A Good Fat: The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil
Through the years, coconut oil has received bad publicity in the US because of its high level of saturated fat. Unfortunately, the negative press about coconut oil was the result of one study conducted four decades ago, using hydrogenated oil (which has been processed and altered from its original form), not virgin coconut oil. Researchers fed animals hydrogenated coconut oil and subsequently, their cholesterol levels increased. The same thing has happened when other highly hydrogenated oils were used such as cottonseed, soybean or corn oils. So the problem with the coconut oil was that it was hydrogenated, not because it was coconut oil. As a matter of fact, when unprocessed coconut oil is added to an otherwise normal diet, there is no change in cholesterol.
As I mentioned in the last blog, most of the oils that people are using, both personally and commercially are vegetable oils or polyunsaturated oils. It’s nearly impossible to eat at restaurants or buy packaged foods that don’t contain these polyunsaturated “vegetable oils.” However, these are the oils that are most damaging to our health. According to nutrition research, polyunsaturated oils are highly subject to rancidity. Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils is associated with increasing rates of cancer, heart disease and weight gain. A 1994 study appearing in the Lancet showed that almost three quarters of the fat in artery clogs is “unsaturated.”
History of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been used throughout Asia and the Pacific for thousands of years as both a food and a medicine. Even today it holds a highly respected position in the Ayurvedic medicine of India. Unfortunately, only recently has modern medical research confirmed the many health benefits traditionally attributed to this remarkable oil. On many islands coconuts are a staple in the diet which provides the majority of the food eaten. Studies have clearly shown that the traditional Asian cultures that eat significant amounts of coconut in their diet do not suffer from modern diseases seen in Western cultures that promote a low-fat diet.
The coconut is classified as a “functional food” because it is rich in fiber, vitamins and nutrients and provides many health benefits. One of the greatest benefits of coconut oil is on the immune system. Coconut oil is one of the highest sources of “saturated” medium chain triglycerides. This is important, because 50% of these MCT’s are made up of lauric acid, the most important essential fatty acid in maintaining the body’s immune system. The only other source of lauric acid found in high concentrations is in mother’s milk. Coconut oil has been shown to strengthen the immune system.
Faulty science was used to convince the public that ALL saturated fats were unhealthy, when in fact, saturated fats rich in these medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid are extremely healthy and can prevent heart disease, stroke, and hardening of the arteries. This is because the saturated fat in coconut oil is unlike the fat found in meat or other vegetable fats.
Benefits of Medium Chain Fats
Clinical studies have shown that coconut oil has anti-viral properties, and is now even being used in treating AIDS patients. Studies conducted in the Philippines showed that coconut oil does indeed reduce the viral load in AIDS patients.
Another incredible fact about coconut oil is that even though it is a fat, it actually promotes weight loss! The reason is again because of the healthy medium chain fatty acids. These fatty acids do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats, but are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, just like carbohydrates. So the body uses the fat in coconut oil to produce energy, rather than be stored as body fat. Medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil also speed up the body’s metabolism, burning more calories and promoting weight loss. The weight-loss effects of coconut oil have been clearly demonstrated by many researchers.
I wanted to test this out, so for two weeks, I switched out all of my fats (butter, olive oil and flaxseed oil) to coconut oil. I used it to cook everything and even replaced it for butter. To my surprise, I lost 4 pounds. That was the only thing that I did differently. I would highly recommend daily supplementation with coconut oil if you are at a plateau or just can’t seem to lose weight.
Summary of the Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is available both as regular coconut oil, void of taste and smell and virgin coconut oil, which is less processed and retains the coconut flavor and smell. Both share the same benefits listed below, except that virgin coconut oil has the ability to prevent dementias.
*Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial properties. It is also helpful in fighting harmful bacteria such as helicobacter pylori.
*It contains high levels of anti-oxidants which help protect the body from free radical damage and help prevent premature aging.
*It can support weight loss because it supports the healthy functioning of the thyroid. People who live in tropical coastal areas who daily eat coconut oil are not fat, obese or overweight.
* Coconut oil is used in hospital IV formulations and commercial baby formulas.
*It can support digestion and help in the absorption of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
*Coconut oil is used in sports drinks to boost energy and enhance athletic performance.
*It can rejuvenate your skin and prevent wrinkles. Coconut oil is excellent massage oil for the skin as well and a great moisturizer on all types of skin.
*Coconut oil is an excellent hair conditioner and helps in the re-growth of damaged air. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing damaged hair. It is therefore used as hair care oil and is also found in hair conditioners, and dandruff relief creams.
A good therapeutic dosage is 3 to 4 tablespoons a day, which provides enough lauric acid to build the immune system. Look for unrefined coconut oil, which can be found at most health food stores. And finally, eliminate all hydrogenated oils, whether it is coconut oil or polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Next time, we’ll continue to look at good fats.