If you have not been using the coconut oil already, you have probably heard about its benefits or have seen it on the shelves in grocery stores.
It is one of the foods that a lot of modern diets promote as healthy and propose to use it as a substitute for butter or cooking oil.
What are the health benefits of coconut oil that you must know about?
What makes it so popular as opposed to regular oil?
However, not long ago there was a talk in mass media that coconut oil is not that healthy due to the number of saturated fats in it, that ‘makes’ your cholesterol level up and may cause heart diseases.
Though as we know the same argument was used earlier in the years regarding any type of saturated fats. And the shelves in groceries stores were filled in with skimmed products that, by the way, had a lot of extra sugar added into them to compensate the taste.
That does not sound too healthy either.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a type of saturated fats that is extracted from the meat of the fruit.
Most of the oils in coconut are made of three fatty acids, namely:
- caprylic acid
- lauric acid
- capric acid.
As mentioned earlier coconut oil contains mostly saturated fat, which is also found in butter and red meat.
Like any other saturated fats, coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol associated with increased risk of heart disease.
On the other hand, the coconut oil also increases HDL cholesterol, the ‘good’ cholesterol level, especially when replacing carbohydrates in the diet.
This happens because of the high content of a fatty acid known as lauric acid.
The coconut oil is one of a few foods that have a high concentration of this specific fatty acid, that makes it unique.
Yet, even though the increase in HDL may offset the negative impact of LDL, yet, there is not any definite answer regarding the impact of the HDL on our health.
Another thing to consider is that most fats in the diet are called long-chain triglycerides, while the fats in coconut oil are known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). What it means is that the fatty acids are shorter than other fats.
What it means to us is that when we consume this type of fats they go straight to the liver, providing us with energy faster.
Also, not all coconut oils are the same and some are healthier than others. Here is an overview of some popular types of coconut oils:
- Virgin coconut oil. It is extracted from the fruit of fresh, mature coconuts without using any temperature or chemicals. It is unrefined oil and may offer health benefits.
- Refined coconut oil. It is extracted from chemically bleached and deodorized coconut meat and does not provide with much of health benefits compared with the virgin version.
- Partially hydrogenated coconut oil. It is a highly processed oil that contains trans fats and can be harmful to our bodies.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
As it has been mentioned earlier, not all coconut oil is the same. Some may provide more health benefits than others.
However, another thing to consider is that coconut oil is a highly saturated type of oil. For a long time, saturated fats were blamed to increase cholesterol level, that increases the risk of heart diseases.
For example, in 2017 the American Heart Association (AHA) published a new science advisory against saturated fats. This advisory was based on a 100 research studies dating from the 1950s.
This research concluded that in order to reduce the risk of heart diseases less cholesterol should be eaten and polyunsaturated fats should replace saturated fats (2).
Now in 2017, the AHA decided to come back to the same topic claiming again that saturated fats are bad for us and specifically coconut oil.
The AHA claims that consumption of coconut oil increase LDL – ‘bad’ cholesterol level.
Now what this report forgot to mention is that apart from increasing LDL level, the coconut oil also increases the HDL – ‘good’ cholesterol level (3).
Indeed, researchers from Brasilia found that incorporating extra-virgin coconut oil in the diet actually increases a healthy HDL cholesterol that helps heart disease patients lose weight that in its turn can protect heart (4).
As mentioned earlier the American Heart Association claims that coconut oil is not good to us as it increases LDL cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease.
Now a study of more than 12,000 people found that low cholesterol actually increased the risk of dying early from heart disease (5).
The AHA proposes to consume polyunsaturated fats like corn or soy oils instead of saturated fats!
Was this research sponsored by the corn and soy lobby?
Did you know that more than 90% of these crops are genetically modified?
And if this is not bad, then in 2016 the British Medical Journal published a study of what happens if people exclude saturated fats completely from their diet and eat polyunsaturated fats like corn oil and margarine.
It was found that replacing saturated fats with corn or similar oils actually increased the risk of coronary heart disease and death from all causes (6).
10 Benefits Of Coconut Oil
Now that we know that our body needs saturated fats, let’s see what are the benefits of the coconut oil that we need to know about:
1. May Prevent Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
As we know coconut oil is high in saturated fats. Saturated fats actually help to convert LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol into ‘good’ cholesterol by increasing the HDL cholesterol.
Increasing HDL cholesterol level helps to promote heart health and lower the risk of heart disease.
Coconut oil also decreases high triglycerides that also benefit our heart.
