2009/6/22/fats-and-oils.html#comment5421089

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4359 · April 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM

I think that is exactly what paleo is about.

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7324 · April 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

^^exactly. Archevores latest posts were very interesting.

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20411 · April 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

They ate plenty of fat! http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2011/4/9/jousting-with-the-atlantic.html Also the Lewis and Clark expedition never ate deer, unless they couldn't bag buffalo/moose/elk. Don't forget they ate the brain, all organs, etc - which are very fatty.

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20411 · April 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM

I follow Dr. Harris as well. But he is not a fan of coconut oil. Basically says we may not be adapted to a lot of MCT and there isn't much science on long term usage. Using it might be fine, but on the precautionary principle he avoids it. I still use it, but less than I once did. Also Dr. Harris: "No magic ingredients".

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2409 · April 10, 2011 at 7:51 AM

"Coconut oil origins and role in an ancestral diet" would be a really cool question since you are not asking about paleo dogma but more in-depth. Kudos.

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2409 · April 10, 2011 at 7:49 AM

"Coconut oil origins and role in an ancestral diet" would be a really cool questions and it gets rid of the "Is this paleo" dogma.

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1773 · April 10, 2011 at 5:47 AM

What's the fat content of a wild pig vs. a confined one? Any idea?

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1773 · April 10, 2011 at 5:46 AM

Really? There are two things: What to eat, and when to eat. Is paleo only about what to eat? That's lame. When to eat is important because we're not built for the easy access and the incredible abundance that we have around us. No exercise, yet you could still eat coconut oil all day long? Sounds like a recipe for disaster! Seems like paleo should include a way to regulate WHEN you eat too, not just WHAT you eat. That wouldn't "take it too far" lolo. And yeah I would throw out my refrigerator if I could. It's just not practical. We're still trying to live in a modern society, right? Right.

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3159 · April 10, 2011 at 3:21 AM

I agree Oranges13, I wasn't meaning it that way at all. I was just curious about it's origins and role in an ancestral diet, perhaps I failed to relay that. Thanks for the answer.

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4359 · April 10, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I do not eat coconut oil, nor would I consider it paleo.

The point of paleo is limit the possibily of mistake; by chosing foods that were actually availabe to us in paleo times, we gain some assurance that the item is healthy. I extend that to any food that seriously resembles foods available in paleo times (i.e., to foods like potatoes, avocados, -- new world foods).

Coconut oil is not paleo because it doesn't resemble a coconut. It for instance does not contain copper and other minerals found in coconuts.

There is a theory that copper deficiency causes CVD. So, the absence of CVD is groups that ate lots of coconut (e.g., the Tokelauns) may not be due only to the medium chain triglycerides found in coconuts -- it may be due also (or even due exclusively) to the high mineral content of their chief calorie source - coconuts.

I think coconut oil is a fine example of why the paleo principal works. People get a model in their head (e.g., saturated fat is bad -- or saturated fat is good) and then they try to isolate for that variable, forgetting to eat actual food. This dovetails with Michael Pollen's advice too... What if what you thought was good about coconuts (e.g., the fat) was actually just part of the story and what was really good was something else (like copper)?

I consume actual coconut flesh or coconut milk - both of which leave the mineral content intact.

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1773 · April 10, 2011 at 4:15 PM

"The point of paleo is limit the possibility of mistake" - Great wording, thanks.

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3976 · April 10, 2011 at 4:09 AM

This is also where I fall out with the "eat more animal fat" "paleo" crowd. Before agriculture, animals wouldn't have had much fat, as evidenced by the wild vs. the confined. I've never seen overweight deer or any exceptional amount of fat on venison or wild rabbit I've skinned. I've never heard of anyone wondering what to do with deer fat. Only alligators in confinement develop jowls.

If this diet is supposed to be based on what pre-agriculture homo sapiens actually ate (and what little they could store), then we're all failing miserably. It's perhaps less "do" and more "try" (and Yoda is rolling over in his grave, I know) and trying to cut out processed foods (although plenty here will swear by jerky and bacon full of nitrites and salt) and eating more free-range grass fed meats and some of us even consume lots of vegetables, which is also frowned upon by others. In other words, the more I looks into "paleo" the less defined it becomes. I think everyone can agree on grain-free as paleo, but ratios of meat to veggies, whether or not to consume dairy or in what form, etc., etc., etc. isn't written in stone (lithic LOL). Neither is diet.

There is some great information here, and other "paleo" sites/books/etc., but it's extremely divergent, so I just go by what works best for me, which is as natural as possible. I'm not convinced that one diet is right for everyone, although it's clear that some animals thrive on specific diets, despite their varied range (back to deer again, but they're herbivores and we're not, unless by choice).

