The nutritional benefits of coconut oil have been recognized in many parts of the world for centuries. Coconuts and coconut oil have been a food staple of Asia, Africa, Central America, and the Pacific Islands for many years, comprising 30% to 60% of the local diet, yet the natives have normal cholesterol levels and no cardiovascular disease.
Coconut oil contains saturated fats, and unfortunately, since saturated fats have gotten a really bad rep here in the US, many people are not aware of the tremendous health benefits this gem has to offer.
What many people don't know is that coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA), not a long chain fatty acid (LCFA) like many other fats. MCFAs are digested differently than LCFAs; they're absorbed directly into the liver rather than into the bloodstream, so they're used immediately as energy, not stored as fat.
Unlike LCFAs, MCFAs don't have a negative effect on cholesterol levels, and they actually help prevent
heart disease. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. These fatty acids are powerful antimicrobial agents that combat against pathologic bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, and protozoa.
Lauric acid, for example, is a fatty acid that is also found in human breast milk and provides protection against infections to babies, whose immune systems are very delicate and still developing. Named one of nature's best "germ fighters," the lipids in coconut oil have been shown to have antibacterial properties, inactivating viruses like measles, herpes simplex 1, and other pathogenic organisms typically affecting HIV-positive individuals.
The list goes on. Coconut oil has also been proven to support healthy thyroid function by not inhibiting the body's thyroid metabolism like other vegetable oils do. It also helps prevent osteoporosis and tooth decay, reduces hypoglycemic cravings, and may improve symptoms of digestive disorders.
Still not amazed? Here's another fascinating factoid: In the 1940's, farmers tried to use coconut oil to fatten up their animals, only to have their plan backfire. They ended up with lean
, active cattle with increased appetites!
How Does This Happen?
MCFAs help to stimulate the metabolism by promoting thermogenesis (the rate at which you burn calories due to the consumption of food), essentially boosting and encouraging fat loss. Research has shown that animals fed MCFAs had smaller fat pads and down-regulated adipogenic genes.
Amazingly, they also had improved insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and reduced adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase
, which is an insulin sensitive enzyme that's produced in the fat cells and is typically present in excessive amounts in the severely overweight.
Recently, studies have consistently shown that animals aren't the only ones benefiting from the calorie burning properties of MCFAs. It's becoming increasingly evident that people who consume coconut oil have an overall advantage in losing fat and keeping it off!
Why Isn't There More Talk?
During World War II, coconut oil was essentially cut off from the United States. As the war continued, alternative types of cooking oils were developed. By the time the war was over, there was a lot of money at stake — promoting these polyunsaturated vegetable oils was only natural.
To top that off, by the end of the 1950's, the public opinion had turned against saturated fats altogether. The majority of the general population believed them to be the culprit behind heart disease; no one wanted to take any chances, and funding any studies to prove this theory negative wasn't a priority for anyone here in the States.
Unfortunately, the tropical oil industry (i.e. the Philippines and Indonesia) couldn't afford to combat the negative propaganda spread by the multimillion dollar American conglomerates, so coconut oil was bound to remain unpopular until decades later.
How Should I Use It?
Coconut oil has a fantastic flavor, so it's easy to use in place of any fats currently used in just about any recipe. It's a great substitute for everything from butter and margarine, to olive and vegetable oils. Coconut oil is your best choice when utilizing high-heat cooking methods since it's stable enough to resist heat-induced damage.
Now prepare for a shocker: Contrary to what the mainstream media has taught us, vegetable oils such as soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola are actually the worst
types of fat for cooking. They're highly subject to heat damage due to their bond make up, which basically means that they become toxic
to the body when heated!
Coconut oil doesn't have the same bond make up. It remains stable and is completely non-toxic no matter how hot it gets.
Not Just For Cooking!
Like products with more than one use? You're in luck: Coconut oil is fantastic for the skin, as well! Not only is it an excellent moisturizer, but it also protects against free radicals.
It has fascinating anti-aging properties, helping prevent liver spots and other skin blemishes caused by overexposure to the sun. It'll also keep connective tissues strong, giving you a few extra years of tight skin. Studies have shown that high quality coconut oil may even restore
skin that's already damaged or diseased.
What Kind Should I Buy?
Purchase organic, extra virgin coconut oil that's unrefined, unbleached, undeodorized, and is free of genetically modified ingredients and chemicals. Most health food stores carry it in this form, and if you can't find it locally, you can always find it online.
Don't forget that coconut oil turns into a solid at cooler room temperatures (anything below 70 degrees F). This is perfectly fine; just scoop out the desired amount and heat it up, which will turn it into a liquid.
To use as moisturizer, apply and massage into the skin, as you would with any other lotion. Just be sure to use up your jar within a year, as this magic potion turns rancid after that time period.
Coconut Oil Research
Coconut Oil for Heart Health, Immune Support and Weight Loss. Advanced Health & Life Extension
Coconut Research Center
Prior IA, Davidson F, Salmond CE, Czochanska Z (August 1981). "Cholesterol, Coconuts, and Diet on Plynesian Atolls: A Natural Experiement: the Pukapuka and Tokelau Island Studies." Online PDF Version