Conventional thought used to consider fats like coconut oil to be unhealthy and contribute to heart disease. We now know that this isn’t true. In fact, coconut oil is actually a heart-healthy food that can keep your body running smoother in a few different ways.
By – Pina LoGiudice ND
What are the health benefits of coconut oil?
Studies have show that intake of coconut can help our bodies mount resistance to both viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. Even more, it also can help to fight off yeast, fungus and candida.
Coconut can also positively affect our hormones for thyroid and blood-sugar control. People who take coconut oil also tend to have improvements in how they handle blood sugar since coconut can help improve insulin use within the body. Coconut oil can boost thyroid function helping to increase metabolism, energy and endurance. It increases digestion and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Can coconut reduce cholesterol?
Coconut oil has a saturated fat called lauric acid, a type of MCT. It has been shown that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function. When the thyroid does not function optimally, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol.
Coconut oil acts as a natural antibiotic and antioxidant
Per LifeHack.org, Lauric acid, the MCT present in coconut oil, has antimicrobial activity against bacteria, many fungi, and viruses. Lauric acid found in coconut has proven to kill the bacteria that causes staphylococcus aureus (responsible for many skin infections and bloodstream infections) and the yeast Candida Albicans (a common yeast). Because of this many commercial products use lauric acid as an antimicrobial agent.
A recent study published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013, conducted at the University of Kerala, India, showed that a diet enriched with virgin coconut oil is beneficial in reducing oxidative stress (which causes cell damage and is responsible for a wide variety of disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer) and that it is a powerful antioxidant.
Coconut oil combats brain disease
Coconut oil has therapeutic effects in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is supported by several studies. One study stated that consumption of MCTs led to immediate improvement in patients with milder forms of the disease. The fatty acids found in coconut oil are being intensively studied as potential therapeutic agents in Alzheimer’s disease.
Besides Alzheimer’s disease, another important therapeutic application of coconut oil is the treatment of childhood epilepsy. The ketogenic diet (diet high in ketone bodies) is a high-fat, adequate protein, low carbohydrate diet that has been used for the treatment of intractable childhood epilepsy since the 1920s. In 2008, The Lancet, Neurology published that there was a 75% decrease in seizures. The MCTs found in coconut increase the concentration of ketone bodies, which has helped to reduce seizures.
How does coconut help keep weight balanced?
Coconut fats have special fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It has been shown that breaking down these types of healthy fats in the liver leads to efficient burning of energy. One 2009 study found that women who consumed 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.
Is it true coconut can help with aging?
The oils found in the coconut have a positive antioxidant action in the body. This means they help our body stop the damage to other healthy fats and tissues in our body. Oxidation is considered a major contributor to cardiovascular problems and skin aging. Coconut oil can actually help our bodies reduce the need for antioxidant intake.
Is it good for my skin and hair?
We tell our patients that from the time of infancy through the senior years, coconut oil is a wonderful moisturizer for skin and hair. It has good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is very protective. If you are using on the skin regularly, it is best to try to find an organic coconut oil, to reduce the absorption of toxins and pesticides through your skin.
We even recommend new parents massage infants with coconut oil after a bath. One 2005 study of 120 babies showed that a nice massage is safe and has health benefits.
How can I use coconut oil?
Coconut oil works in both baked goods like zucchini and banana bread and with vegetables. It is especially tasteful when paired with bitter greens like kale. You can use it as part of the onion and garlic sauté, where it offers a surprisingly different and pleasant full-bodied taste. It is also a wonderful addition to oatmeal to make it even creamier, while staying healthy.
Coconut oil can withstand the heat – making it a better cooking option.