By: Mike Nguyen: originally published at http://www.chewgoodstuff.com/coconut-oil-superfood-and-favorable-fat/
What exactly is coconut oil and why should you be eating more of this healthy superfood?
Coconut oil is simply the oil derived from the meat of coconuts, used traditionally in cultures in the tropics. It has been gaining favorable use over the years as more and more people become aware of its many health benefits.
I know what you’re thinking. “But isn’t coconut oil artery-clogging and high in saturated fats?” At one point it was once maligned as being an unhealthy, saturated fat that would clog the arteries and cause heart disease. But is this true? There is an ever-increasing amount of updated science that debunks this myth while instead shows that coconut oil and other beneficial, saturated fats indeed promote optimal heart health and that overconsumption of the polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, soy, canola, and safflower in fact can increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease.
Click here to check out some of these studies: http://coconutoil.com/enig_cholesterol/
“But isn’t fat the bad guy?”… “And fat is what makes us fat, right?” Not all fats are the same or act the same in the body. For an in-depth book on the difference between fats, I highly recommend reading “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” by Udo Erasmus, a recognized authority on fats and oils.
Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill: The Complete Guide to Fats, Oils, Cholesterol and Human Health Mainstream medicine is now recognizing the significance of consuming omega-3 fatty acids (primarily from fish), and some physicians even recommend the supplement forms to their patients. There is a slower shift in positive opinions towards coconut oil and saturated fat consumption, however, the good news is authorities are beginning to look at the facts and realize that these fats are safe to eat due to their abundant attributes.
How does coconut oil differ from other types of fats?
• Coconut oil is a naturally rich source of MCTs (medium chained triglycerides) or medium-chained fatty acids that possess unique health benefits.
• MCTs do not store as fat in the body like other types of fats, but rather the liver is able to utilize them readily as an energy source. Because of the high-content of MCTs, the fat is absorbed easily not requiring enzymes and bile to assist in absorption like most other fats would require (i.e. long-chained ones). As they enter the GI tract, the MCTs are directed to the portal vein and shuttled straight to the liver to be converted to energy. For this reason, consuming coconut oil is much easier on our digestive systems while providing a quick fuel source for the body. Because the energy is readily available, the saturated fats in coconut oil will not be stored as fat in the fat cells as other types of fat may be. It would also make coconut oil a preferred fat for those with hindered digestion and malabsorption concerns.
• Because of its stable structure, coconut oil can be used at high temperatures for cooking. It will not oxidize (creating free radicals in the body) like other types of cooking oils (olive, canola, corn, soy, vegetable). The chemical structure dictates the stability of the oil and its stability will determine how this oil will react in the body (positive or negative health consequences). Unsaturated fats are chemically more unstable and thus more prone to breaking down easily at high heat (oxidizing) which can lead to free-radical damage. This free-radical damage can lead to alterations to our cells and eventually disease if used over long periods of time.
Udo Erasmus says, “Changes due to high temperature, oxygen, and light present in frying and deep-frying take place rapidly in unsaturated fatty acids, and even more rapidly in essential fatty acids….saturated fats stand up better to high-heat uses” (due to their more stable, chemical makeup). He also says, “The least damaging frying fats include coconut, palm, palm kernel, cocoa butter, and butter”.
For other recommendations on preferred cooking oils besides coconut oil, check out this useful free, downloadable pdf fat/oil guide from a reputable source (Diane Sanfilippo, Balanced Bites):
What other health benefits does coconut oil have?
• There are three main medium-chained fatty acids present in coconut oil: lauric, capric, and caprylic acid. When we consume coconut oil these medium-chained components (lauric, capric, and caprylic acid) break down into monoglycerides (one important one being named monolaurin).
Monolaurin has demonstrated an effect in killing many bacteria, viruses and fungi. Due to its powerful therapeutic properties, it is even sold as an isolated nutritional supplement. Consuming it in its whole, natural form (as coconut oil) will provide these health benefits as well, and some authorities suspect even better than the isolated supplement.
• Some preliminary research may suggest that ingestion of coconut oil may provide ketone bodies when metabolized which play a role in supporting brain health and may possibly be beneficial to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
• Athletes are seeking out coconut oil and supplements concentrated with MCTs to aid in their performance (energy, endurance, and ability to recover more quickly post-workout). Click here to read about a study performed on athletes consuming MCTs versus long-chained fats:
• Lastly, coconut oil can be used topically to nourish skin and hair (moisturizing while providing those aforementioned antifungal and antibacterial properties).
• Check out a study published in Dermatitis journal (2008) comparing coconut oil to olive oil for treatment of adult atopic dermatitis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19134433?ordinalpos=4&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
1. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to other cooking oils, especially when high heat is involved.
2. Coconut oil contains antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal compounds.
3. One of the easiest fats to assimilate providing a quick energy source in the body.
4. Contains “good” fat which provides satiety and satisfies hunger.
5. Versatile – can be used for cooking or baking or added to smoothies as a superfood boost and used topically to moisturize the skin.
6. Tastes great!
Currently this is the brand I recommend using (have been using it for years and prefer its flavor and aroma over others). It’s organic, unrefined, extra virgin, non-hydrogenated (always make sure to use non-hydrogenated; hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated coconut oil is not the same and therefore unhealthy), unbleached and simply tasty and full of nutrients:
Photo credit: (#1 at top of post): by https://www.flickr.com/photos/mealmakeovermoms/ under license
Resources: Erasmus, Udo. Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill. Alive Books:
Burnaby, Canada. 1993
Enig, Mary and Fallon, Sally. Eat Fat Lose Fat. Penguin Group:
New York, NY. 2005.
About the author
Certified Holistic Nutritionist
Mike can teach you how to improve your diet and eat for optimal energy, overall health, and specific health conditions. He can create an individualized nutritional plan which can address your health concerns.
Meet Mike at http://www.mikenguyennutrition.com/