Every now and again, a ‘super food’ or new fad arrives in our super market aisles that equally interests and baffles us. New, tasty ways of giving our bodies what they need is an exciting discovery for us healthy (or wannabe healthy!) types.
One new ‘super’ on the block is coconut oil. When researching this article, I came across pages and pages of information, with writers raving about it. And I agree – I’ve personally found coconut oil to be fantastic for cooking and beauty uses; ranging from making an excellent sweet-based curry to providing me with a natural and cheap facial scrub.
But what about the proven benefits of coconut oil? For something that is so versatile and seemingly can be used for everything, I want to know if I really should be lathering my face with the oil that I associate more with frying my onions. Plus, should I be eating this amount of fat in my every-day diet? What about the claims that it can help me to lose weight?
Research Has the Answer
- Forget what the marketing industry told you about saturated fat being bad! (Here and here explains why.) At around 92% saturated fat, coconut oil should be your staple oil for cooking with. Saturated fat has stronger bonds than others, meaning it won’t break down at higher temperatures like vegetable or olive oil can do. The latter two are less safe to cook with, since their lack of resistance to higher temperatures attracts nasty free radicals.
- The answer we’ve all been waiting for: coconut oil can help you to lose weight. It is rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that are more filling than others and can boost metabolism slightly. Therefore, by eating coconut oil over other fats that contain Long Chain Triglycerides (e.g. vegetable oils), you’ll feel fuller for longer and be less likely to over-eat.
- The same research also shows that Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are readily oxidized in the liver. In layman’s terms, faster oxidation translates to greater energy expenditure – i.e. fat burning – than other fats.
- When eating coconut oil during dieting, fat is especially lost around the belly – great news for midriff-flashers and those with a middle-age spread alike. A study of obese men who ate 30 grams of coconut oil for 4 weeks found their waist circumference to reduce by 2.86 cm, or 1.1 inches.
- The MCFAs mentioned above contain lauric acid, which is formed into monolaurin within the body and has been found to destroy harmful bacteria. It was compared to antibiotics in its power to kill the fatal pathogen responsible for cases of blood poisoning.
- The same acid is also said to help fight herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.
- While you’re trying to stay healthy, it’s good to know that coconut oil helps improve nutrient absorption; including some of the B vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, beta-carotene, and some amino acids. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are important for preventing osteoporosis. Bruce Fife, CN, ND therefore suggests coconut oil can be used to aid this prevention, since it helps absorb the minerals so well.
- There is an abundance of research into the effects of coconut oil on neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It may improve symptoms, or delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty powerful stuff!
- It’s even great for your pets. The brilliantly named Dogington Post reported the benefits of using coconut oil on doggy ailments, including research into how the MCFAs provide an effective defense against many troublesome parasites, including giardia.
- The amount of anecdotal evidence for using coconut oil in beauty treatments is around the same as for cooking and health. Amongst others, it’s anti-fungal, can be used as a natural alternative for deodorant and intensive conditioner, and most interestingly, it has a natural SPF of somewhere between 4 and 10. My initial thought was: “Surely sunbathing in oil will fry me to a crisp?” Apparently not, according to this research.
Coconut Oil: A True Super Food
And you’re probably now wondering where you can buy it and what to do with it. Since it is becoming more well-known, check your local supermarket, or alternatively head to your favorite health food shop. Always look for virgin coconut oil, as the benefits described above were based on the virgin variety.
Some people from the research swear by having a spoonful a day. But as it is so great for cooking with, it makes sense to test your culinary skills and knock up a meal fried in coconut oil. Add it to your morning smoothie or bake a cake for pudding – you’ll likely feel the benefit from just a few additions to your daily diet.
The same goes with beauty. Replace your usual products and simply try it and see the difference.
I hope this article made you want to fill a bath of coconut oil and bathe in it; just like how felt when I read the research and commentary. Have you tried coconut oil and felt or seen the benefits? Please do share in the comments section below – research or personal tips are both welcome.