You may have heard people raving about the health value of coconut oil. I know every day people ask me questions about coconut oil, such as . . .
Is it healthy?
Will it make me fat?
What is so good about it?
So letís take a closer look at what this truly amazing oil has to offer.
Not all oils are created equal
For years and years our society has lead us to believe that fat is not good for us, it has only been in recent years that it has been revealed that some oils are actually healthy for us and indeed needed for our body to function. Coconut oil is one of the oils that falls into the good category.
Unlike long chain fatty acids found in meat and dairy products coconut oil is made of raw saturated fats mostly containing medium chain fatty acids that are broken down quickly by the body for immediate use rather than stored in the body. The oils found in milk, eggs, meat and even plant and vegetable oils are made of long chain fatty acids (LCFA).
LCFAs require bile acids and lipase from the liver and gallbladder to break them down and be absorbed. After they are absorbed they are reformed into triglycerides and eventually travel through the bloodstream until they are stored away in fat cells. MCFA do not require the liver and gallbladder to be digested this making it the perfect fat for those with impaired fat digestion or who have had their gall bladder removed.
Coconut oil is being called the healthiest oil around and here is why -
It is healthy to cook with
Coconut oil will not oxidise or go rancid when cooked at high heat, unlike other oils like olive oil. This makes it the perfect oil for frying and cooking with and it also has a great shelf life of approximately 2 years, not that you keep if for that once you start to use it.
It will not increase your cholesterol levels
As I have mentioned, Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA), MCFAs do not have a negative effect on cholesterol like other long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in meat and dairy products. Coconut oil contains virtually no cholesterol and actually helps to normalize cholesterol levels. It out performs olive oil in this regard.
It is great for your immune system
Coconut oil is rich in a compound called Lauric acid. Lauric acid is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria funguses and other microorganisms. Lauric Acid is unique to coconut oil; the only other known source is breast milk. It is believed it is the Lauric acid which helps to lessen the incidents of infections in breast fed babies. Coconut oil is also rich in a compound called Caprylic acid. Caprylic Acid is well known to help kill off Candida and other funguses and the gut.
It assists with weight loss
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) found in coconut oil can speed up the metabolism faster than long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) because they are digested and converted into energy quickly. In fact, a study (1) reported medium chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids (LCFA).
It is great for hair and skin
The unique fatty acids in coconut oil have a small molecular structure and pass freely into the hairs cell membrane, allowing the oil to penetrate the hair shaft which deeply conditions the hair. When massaged into the scalp, coconut oil can offer relief from dandruff. Coconut oil is also a fabulous skin conditioner, it deeply penetrates and moisturisers the skin and acts as a protective barrier against environmental and free radical damage. It is also believed that coconut oil provides sun protection by screening up to 20% of ultra violet exposure.
What type of Coconut Oil should I buy?
Look for coconut oil that is organic, unrefined, undeodorised, and cold pressed. Itís also good to use one that is in a glass jar rather than plastic. My preferred brand is Loving Earth because it is all of what I have just mentioned.
How much should you use?
Some researchers suggest consuming around 3 and Ĺ tablespoons of coconut oil each day in order to obtain the same amounts of MCFA a nursing infant would receive in one day. However, if you are use to eating a low fat diet, jumping right into consuming this amount of coconut oil may cause diarrhoea, so start out slower and work your way up.
If you are pregnant and have never consumed coconut oil before, itís a good idea to wait until after youíve had your baby to experiment with it. However, if you are used to coconut oil, there is no reason to stop using it while pregnant.
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) as seen in coconut oil help the body to use essential fatty acids more efficiently. You should take your essential fatty acid supplements such as fish oil, krill oil or hemp oil with coconut oil and the omega 3 fatty acids in those supplements will be twice as effective.
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. St-Onge, M.-P., & Bosarge, A. (2008). Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(3), 621-626. Comparison of diet-induced thermogenesis of foods containing medium- versus long-chain triacylglycerols. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2002 Dec; 48(6): 536-40.
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