Mr. Dario, our inveterate New York correspondent and brilliant photographer (even though he uses a DSLR and huge telephoto lenses 🙂 ) asked me a question via email today. It had to do with the safety of coconut oil as a regular part of the diet. He pointed me to a web site extolling its virtues and asked what I thought.

For some months, I’ve been struggling to crystallize a 4th addition to my “Axioms”….small universal human truths that I’ve observed and that are useful caveats in the pursuit of life. Most of you are well familiar with my 3rd Axiom: “You cannot protect yourself part-time, from people committed to taking advantage of you full-time”.

In crafting an answer to Mr. Dario, the terms of my 4th Axiom suddenly came readily to mind, and I thought I might share my answer with readers:

Coconut oil, as well as butter, and even lard are probably preferable to synthetic fats such as Crisco, margarine, etc., especially because of the trans-fat issue which is directly linked to the chemical process used to harden unsaturated oils into more chemically stable (read: long-shelf life) “shortening” types of fats.

That being said, one shouldn’t go crazy and start freely using coconut oil as if it were harmless. Most of the evidence still points to olive oil as probably as close to a “perfect” fat as you can get. That plus some fresh butter is likely an ideal dietary combination. If something you crave has coconut oil, go ahead and enjoy it. The same cannot be said of shortenings and margarine which are among the first truly “synthetic” foods and probably harmful in the long run. Make sure the coconut oil used hasn’t been processed though…then it’s pretty much the same shit.

On the other hand, be wary of “missionary” sources that point to any one thing as a miracle food with “extraordinary” healing properties, etc. I tend to be very suspicious of vested interest information sources where the source has something to gain by convincing you of its benefits. “Money and truth make very incompatible bedfellows”.