The scientific body of knowledge at this point is very poor, despite being wide ranging and broad. We're all still experimenting, and we don't live all that long in the grand scheme of things to really understand what is harmful or good, and we really don't understand early development or aging (both stages where things are more likely to go wrong) combined with nutrition well enough to know for sure if anything is good or bad, or right for me but not for you.

It wasn't many years ago that coconut oil was considered to be a health disaster. Now it's considered beneficial (and I love it, so I don't really care either way). I figure that lifestyle - some exercise, sun exposure when possible, and avoiding and exposure to chemicals when possible - are the more important things to limit, while having a diet that includes variety and seasonally available crops, fish and meats. That's just my take.

So back to coconut oil... no paleolithic man did not likely have hoards of it stashed since it would take effort to refine and store beyond their likely capacity, and it still would only have been limited to tropical, localized regions if they were able to overcome the other problems. But think about this: tropical Polynesians are probably also the early relatives of the Inuit in polar regions. Each have dramatically different dietary intakes (Polynesians with a wide variety of fruits, veggies and meats, while the Inuit rely mostly on meats and fats) and both seem to have thrived regardless. And without grains...

8f4ff12a53a98f3b5814cfe242de0daa
1065 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Depends on what the animal ate and the environment it lived in. Your chasing your tail if you want to eat "exactly" like early humans.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1
15385 · May 05, 2011 at 8:45 PM

If you believe that trans-fats are bad, the health effects of coconut oil can vary a lot depending on how it is processed. There is now "virgin" coconut oil which has not been heated, treated with chemicals, or hydrogenated, and scientifically is way better for you than the hydrogenated stuff. This might explain why coconut oil has gone from "bad" to "good" -- because unprocessed forms have come on the market.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · April 10, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Have you seen pictures of the (extinct) rhinos and pre-hippos? what about bears, especially before winter? Some animals are very lean (rabbits famously), some quite the opposite.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
7324 · April 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

^^exactly. Archevores latest posts were very interesting.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
20411 · April 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

They ate plenty of fat! http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2011/4/9/jousting-with-the-atlantic.html Also the Lewis and Clark expedition never ate deer, unless they couldn't bag buffalo/moose/elk. Don't forget they ate the brain, all organs, etc - which are very fatty.

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178
1773 · April 10, 2011 at 5:47 AM

What's the fat content of a wild pig vs. a confined one? Any idea?

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1702 · April 10, 2011 at 3:19 AM

Paleo isn't about "the availability to ancient man" - well some people take it that far, but really, come on. If you want to do that, you have to stop eating pretty much everything because machinery and industry are involved somewhere.

Throw out your refrigerator, too.

This is why I much prefer the ideas presented on Archevore. It gets away from the dogmatic approach and simply looks at the science behind it all.

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9647 · April 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

I agree with dveej, but I definitely know there are places where Dr. H has dropped a precautionary word or two about medium-chain fats, that we have less evolutionary experience with them, etc., which is maybe what Dave S. is thinking of? Or maybe KGH has changed his mind and I don't know about it, but I didn't think so. Here is a thread right here on the PH with two answers from Dr. H, but from about a year ago: http://paleohacks.com/questions/1405/why-are-coconuts-considered-paleo/

91487fa364848b52aad94002266aebc9
76 · April 10, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Dave S.: did Dr. Harris change his mind? http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2009/6/22/fats-and-oils.html#comment5421089

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · April 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM

I think that is exactly what paleo is about.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4
20411 · April 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM

I follow Dr. Harris as well. But he is not a fan of coconut oil. Basically says we may not be adapted to a lot of MCT and there isn't much science on long term usage. Using it might be fine, but on the precautionary principle he avoids it. I still use it, but less than I once did. Also Dr. Harris: "No magic ingredients".

6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178
1773 · April 10, 2011 at 5:46 AM

Really? There are two things: What to eat, and when to eat. Is paleo only about what to eat? That's lame. When to eat is important because we're not built for the easy access and the incredible abundance that we have around us. No exercise, yet you could still eat coconut oil all day long? Sounds like a recipe for disaster! Seems like paleo should include a way to regulate WHEN you eat too, not just WHAT you eat. That wouldn't "take it too far" lolo. And yeah I would throw out my refrigerator if I could. It's just not practical. We're still trying to live in a modern society, right? Right.

B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0
3159 · April 10, 2011 at 3:21 AM

I agree Oranges13, I wasn't meaning it that way at all. I was just curious about it's origins and role in an ancestral diet, perhaps I failed to relay that. Thanks for the answer.

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