As people are called to become more heath-aware, there is increasing debate about ‘good fat’ versus ‘bad fat’ and which foods contain which. One very controversial product factored in this debate is Coconut Oil, which is popularly used in tropical cultures.
At one extreme, coconut oil has been hailed by some as the ‘miracle food’.
At the other end of the scale, it has been put down as enemy to the healthy diet. So is coconut oil good for your health or should you avoid it as with other unhealthy fatty products?
1. How Coconut Oil Got A Bad Rap
Table of Contents
- 1 1. How Coconut Oil Got A Bad Rap
- 2 2. Is Coconut Oil Health : The Research
- 3 3. Coconut Oil: Why Lauric Acid Is Good
- 4 4. How To Use Coconut Oil ?
- 5 5. Coconut Oil: Traditional Medical Uses
- 6 6. Coconut Oil: Blood Lipids and cardiovascular Disease
- 7 7. Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Weight
- 8 8. What’s Recommended?
Years ago, coconut oil was added to the ‘reject list’ as scientist examined its composition.
The reason behind this was that coconut oil was found to be high in Saturated Fat.
Saturated fat as we have come to know it is among the types of fat we have been repeatedly warned to stay away from. Saturated fats are largely found in animal products such as meat, milk, cheese etc.
However science has since proven that saturated fats are not all created equal and therefore should not all be classified in the same way.
2. Is Coconut Oil Health : The Research
Having established that coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids, we’ll take a closer look at the type of fatty acids it contains and their impact on the body.
The saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil have been deemed to be quite different from those found in animal products.
Most of them are classified as Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) – a quality which significantly sets apart the saturated fat found in coconut oil from that which is found in meat and animal products.
MCT is a healthier type of fatty acid which is more easily digested in the body. As it is easier on the digestive system, coconut oil would be an ideal choice for persons battling digestive problems as it works to help to regulate the digestive process.
On reaching the liver, MCT is turned into ketone bodies which is then used as a source of energy.
Ketone bodies have been found to be quite helpful in the treatment of persons suffering from epilepsy as well as other brain disorders and have been noted to significantly help to reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures. As such, the epileptic patient on a ketogenic diet would greatly benefit from incorporating the regular use of coconut oil in their diet.
3. Coconut Oil: Why Lauric Acid Is Good
Coconut oil has also been found to be rich in Lauric Acid – a rare saturated fatty acid with many potential health benefits.
The make-up of this fatty acid renders it a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) which makes it easier for the body to absorb.
The body’s lauric acid intake is converted into Monolaurin which has been said to be useful in the body’s fight against bacteria, viruses and fungi, thereby strengthening the body’s immune system.
4. How To Use Coconut Oil ?
- Cooking –coconut oil is highly recommended for frying due to its ability to tolerate high temperatures without breaking down.
- Skin care – Coconut oil is popularly used for moisturizing dry skin, promoting anti-aging as well as massage and aroma therapy. As it works well when combined with other products such as herbs and other oils, it is no wonder that many skin care manufacturers use coconut oil as a common ingredient.
- Hair care – Coconut oil can also be found in many hair care products. As it is a source of protein, coconut oil helps to promote growth and repair by strengthening hair follicles. Massaging coconut oil onto the scalp is also recommended for combating dry scalp issues. Regular use should leave the scalp looking and feeling healthy and flake-free.
5. Coconut Oil: Traditional Medical Uses
Populations that eat a lot of the tropical fruit or its by-product, have lauded it for its many traditional healing benefits.
Applying coconut oil to wounds has been found to help heal wounds faster and lessen scarring.
It is also useful for curing bacterial skin infections like ringworm and for the removal of lice. Internally, coconut oil has been used to boost the immune system due to its antiviral properties, increase energy levels, losing weight, regulate digestive issues e.g: constipation and diarrhoea, reduce epileptic seizures, improve liver and kidney functioning and contribute to overall health by promoting the absorption of minerals and vitamins.
6. Coconut Oil: Blood Lipids and cardiovascular Disease
The idea of oil intake leading to the absorption of varying types of fat into the body doesn’t particularly scream ‘healthy diet’. However studies have shown that in populations that use a lot of coconut oil, heart diseases are a rarity.
This is in stark contradiction to the arguments that led to coconut oil being added to the list of foods to be rejected decades ago.
Studies have also indicated that coconut oil has a positive impact on High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels – commonly known as good cholesterol – while lowering the ratio of Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL)– commonly known as bad cholesterol – to HDL in the blood. In essence coconut oil is considered to be heart healthy oil.
7. Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Weight
Energy is produced from Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) which is converted into ketone bodies.
Weight loss occurs as the body rapidly converts and expends these fatty acids as energy rather than storing them as body fat. Studies have shown a correlation between the use of coconut oil and weight loss especially in the abdominal area.
It goes without saying then that populations that consume a lot of coconut oil in their diet are less likely to suffer from obesity.
8. What’s Recommended?
Choosing the right type of coconut oil to use is just as important as the kind of oil – e.g. Vegetable oil, Olive oil etc – you choose.
Hydrogenated coconut oils – i.e. those that have been refined and bleached – are just as dangerous as those cooking oils that have been deemed unhealthy.
Virgin coconut oil according to Professor Tom Brenna of Cornell University is highly recommended because of its potency.
It is extracted from the milk derived from the meat of fresh coconuts rather than from the meat of died coconuts (copra) which is used in the extraction of other forms of coconut oils.
Virgin coconut oil is produced through processing techniques involving little to no heat which helps to ensure its natural composition – virgin as the name suggests – and therefore maximizes its nutritional benefits.
As such, virgin coconut oil is highly recommended for cooking if those benefits discussed above are to be ensured.
Whilst swapping out your other cooking oils for coconut oil may be debatable, its moderate use in conjunction with other heart-healthy oils is definitely advisable.