Is Coconut Oil Good for You? Discovering Coconut Oil Health Benefits

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Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Why is coconut oil good for you? It supports healthy hair and skin, helps to maintain cholesterol levels, promotes weight loss, enhances immunity, and prevents high blood pressure, as well as chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. It is also a source of antioxidants and a powerful agent against harmful bacteria and viruses. It is beneficial for the liver, kidney, and for bone health. Coconut oil is truly an underestimated nutritional oil.

Many of the health benefits of coconut oil are due to its fatty acid composition. It is rich in lauric acid, as well as capric and caprylic acid. Lauric acid, which constitutes half of coconut’s saturated fatty acid composition, is not found in other vegetable oils. Coconut oil is the number one source of lauric acid, followed by mother’s milk, and then milk fat, which has a fraction of the amount that coconut oil has. In terms of immune system health and proper functioning, lauric acid is the most important fatty acid. It protects infants from viral and bacterial infections through mothers milk. In studies, lauric acid has successfully enhanced the immunity of patients with HIV infection, fibromyalgia, lupus, as well as chronic bronchitis, the flu, and pneumonia, proving that coconut oil is a strong antibacterial agent.

This nutritional oil is one of the most easily digested fats. Made up primarily of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids, coconut oil is quickly converted into energy unlike long chain fatty acids. The liver benefits from the direct conversion of medium chain fatty acids. By taking part of the strain off of this major organ, coconut oil promotes liver health.

Coconut oil aids the digestive system by protecting the body from harmful bacteria. It also assists in the absorption of fat soluble nutrients, such as calcium.

Common Misconceptions of Coconut Oil

Many people believe that coconut oil is unhealthy; that is raises cholesterol levels, contributes to heart disease and obesity. Few people realize that coconut oil is good for you. This is mostly due to studies done decades ago in which hydrogenated coconut oil proved to have adverse effects on health, primarily heart health.

Hydrogenated coconut oil is bad for you, so is any hydrogenated or processed oil. Virgin coconut oil on the other hand is good for you; it is a misrepresented nutritional oil. Research has shown that coconut oil actually has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels. Just like other vegetable oils, coconut oil does not increase harmful LDL’s (low density phospholipids). It in fact is beneficial for the heart, preventing high blood pressure and plaque build up in the arteries because of its slippery nature and quick conversion into energy. People who have consumed high amounts of coconut oil for generations, such as Polynesian Islanders, have had extremely low rates of heart disease.

Coconut oil is an ideal fat source for athletes, and people who are overweight. This is because of its chemical nature. Being primarily composed of medium chain fatty acids, coconut oil actually increases metabolism. It is so quickly converted into energy that it doesn’t become a stored fat, unlike long chain saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids are actually an integral part of total health. They are burned for energy, and used in cell membranes. Saturated fat is necessary for the health of mitochondria membranes. Although many saturated fats are unhealthy in excess, particularly those with long chain fatty acids, coconut oil does not fall into this category of fats.

Cooking with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is ideal for cooking. It has a smooth, sweet taste that will enhance the flavor of food. Unlike other nutritional oils which become rancid easily, it is highly resistant to oxidation. It can be substituted for butter in baked goods. Use 3/4 cup of coconut oil for every one cup of butter. It is delicious in savory dishes such as curried lentils and sauteed carrots. Be sure to always purchase virgin coconut oil.

Enjoy this healthy tropical oil as you would other nutritional whole foods - in moderation. It is beneficial and unique. Coconut oil undoubtedly deserves its place in the healthy diet.

Resources

Coconut Connections

Organic Facts

Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone”. 11th Edition (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

This post is part of the series: The Controversy over Tropical Oils

Tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil, have been given a bad reputation as unhealthy fats. Although they are high in saturated fatty acids, these tropical oils have many health benefits, and are worth adding to a healthy diet as long as they remain in their natural form.

  1. The Truth about Tropical Oils
  2. Is Coconut Oil Good for You? Coconut Oil Health Benefits
  3. Is Palm Oil Good for You?