Opinion: If coconut oil is 'poison' then what should you use?

OPINION: Following a Harvard professor this week calling coconut oil "pure poison", I got to thinking: 'If not coconut, then what?'

You could be forgiven for being confused over choosing the best oil to cook with.

I always remember my Grandma cooking with lard, cutting a piece off the block to melt in the frying pan.

My Mum is a fan of margarine, for both cooking and baking.

Me, I'm all about olive oil, extra virgin for salads and dressings, light for cooking and baking.  It's mainly unsaturated fat, and stands up well to a high heat. 

But I won't be throwing out the coconut oil quite yet, despite our fears being raised again by a Harvard professor calling it poisonous.

While unsaturated fats commonly come from plants, in the case of coconut oil it's mostly saturated fat, around 87 percent.

To put it in context butter is 51 percent saturated fat and olive oil is 14 percent.

The Ministry of Health's Eating and Activity Guidelines say heavy marketing of coconut oil has been based on misinformation.  It recommends using mainly unsaturated plant oils such as olive or canola oil instead.

Olive and canola oil have high smoke points too, so they're good for cooking and don't produce toxic compounds when heated.

That's said, you can't beat a bit of butter when frying fish - I was always taught to use a little olive oil with the butter to prevent it burning.

And there's also a place for coconut oil in my kitchen cupboard... after one time running low on olive oil I discovered a blend of olive oil and coconut oil makes great crispy roast potatoes.  It has become a secret ingredient to my mid-winter Christmas roast dinner and I haven't poisoned any of my guests yet.

But before you throw out your extra virgin coconut oil, you could put it to a different use...it's great as a moisturiser, massage oil and hair conditioner. 

Gwenyth Paltrow also famously recommended it for use in the bedroom.  Do note it is oil, so not safe for use with condoms, but beyond that I couldn't possibly comment.

Lucy Warhurst is Newshub's health reporter.