Since February is Heart Health Month, I wanted to delve into the heart health benefits of one of my favorite oils to use in the kitchen: coconut oil. If you’re like me, the terms coconut oil and heart health don’t initially sound like they really go together. Especially considering the past few decades which included medical professional after medical professional vilifying coconut oil and its saturated fat content. But as we’ve seen in my last post about coconut oil, not all saturated fat is created equal; and the saturated fat content in coconut oil is naturally occurring, not manmade like most other vegetable oils.
The bad rap that coconut oil has received over the years (and still does in most medical circles) is most likely due to the type of coconut oil that was used in research to support claims that it’s bad for our health. Most studies that have been conducted on the saturated fat content of coconut oil actually used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, as opposed to the naturally occurring and healthier virgin coconut oil. Anything that is hydrogenated (like most all vegetable oils on the market) will create trans fats; and it’s trans fats that are bad for our health and should be avoided at all costs!
How Can Coconut Oil Help the Heart?
Well for one, it’s the high lauric acid content (almost 50%) which helps reduce heart problems like high cholesterol and blood pressure. Although lauric acid is a saturated fatty acid, a study from the Netherlands actually showed that fats rich in lauric acid content can lower bad cholesterol and regulate triglyceride levels.
Another are of research that hasn’t received much press lately is the correlation between chronic bacterial and viral infections and cardiovascular disease. As early as the ’80s, researchers have identified the development of atherosclerosis (inflamed artery walls due to dangerous, fatty build up) in humans infected with bacteria and herpes virus. In the ’90s, researchers even found bacteria in the plaque buildup inside arteries. In one study, rabbits were infected with Chlamydia and their arterial walls had thickened significantly. When given antibiotics, their arteries had shrunk back to normal size.
Although researchers can’t yet make the definite claim that infections cause heart disease (since many other factors can come into play), research does suggest that in some cases, heart disease may be treated with antibiotics. However, since antibiotics are only good against bacteria (and not viruses), their effectiveness is limited. There is one thing, however, that is very effective in treating both bacterial and viral infections (especially those associated with atherosclerosis) – the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil!
The MCFAs in coconut oil are known to kill a long list of disease causing organisms, including those most closely associated with heart disease. So not only does coconut oil have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, its antibacterial and antiviral properties may also help protect us from heart disease and stroke!
How to Use Coconut Oil
Nutritionists recommend about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil per day to achieve the levels of lauric acid present in human breast milk. Whether you decide to use 3 tablespoons or less, there are many ways to incorporate coconut oil into your diet:
- Replace your other cooking oils with coconut oil. Saute, fry, and stir-fry your meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and eggs in it.
- Add it to your coffee, smoothies, tea, etc.
- Use it in baking breads, biscuits, and healthy desserts. Since coconut oil is solid at cooler temperatures, it can also be used in place of butter in many recipes.
Healthy Planet has a great sale for the month of February! Pick up a jar of Coco Natura virgin coconut oil for over 20% off until March 6th!
Coconut Oil Increases Cholesterol, Yet is Still Healthy for Your Heart
What You Need To Know About Coconut Oil
Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat Is Good For You
Coconut oil: Heart-stopper or healthy favorite?
Coconut Oil and Heart Disease
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.