If you’ve been around the real food community much, you’ve heard many references to the coconut, especially coconut oil benefits. Ostracized by the medical community for it’s saturated fat content, it seems that coconut oil might finally be making a comeback in the mainstream health community.
Coconut oil is the most nutrient dense part of the coconut. It is solid at room temperature like butter. Doesn’t break down in heat or light or become rancid like many oils, and in my opinion has a wonderful tropical smell.
It is a wonderful way to increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet, and is helpful in assimilation of fat soluble vitamins.
For years, “health” advice has warned against consuming saturated fats, and coconut oil has gotten thrown out with the rest without good reason!
What’s In a Coconut?
Coconuts are an excellent source of nutrition and have healthful meat, juice, and oil.
The oil is arguably the most nutritious and has many health benefits. Coconut oil benefits from over 90% saturated fat and has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Coconut oil also has antioxidant properties and it helps in the absorption of other minerals.
Virgin Coconut oil is an incredible source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which have been shown to have many health benefits.
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
Most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed. Coconut oil is high in short and medium chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production.
Because MCFAs are sent right to the liver for digestion, no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food even for those with diabetes or those who have gallbladder problems.
MCFAs can help increase metabolism since they are sent directly to the liver and give the body an instant source of energy. Most of the MCFAs in coconut oil are the highly beneficial Lauric Acid.
Lauric acid is found in abundance in human breast milk and converts to a substance called monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin has been shown to be useful in increasing immunity and fighting viruses and disease.
Lauric acid in coconut oil in combination with oregano oil, has even been found more effective in fighting the staph bacteria than antibiotics. It has also been shown to be preventative against some cancers.
Coconut Oil is over 40% lauric acid, the richest source naturally available.
What About The Saturated Fat?
If you are still concerned about saturated fat, consider taking a second look. Even if you still avoid/limit saturated fats, it is important to note that not all saturated fats behave the same way in the body. Coconut oil, due to its high lauric acid content, is actually beneficial to the body.
It is also fascinating to note that countries like Thailand eat very high amounts of saturated fats like coconut oil and lard, and have very low levels of disease on average.
In fact, people consuming a traditional diet in Thailand have less instance of heart disease and the lowest rates of cancer for all 50 countries studied by the World Health Organization. Diabetes is TEN times more frequent in the United States that in Thailand, despite (or perhaps because of) their high fat consumption.
What do the Thai people eat?
A large part of their diet consists of coconut, fermented foods, meat, a variety of vegetables, and rice. If you’ve ever tasted Thai food, you know that they also have bold taste in seasonings and make use of potent herbs and spices like curry, lemongrass, basil, and chilis.
Overall, the Thai people consume very little soy, except for fermented condiments. Their living conditions are considered to be less sanitary and more difficult, so these factors cannot account for the lower instance of disease.
Other countries, including some in the Mediterranean, show similar trends, even with high consumption of saturated fat. Even here, saturated fat is getting a second look from the medical community.
But saturated fat causes heart disease, right?
This has been the refrain for the last several decades, but history doesn’t back it up.
As I have discussed before, there really is no scientific backing to the idea, and in fact, the lipid hypothesis has been largely discredited.
Think about it:
Currently, coronary heart disease and related problems are the number one cause of death in the United States. The field of cardiology didn’t even exist prior to 1940. There has been a 60 fold increase in cardiologists since that time.
Also, coconut oil and other saturated fats were phased out since that time, and has been replaced with “healthy” vegetable and seed oils.
You’d think with all those specialists and the move away from saturated fats, we’d be seeing less heart disease, except we aren’t. In fact, rates of heart disease have risen despite doctors best attempts to get us to eat low-fat whole grain diets low in saturated fats (or perhaps because of this).
Are Saturated Fats Necessary?
Saturated fats are necessary for cell function and growth, and have been linked to increased health and even weight loss. Coconut oil is an all-star among saturated fats with many benefits beyond its strict nutritional content.
Over 1/3 of the world’s population depends on coconut for food, and if you haven’t already, you should consider incorporating coconut oil into your diet!
The word is getting out about the health benefits of coconut oil, but especially for those just starting to use/consume it, trying to actually eat it can be a difficult task.
For some people, eating too much at once can even cause upset stomach until the body adjusts.
For those who are trying to incorporate coconut oil in to their diets but have trouble with the taste or texture, here are a few of the ways we consume it without the taste or texture being too overpowering:
Ways to Use Coconut Oil:
- Substitute for Butter
- Salad Dressing
- Oral Health
- In Baking Recipes
- Moisturiser for Skin and Hair
Here are some other suggested ways to use coconut oil:
- Taken as a supplement for daily energy
- As an eye-makeup remover
- Lighten age spots when rubbed directly on the skin
- Prevent stretch marks during pregnancy
- Support healthy thyroid function
- In homemade Mayo without the high PUFA vegetable oils
- Help increase sun tolerance and avoid burning
- Get rid of cradle cap on baby- just massage in to head, leave on for a few minutes and gently rinse with a warm wash cloth
- Topically to kill yeast or yeast infections
- As a delicious tropical massage oil
- It’s high Lauric acid and MCFA content helps boost metabolism
- A tiny dab rubbed on your hands and then through hair will help get rid of friz
- In place of Lanolin cream on nursing nipples to sooth irritation (also great for baby!)
- There is some evidence that regular ingestion of coconut oil can help prevent or reverse Alzheimers
- With apple cider vinegar as a natural treatment for lice that actually works
- Mix a tablespoon with a tablespoon of chia seeds for an all-day energy boost (do NOT take this at night!)
- As a replacement for vegetable oils in any recipe
- After initial heat is gone, can help speed recovery from sunburn
- Natural personal lubricant that won’t disturb vaginal flora
- As a naturally antibacterial skin cream
- Natural shave cream and after shave lotion
- To season cast iron skillets
- It’s anti-inflammatory properties can help lessen arthritis
- Can reduce the itch of mosquito bites
- Rubbed into scalp daily to stimulate hair growth
- A small amount can be rubbed into real leather to soften and condition (shiny leather only… test a small area first)
- By itself as a great tanning oil
- Mixed with salt to remove dry skin on feet
- Some evidence shows that the beneficial fats in coconut oil can help with depression and anxiety
- On hands after doing dishes to avoid dry skin
- Mixed with catnip, rosemary, or mint essential oils as a natural bug repellent
- On cuticles to help nails grow