Coconut oil has gotten a bad rep over the years because it has a high amount of saturated fat, and, if you know anything about fats, you know that saturated fats are not good for you, especially if you have high cholesterol or heart disease. Unfortunately, this reputation is completely unfair since REAL coconut oil (unprocessed and organic) is extremely healthy, can actually lower cholesterol, and even helps you lose weight.
What makes coconut oil so great? Get ready for a little science, and try not to fall asleep, this is actually interesting! Whether unsaturated (think olive oil) or saturated (butter, animal fats), the majority of fats and oils in our diet are composed of long chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is a different type of saturated fatty acid – it has mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and the effects of MCFA are different from the long chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in other foods. In fact, the saturated and unsaturated fat in milk, eggs, meat and even in plants and most vegetable oils are made of LCFA. This is important because our bodies respond and metabolize each fatty acid differently. When it comes to MCFA, the liver and gall bladder do not need to digest and emulsify it; this results in instant energy, increased metabolic rate and subsequently more heat production as well as increased circulation. By the way, anyone with an impaired fat digestion or a removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil since it’s easily digested. There are only few dietary sources of MCFA, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.
Coconut oil has many health benefits which are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them. Without lauric acid, monolaurin cannot be produced by the body. Interestingly enough, breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which must explain the lesser incidents of infections with breast-fed infants. Regular consumption of coconut oil actually boosts immunity and reduces incidences of sickness.
Medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can also be helpful for weight loss by its ability to speed up metabolism faster than long-chain fatty acids because they are easily digested and converted into energy. In fact, a study reported medium-chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids. If that isn’t enough to make you eat spoonfuls of coconut oil right out of the container , I don’t know what is.
So how much do you need to consume for all these awesome health benefits? Well, that depends who you ask. The common theory is 1 tablespoon, 3 times a day, but I usually just suggest to incorporate it into your cooking – did I mention you can stir-fry and bake with coconut oil with fantastic results and without destroying its health benefits like some other oils? – well, now I just did.
Hmmm, all of this talk about coconut has given me a craving for coconut ice cream by So Delicious, so I’m gonna head to my freezer for this high-fiber, MCFA-rich dessert!