2. May Reduce Inflammation and Arthritis
It was found that extra-virgin coconut oil has a high level of antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and as a result may treat arthritis.
In a study in India, it was found that the coconut oil may even provide better treatment than leading medications (7).
3. May Boost Immune System
As you probably know sugar feeds the growth of bad bacteria. Many diseases are caused by the overgrowth of bad bacteria, viruses, parasites in our body.
Lauric acid presented in coconut oil may reduce bacteria and create a negative environment for viruses.
4. May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Consumption of MFCAs presented in coconut oil creates ketones in the liver that are a great fuel for our brains.
Ketones supply our brains with energy without the need for insulin to process glucose into energy.
It was found that the brain actually creates its own insulin to process glucose into energy.
And because the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease are losing the ability to its own insulin, ketones may create an alternate source of energy to help repair brain function (8).
5. May Improve Memory
In 2004 researchers found that the MFCAs presented in coconut oil may improve memory.
It was marked that MFCAs are absorbed easily into the body and can be accessed in the brain without the use of insulin. It is also able to fuel brain cells more efficiently (9).
6. Improve Digestion
As mentioned earlier coconut oil may help improve bacteria and gut health by the creative negative environment for bad bacteria and candida. Candida imbalance may decrease stomach acid, which is the main cause of inflammation and digestive issues.
If coconut oil is taken together with omega-3 fatty acids (presented in fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds etc), it may make them twice effective, as they are readily available for digestion and used by our bodies.
Coconut oil may improve digestion as it helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium.
7. May Improve Skin Issues
Lauric fatty acid presented in coconut oil may reduce inflammation internally and externally. What it means is that it may also reduce skin inflammation and be a wonderful face cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Antioxidants presented in coconut oil may also be an ideal solution for healing the skin. Having great antimicrobial qualities, the coconut oil may balance the candida that may also be a cause of many skin conditions.
8. May Help With Weight Loss
Because of the ability to create an alternative source of energy, the coconut oil is a great solution for weight loss as it helps burn calories and fat and decrease appetite
In 1985 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health it was found that single injection of capric acid also presented in coconut oil may decrease food consumption and stimulate fat loss. The research was done on male rates.
It was also found that capric acid may improve thyroid function that also assists our body in burning fat for energy.
Another research published in the Obesity Research Journal found that MFCAs are so good in the fat burning process that it is almost mimicking the characteristics of fasting (10).
9. May Help With Building Muscle
The MFCAs presented in coconuts are also great for building muscle. It is presented in a lot of muscle-building products, though in its processed ways. Therefore, it is better to consume extra-virgin coconut oil instead to get the most value out of coconuts.
10. May Improve Energy
Coconut oil is easy to digest and may improve our energy level. When you consume extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, you get the most benefits, as you will consume MFCAs that are sent directly to our liver that converts it into energy.
What Are Side Effects Of Coconut Oil?
There are not really any side effects of coconut oil.
There are individuals allergic to coconuts. Some cleaning products that use coconut oil as an ingredient have been known to cause contact allergies, however, it is not that common (11).
Indeed, coconut oil may reduce some negative effects of medications.
How To Use Coconut Oil?
The coconut oil can be used in many ways.
If we talk about food, it can be used as a cooking oil, in baking as a butter substitute.
It is also an important ingredient to keto/bulletproof coffee. It adds a light coconut flavor to cooking foods.
Make sure to buy extra virgin, wet milled, unrefined, organic coconut oil to ensure you are getting pure coconut oil.
Refined coconut oil can be bleached, overheated and chemically processed that is not recommended for consumption but may also be harmful to your health.
Coconut oil is one of the foods that got contradicting reputation recently.
The American Heart Association warns us against consuming coconut oil as it is high in saturated fats.
Though multiple studies showed that saturated fats are actually beneficial to us and individuals who excluded saturated diets from their diets were more vulnerable to heart diseases.
The AHA also recommends us to switch saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats like canola or corn that is genetically modified. So how is that can be beneficial for our health?
Virgin, unrefined, organic coconut oil may be a very beneficial add-on to everyone’s diet. It has anti-inflammatory qualities that help with digestive and skin problems. It is also great for fat burning and muscle building.
Regular consumption of coconut oil may enhance your energy level and make your brains work harder.
There are a lot of ways you can use the coconut oil.
The most common way is to use it in cooking and baking. Enjoy the benefits of coconut oil and be healthy!