Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

You’ve no doubt noticed that for about the last 60 years the majority of health care officials and the media have been telling you saturated fats are bad for your health and lead to a host of negative consequences, like elevated cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile during this same 60 years the American levels of heart disease, obesity, elevated serum cholesterol and Alzheimer’s have skyrocketed compared to our ancestors, and even compared to modern-day primitive societies using saturated fat as a dietary staple.

Did you know that multiple studies on Pacific Island populations who get 30-60% of their total caloric intact from fully saturated coconut oil have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease?

Clearly, a lot of confusion and contradictory evidence exists on the subject of saturated fats, even among health care professionals.

The truth is that not all saturated fats are the same.  Some saturated fats occur naturally, while other fats are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation.  Hydrogenation manipulates vegetable and seed oils by adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, producing a rancid, thickened oil that really only benefits processed food shelf life.  The medical and scientific communities are now fairly united in the opinion that hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils should be avoided.

Unfortunately, this rightful vilification of hydrogenated saturated fats has created a lot of confusion regarding naturally occurring saturated fats, including coconut oil.  If one form of saturated fat is bad for you, the argument goes, then all saturated fat must be bad.  Right?

Nothing could be further from the truth!

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid.

Lauric Acid – Coconut Oil’s Key Ingredient

Pure Coconut oil contains about 50% Lauric acid.  The only other natural source of high levels of lauric acid is breast milk. (Which might explain why breast fed babies appear to have an improved immune system) When lauric acid is present in the body, it is converted into monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound which exhibits antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties. It acts by disrupting the lipid membranes in organisms like fungus, bacteria and viruses, thus destroying them.

The compound monolaurin is an effective treatment for candida albicans and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. Monolaurin also specifically targets bacterial infections as well as lipid-coated viruses like herpes, the measles, influenza, hepatitis C and HIV. Researchers in the Philippines have even begun studies to prove the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS because of its strong antiviral properties. Plus, lauric acid is basically non-toxic, which gives it a distinct advantage over modern pharmaceutical drugs that are typically used to fight viruses, bacterial infections and fungal infections.There is not a recommended daily allowance for lauric acid, however some research suggests that between 10-20 grams per day could be beneficial for both children and adults.  There is approximately 7 grams of lauric acid per tablespoon of coconut oil, so 2-4 tablespoons per day could be sufficient in providing therapeutic levels.Medium-Chain Fatty Acids – The Healthy Saturated FatCoconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids produce a whole host of health benefits.Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of these healthy MCFAs.By contrast, most common vegetable or seed oils are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), also known as long-chain triglycerides or LCTs.

Let me tell you why these long-chain fatty acids are not as healthy for you as the MCFAs found in coconut oil:

  • LCFAs are difficult for your body to break down — they require special enzymes for digestion.
  • LCFAs put more strain on your pancreas, liver and your entire digestive system.
  • LCFAs are predominantly stored in your body as fat.
  • LCFAs can be deposited within your arteries in lipid forms such as cholesterol.
  • In contrast to LFCAs, the MCFA’s found in coconut oil have many benefits including the following beneficial qualities:
  • MCFAs are smaller. They permeate cell membranes easily, and do not require special enzymes to be utilized effectively by your body.
  • MCFAs are easily digested, thus putting less strain on your digestive system.
  • MCFAs are sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat.
  • MCFAs actually help stimulate your body’s metabolism, leading to weight loss.


The Best Coconut Oil – What To Look For:

When looking for a good quality oil start with the container.  I always avoid plastic containers for the obvious reasons (BPA’s).  Light will not cause coconut oil to go rancid as it does with other oils so a clear glass container is perfectly fine. (note it is still advisable to store out of direct sunlight)

The next thing to look for is “Organic” .  The quality of the soil and farming practices are very important in the overall quality of coconut oil.  Chemical pesticides and fertilizers degrade the quality of crops and can affect the amount of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) or Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) plentifully found in coconut oil.

Avoid Copra.  Most commercial coconut oils are made from copra, the dried up meat from coconuts. Using the cheaper copra-grade coconut means that the oil extracted may not be sanitary.  Look for an oil produced from fresh coconut meat only.

If you see these words: Refined, Bleached and Deodorized (RBD), put it back.  These processes are usually used for creating commercial grade coconut oil, which allows them to use inferior product not originally suitable for consumption and create a low cost (and low quality) product.

Look for an oil that is: Organic, unrefined, cold pressed or centrifuge extracted.  The oil should have a clean smooth flavour with a mild coconut scent.

Good examples of what to look for in a quality coconut oil can be found here: Wilderness Family Naturals,

How Much Coconut Oil Should You Eat Daily

The quick answer is 2-4 tablespoons per day.  This seems to be a reasonable amount to provide your body with adequate amounts of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids. However I honestly think this should be viewed as a minimum daily intake.

I personally use coconut oil for all of my cooking needs.  That is to say when ever I need to heat an oil, I use coconut oil.  I use it for frying eggs, chicken, steak, stir frying, or any time you would add oil to a pan.  I use all my other oils (Olive, Macademia nut) in salads, dips, sauces, or to add after cooking.

Check out this site for even more in depth information about Coconut: Coconut Research Center

 


 

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