Food for Thought

Health Benefits and Cautions about Coconut Oil

by Sepideh Sarbazi MSc, RD

The popularity of coconut oil has increased dramatically, particularly after TV personality Dr. Oz made claims that coconut oil can help people lose weight, treat skin conditions and help ulcers.

Miraculous health claims about any food or nutrient need to be looked at closely, and considered in terms of the what peer-reviewed studies indicate. If an ad or an article about a food or product seems too-good-to-be-true, it may well be. Looking at what the scientific literature has found provides a more balanced view.

Firstly, What Makes Coconut Oil Different than Other Oils?

Coconut oil is much higher in saturated fat than most other sources of fats and oils in our diet, which is why it is solid at room temperature. Approximately 90% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat, compared with only 63% for butter, for example.

Olive oil, has only about 15% of the total fat, as saturated fat.

It is the very high percentage of saturated fat that is in Coconut oil that is concerning to many health care professionals, as saturated fats in general have been associated with an increase in “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL).

Medium Chain Triglycerides

Coconut Oil is high in what is called “Medium Chain Triglycerides” or “MCTs” which are metabolized differently than the longer chain fats – going straight to the liver, rather than needing to be broken down through digestion. What makes Coconut Oil different than other oils is that half of the saturated fatty acid in it are made up of a Medium Chain Triglyceride, called Lauric Acid (44 – 52%).

A quarter (~24%) to a third (33%) of the fatty acids in Coconut Oil contain the long-chain saturated fats, including Mysteric (13-19 %) and Palmitic Acids (8-11%) and ~10-20% of the fatty acids are made up of 2 short chain saturated fatty acids, Caproic (Decoic) Acid (5-9%) and Caprylic Acid (6-10%).

The remaining 10% of the fatty acids are unsaturated, mostly Oleic Acid with a small amount of Linoleic Acid.

Coconut Oil, MCTs and Weight Loss

Some weight-loss studies using 100% medium chain triglycerides have shown modest weight loss compared to the use of olive oil over a 4-month period, however a study comparing Coconut oil (~50% MCTs) with soy bean oil (almost all long chain triglycerides), did not have a significant impact on weight loss over a 3-month period. While the actual amount of weight loss with MCT oil may not be substantial, studies seem to indicate that it is “visceral adiposity” or “belly fat” that decreases, lowering waist circumference.

Coconut Oil and Cholesterol

When it comes to cholesterol, there are numerous studies that have found that coconut oil raises HDL, the so-called “good cholesterol”, to a greater extent than olive oil however, some studies indicated that coconut oil increases LDL (the “bad cholesterol”), whereas other studies have found that it doesn’t change LDL cholesterol, or if it did raise it, it was in an insignificant amount. Increase is LDL cholesterol is a concern as it is associated with an increase risk of heart disease.


Remember that there is no “miracle” food or ingredient or fat. While Coconut Oil has been found to increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), it may raise LDL cholesterol (or may not) , but like any fat, Coconut Oil has a lot of calories.

While it is approximately half MCT oil which may help lower abdominal fat, still ~40% of Coconut Oil is long chain saturated fat, which may impact heart health. People with a risk of heart disease should be cautious about increasing their intake of coconut oil and would be better looking to cold pressed olive oil which are 65-80% monounsaturated (oleic), 7-16% saturates (palmitic) or using cold pressed avocado oil which are 76% monounsaturated (oleic and palmitoleic acids), 12% polyunsaturates (linoleic and linolenic acids) and only 12% saturates (palmitic and stearic acids).

Want to learn more about weight loss and eating a heart-healthy diet? Why not send me a note by clicking on the “Contact Us” tab above.


Chempro – Edible Oil Analysis Retrieved from

Health Canada. (2012). Summary of Health Canada’s Assessment of a Health Claim about the Replacement of Saturated Fat with Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol Lowering. Retrieved from

Kruse, M. (2013, January 10). I don’t buy what Dr. Oz is trying to sell. Huffpost Living. Retrieved from:

Liau KM, Lee YY, Chen CK, Rasool AHG. An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity. ISRN Pharmacology. 2011;2011:949686. doi:10.5402/2011/949686.

Oz, M. (2012). Coconut Oil Superpowers, Pt. 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Schardt, D. (2012). Coconut Oil: Lose weight? Clear your arteries? Cure Alzheimers?. Nutrition Action Health Letter. 39. 10-11. Retrieved from

SMART goals – success beyond New Year’s Resolutions

by Amandeep Sandhu, CDE, RD

Introduction: New Year celebrations have come and gone and by now the reality of our ambitious New Year resolutions has set in.  Based on research, 50% of us who set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, eat healthy or get in shape have already given up by the end of the first week and by now, at the end of the month 83% of people have given up entirely.

Many health goals focus on attaining a positive outcome — for example “I will eat more fruits and vegetables” whereas others focus on the negative state or avoidance — such as “I will eat less desserts”.  Both of these kinds of goals often lead to discouragement and ultimately to us abandoning the goals entirely because we haven’t taken the time to define what “more” and “less” are in ways that promote success.

The reality is that only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions — so what makes them successful? That is the topic of this article.

The key to success is to pursue a goal that focuses on the positive but targets a specific outcome that is attainable. We call this a SMART goal.

