There is a big buzz surrounding Coconut Oil - many describing it as the healthiest oil on earth - as you'll discover in this post, there is very good foundation to this claim.
In the past Coconut Oil has received a bad reputation due to its saturated fat content. Health officials and the media are constantly telling us saturated fats are bad for us, synonymous with conditions such as high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. However new data is showing that the saturated fats within Coconut Oil are harmless, in fact they may be good for our health.
You might be intrigued to know in some parts of the world, where coconut has been a primary dietary staple for thousands of years, populations have thrived. The best example of such a population is the Tokelauans, which live in the South Pacific - they eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world but they are in excellent health and have shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.
The truth is not all saturated fats are created equal - this is because some saturated fats occur naturally while other fats are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation changes the molecular structure of vegetable and seed oils by adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, producing a substance that really only benefits to extend the product's shelf life - nearly all experts now agree that hydrogenation serves no benefit to health. In fact the manipulated saturated fats (also known as trans-fats) found in highly processed and refined foods should be avoided at all times.
So how does the saturated fat in Coconut Oil differ?
Most of the fatty acids in our diets are Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) however Coconut Oil contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) - in fact Coconut Oil is nature's richest source of medium-chain fatty acids.
MCTs and LCTs are metabolised differently in the body. MCTs go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, being smaller they are easily digested and immediately burned by your liver for energy, so they work similarly to carbohydrates but without the insulin spike. As a result they can be used as a quick energy source as well as being beneficial to diabetics and those with pre-diabetes conditions. LCTs are large molecules so they are difficult for your body to break down and therefore are predominantly stored as fat.
MCT's provide a host of health benefits:
- they are easily digested therefore put less strain on the digestive system
- they are sent directly to the liver where they are converted to energy rather than being stored as fat
- they boost the body's metabolism, aiding weight loss
Helps weight loss
Many research studies have shown replacing LCTs with MCTs results in both decreased body weight and reduced fat deposition. Coconut oil appears to be especially effective in reducing abdominal fat, which settles in the abdominal cavity and around organs. This is the most dangerous fat of all and is highly associated with many Western diseases.
Additionally research has shown that due to its metabolic effect, Coconut Oil increases the activity of the thyroid thereby promoting fat burning and weight loss if needed.
Coconut Oil has been seen to provide a number of further health benefits:
- Supports your immune system
- Improves your heart health
- Great for the digestive system
- Helpful in sport and exercise
Supports your immune system
Almost 50% of the fatty acids in Coconut Oil is lauric acid - this type of fatty acid is rarely found in nature. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has very strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It strengthens the immune system because of its toxicity to viruses, bacteria, fungus's and other micro-organisms. It works by disrupting their lipid membranes and virtually destroying them. Monolaurin is effective for treating Candida Albicans, fungal infections and athlete's foot. It also targets bacterial infections and viruses like measles, influenza, hepatitis C and even HIV. In fact, researchers from the Philippines are studying the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS due to its strong anti-viral properties. Furthermore, lauric acid is non-toxic, making it an attractive alternative to modern drugs typically prescribed for viruses as well as fungal and bacterial infections. Without lauric acid, monolaurin cannot be produced by the body. Breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which goes some way to explain the fewer incidents of infections with breast-fed infants.
It has also been observed that regular consumption of Coconut Oil boosts immunity and reduces incidences of sickness.
Improves your heart health
The saturated fats in Coconut Oil raise HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). This in turn reduces cardiovascular risk factors such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure therefore reducing overall risk to heart disease in the long term.
Great for the digestive system
Coconut oil helps to improve the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The saturated fats present in Coconut Oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Coconut oil can be introduced into your diet easily, for a quick energy boost simply eat a spoonful of it, or add it to your food. You can also add it to your tea or coffee, instead of a sweetener. An added bonus is that it will help improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, so taking a spoonful of Coconut Oil along with your daily vitamins may help boost their effectiveness.
An easy and convenient way to introduce it to your life is of course by way of a supplement!