Coconut oil is a healthy, nutritious oil made from coconut meat. But if you’ve followed the advice of the medical industry and the media for the past 50 years, you’ve probably heard to stay away from saturated fats like those in coconut oil because they can lead to things like high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
Unfortunately, what’s lacking in this medical advice is the distinction between different forms of saturated fats. The truth is that not all saturated fats are created equal. All fats are categorized as either short-, medium-, or long-chain. The saturated fats in coconut oil are about two-thirds medium-chain fatty acids, making them easily digestible, beneficial to the immune system, and giving them anti-microbial properties. The majority of fats consumed in our diet are long-chain fatty acids, whether they’re saturated or unsaturated.
Now back to the statement, “not all saturated fats are created equal.” The key word to note here is “created,” since some saturated fats are naturally occurring, like those in coconut oil, and some (most) are man-made through the process of hydrogenation. This completely unnatural process of hydrogenation heats the oils and manipulates their molecular structure, making them rancid and thick. The only benefit of this process is to extend the shelf-life of these oils and the processed foods in which they’re used.
Coconut oil is also contains a significant amount of lauric acid, which is also found in abundance in breast milk, and converts to a compound called monolaurin. Monolaurin has been shown to fight viruses, bacterial infections, funguses, and other microorganisms. Nearly 50% of the fats found in coconut oil are made of this miracle compound – the richest sources found naturally!
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
- Hair: Coconut oil rubbed in the scalp a couple times a week can nourish the scalp and reduce dandruff. Applied to the hair, coconut oil has a deep conditioning effect that strengthens the hair and adds shine.
- Skin: Coconut oil is a great massage oil for the skin and a very effective moisturizer for all skin types. It absorbs into the skin quickly, leaving no oily residue, and helps treat various skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
- Weight loss: The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil help speed up the metabolism because they’re easily digested and converted into energy, making coconut oil a worthy component of a healthy diet.
- Bone health: Coconut oil assists the body in absorbing minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which are very important in fighting osteperosis.
- Heart health: Coconut oil’s high lauric acid content helps prevent heart problems like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Immune support: Coconut oil contains lauric acid, as well as capric acid and caprylic acid, all of which have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
- Thyroid health: Because coconut oil travels directly to the liver, without the need for enzymes in digestion, coconut oil has been shown to help increase thyroid health.
- Fights infection: Again, coconut oil’s antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties make it effective in fighting infections like influenza, hepatitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, candida, athlete’s foot, and even diaper rash.
- Diabetes: Coconut oil helps to control blood sugar and improves insulin secretion, making it excellent at preventing and treating diabetes.
- Dental health: Since coconut oil helps with the absorption of minerals like calcium, it also helps keep teeth healthy and strong, and can also help stop tooth decay.
How to Use Coconut Oil
For external use, such as hair and skin, simply rub a small amount between your palms to warm it up and apply to the areas needed. For internal consumption, the possibilities are almost endless. You can either cook with it by replacing the butter or oils called for in a recipe, add it to smoothies, or add some to your coffee or tea. Coconut oil is the only oil stable enough to withstand the heat of cooking and is therefore the healthiest oil available for this purpose. You can find a wide variety of coconut oils on Healthy Planet’s online store!
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About the Author:
Sarah is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home wife and mother. She is the author of Nature’s Nurture – a blog about everything simple, natural, and homemade – in which she documents the changes she’s making to slowly convert her home into a more natural, sustainable, toxic-free environment for her family. Nature’s Nurture also serves as a resource for others looking for simple ways to take small steps towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle. You can follow along at her blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.