A goal is a mental representation of a positive outcome that one commits to and setting goals creates sense of urgency and motivation that would seem to provide all that’s needed to accomplish the desired outcome. The difficulty lies in that although one might value the positive outcome associated with the goal (such as being healthy), without a definable goal there is a lack of direction with respect to the specific types of behaviour change needed to accomplish it.

Achieving Success by Setting SMART goals

To achieve success in accomplishing goals requires setting ones that have a clear objective, are specific and that has an outcome that can be measured. It  needs to provide direction with regards to what we are going to do; specifically what action we are going to take. They also need to be realistic and have a time frame in which the goal is to be accomplished.  These are SMART goals.

SMART stands for:

Time frame

5 steps to set a SMART goal

1. Be specific: What do I want to do or accomplish?

When creating a plan, make sure to determine a clear objective and focus in on a specific goal which will help keep you motivated and on track rather than feeling overwhelmed.

Ask yourself:
What will I do?
How will I do it?
When will I start?

2. Make your goal measurable: How much and how often will I do it?

Setting a numerical target helps keep track of your progress. Think about what you will
measure, how often you will measure it and how you will keep track of it.

3. Set action-orientated goals: How will I do it?

Set small goals that you have control over and can actually change. Try not focusing on
feelings and emotions when setting goals, but rather on behaviour and action. Research
has shown that nutrition education interventions produced effective change when intervention were behaviour focused.

4. Be realistic: Can I do it?

This can be difficult for many as majority of people tend to bite off more than they can chew. This is where you need to assess your capabilities and skills. In order to be successful with your goal, it’s important to set a goal that is actually attainable. Then create a plan that you can commit to working towards so that you don’t lose confidence because it’s beyond your capabilities. Remember, that it’s important to be confident when to trying to achieve your goal.

5. Provide a time frame: When will I do it?

Give yourself a period of time or a specific time frame during which the goal will be attained. Having a target date keeps you motivated, on track and focused.

Tips to Reach Your Goal

  • Set 1-3 goals at a time to prevent setback. Taking on too many goals makes achieving all of them more difficult and increases the likelihood of getting discouraged.
  • Make small changes towards your goal.
  • Track your progress within appropriate intervals. You don’t want to track it too often as it takes time to see results but don’t take too long either as you might need to adjust your goal along the way.
  • Plan ahead. Plan for success yet be prepared for obstacles that could make it hard to achieve your goals.
  • Celebrate your success no matter how small it is; every small step in the right direction gets you closer to your goal and further away from where you were.
  • Share your goal with a support network (such as friends or peers at your gym)
  • Get support – asking one of the Dietitians with Nutrition to You to provide guidance in achieving your health goal, as well as some “follow-up” support or “check-ins” will provide you with expert help in planning out SMART goals, as well as valuable help in making adjustments along the way. Let’s work together to make a healthier future.

For more information on how we can help, please click on the Contact Us tab above and send us a note.

Remember, only 8% of people who set New Year’s resolutions are successful.  Why not let us help you set SMART goals and support you in accomplishing them?


Mann,T; de Ridder,D; Fujita,K., Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to goal setting and goal striving, Health Psychology. 2013; 32(5): 487-498.

Norcross, JC et al, Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;58(4):397-405

Shilts,M K; Horowitz,M; Townsend,M, Goal setting as a strategy for dietary and physical activity behavior change: A review of the literature, American Journal of Health Promotion. 2004; 19(2): 81-93.

Sullivan,H W; Rothman, When planning is needed: Implementation intentions and attainment of approach versus avoidance health goals, Health Psychology. 2008; 27(4): 438-444.

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ENERGY BALL RECIPE – Healthy South Asian (Punjabi) Pinea

Yield: about 20 pinia

Preparation Time: 10 MINUTES (plus 30 minutes chill time)


1 cup quick oats (use gluten-free oats if you want to for these to be


1/2 cup natural peanut butter or almond butter

1/4 cup honey

1 tbs. melted coconut oil

1 tbs. chia seeds

2 tbs. ground flax seed

3 tbs. mini chocolate chips

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Other optional add-ins: raisins, nuts, dried fruit


In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes.

Using your hands, roll the mixture into 20 small balls. Place the bites into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Serving Size: 1 bite; Calories per serving: 90; Fat per serving: 5.3 g

(adapted from a recipe on

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Amandeep Sandhu – Healthy Punjabi Sweets – 16 November 2015

Slide2Nutrition to You’s very own Amandeep Sandhu’s latest video is out and it has been making waves in Canada, Australia, India and England — and it was only aired 3 days ago! The new video has been viewed over 15,000 times and that number keeps growing!

In this segment, Aman makes a favourite South Asian sweet and makes it healthy! Her ability to adapt favourite Punjabi foods and make them accessible to those in the South Asian community that need to control their blood sugar or lower their cholesterol results in her being in high demand!

Amandeep is

a wealth of clinical information and her client-centered approach results in clients wanting her to provide on-going support, beyond a meal plan.

If you or a family member want to see Aman for clinical service in English or Punjabi, please click the Contact Us tab above and send her a note!

Click here to watch this exciting new video:


Amandeep’s Interview – Omni TV – September 16, 2015

Amandeep - packing school lunches Sept 16 2015


Nutrition to You’s Dietitian, Amandeep Sandhu was recently interviewed on Omni TV (aired September 16, 2015) on Packing School lunches;

For more information on the services Aman provides in English and Punjabi, please click on the Our Services tab, above or email us at [email protected]