Coconut oil has slowly gained popularity, sliding its way into kitchens around the world. Recently this amazing and exceedingly beneficial oil has taken a hammering in the press, leaving the majority of its faithful users dazed and confused as to why this apparently healthy oil is suddenly public enemy number one.
The first fact that everyone needs to understand is that not all calories are created equal. If only it was as simple as that. Fats have a calorific value of 9 calories per gram, regardless of whether they come from animals, or plants. But that is where their similarities end.
Different fats have different nutrient values some (soy, corn, canola, etc.) are more likely to take you down the road of health degradation and others (coconut, olive, flax seed etc) are likely to do just the opposite. It’s important to understand the best way to use different fats and oils and how to take full advantage of them. Some, due to the way they are farmed, are loaded with toxic chemicals (1), some are loaded with antibiotics and hormones not intended for humans (2), some amazing health promoting oils full of anti-oxidants degrade when heated while others oxidise when stored in direct sunlight and then there are the exceedingly unhealthy oils which are by-products of industrial fat production. It’s understandably confusing and cutting fat right out of your diet is simply not the answer. Fats are essential in maintaining your body’s ability to function, your brain is essentially made from fat!
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, at this point your brain is remembering all the miss-information you have been fed about avoiding saturated fats at all costs. Allegedly they raise cholesterol levels which in turn can cause heart attacks, or do they?
Coconut oil contains eight healthy medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) These healthy fatty acids are an amazing energy source. Unlike most fats they only require a breakdown process of three steps as where others require a twenty-six step process! MCFAs are easier to digest, antimicrobial and anti-fungal, smaller in physical size and immediately converted by the liver into energy rather than being stored as fat.
Coconut oil has a list of benefits as long as your arm. Here are just six of them to get you thinking.
Reduction of Inflammation and Arthritis
Studies have shown that the high levels of antioxidants in virgin coconut oil reduce inflammation and effectively treat arthritis. (3)
Improvement of skin issues: burns, eczema, dandruff, dermatitis and psoriasis
Caprylic and lauric acid, two of the fatty acids in coconut oil reduce inflammation both internally and externally, they also have moisturizing properties making unrefined coconut oil a simple, easy and arguably cheap solution to skin conditions. (4,5)
Can be used to treat UTI and kidney infections and protects the liver
Coconut oil has been known to clear up and heal urinary tract infections (UTI) and kidney infections. The MCFAs in the oil work as a natural antibiotic coating the harmful bacteria and killing them. Research shows that coconut oil directly protects the liver from damage. (6)
Boosts the Immune System
Lauric acid in coconut oil is known to fight bacteria and reduce candida by creating a hostile environment for viruses.
Improves brain function and memory
The Journal of Neurobiology of Aging, released a study in which researchers found that MCFAs in coconut oil improved memory problems especially in their older subjects. The study showed a marked improvement in memory recall. The MCFAs are easily absorbed and readily feed the brain. (7)
Helps prevent high blood pressure and heart disease
Being a natural saturated fat, coconut oil has the power to increase healthy cholesterol (HDL) and help to convert the (LDL) “bad” cholesterol into beneficial cholesterols. Increasing HDL in the body helps to lower the risk of heart disease and promote heart health.
There are rarely any side effects from using coconut oil. Though unusual it’s worth remembering that certain individuals may be allergic to coconuts (8)
Unlike other oils, coconut oil can take a reasonable amount of heat (don’t deep fry with it, but you shouldn’t be doing that anyway!) which means it can be used in place of butter when it comes to cooking and baking, you can put a tablespoon in your morning smoothie or you can use it as a lip balm and body butter. It has a wonderfully refreshing flavour and due to its nature does not contain any harmful toxins, chemicals, or hydrogenated cooking oils.
Remember to always buy extra virgin or unrefined organic coconut oil.