If there were a substance that could reduce inflammation, boost energy, improve thyroid function, aid in nutrient absorption, improve brain function, and tastes delicious, you would probably want to know how to get your hands on some of this amazing substance, right? The substance is something you might already have in your pantry, or if not, you’d certainly be able to find it at your local grocery store. That substance is…coconut oil!
Before diving in to the virtues of coconut oil, it is worth stating what research has been telling us but advertisers, big business, and big pharma don’t want us to know: Fat is good for us. Humans need a full spectrum of healthy fat in their diet to function optimally. This includes polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6), monounsaturated fats (Omega-9), and saturated fats. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. Like its fellow saturated fats (e.g., red palm oil, animal meats, and ghee), coconut oil helps the body to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Coconut oil may seem new to us; however, it has been a primary fuel source throughout the tropical regions of the world.
Let’s get technical for a minute. Stay with me.
Coconut oil comes from the seed of the coconut palm tree. These trees are abundant in the tropics and subtropics. Coconut oil is pressed out of the fruit of the coconut by varying processes. Small-scale extraction is used for organic, specialty oil. Large-scale extraction of the oil is extracted commercially and is refined by deodorizing and removing free fatty acids. The finished product is extremely stable at high temperatures and can be stored for very long periods of time. Coconut oil is solid at temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit and liquid at temperatures above that. Because it is so stable, it is one of the safest fats to use for high-heat cooking. Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (~65%), other saturated fatty acids (~28%), and poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids (~8%) (Enig, 2013).
Anti-inflammatory: coconut oil decreases pro-inflammatory cytokines. This property makes coconut oil effective at combating acute and chronic inflammatory diseases (e.g., depression, anxiety, auto-immune disorders, etc.).
Boosts immunity: coconut oil contains lauric acid which has antimicrobial properties. The body can use lauric acid to defend against viruses and unwanted bacteria living in your body. Easy to digest: coconut oil doesn’t require pancreatic enzymes for digestion as other fats do, and they are immediately ready for energy.
Cognition enhancer: Coconut oil’s primary component is medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil. MCT oil has a host of benefits to include improved cognition and potentially preventing and treating Alzheimer’s (Fernando et al., 2015).
Enhances thyroid function: coconut oil contains lauric acid which supports the thyroid and the adrenal gland. Coconut oil is useful on hypothyroid symptoms like cold hands and feet and improving low body temperature.
Fights candida: Coconut oil contains caprylic acid and has been shown to reduce candida (a common yeast overgrowth).
Improves serum lipid profile: A 1995 study by Howard et al. found that coconut oil improved serum lipids that were known to be risk factors for heart disease.
Weight loss: Medium chain triglycerides found in MCT oil have been shown to burn body fat for energy much better than olive oil (St. Onge & Bosarge, 2008).
In addition to health benefits, coconut oil is also effective at rehydrating dry skin, can be used as deodorant, lip balm, hair moisturizer, and much, much more!
Tips for Use
Introduce coconut oil slowly into your diet. If you eat too much, too quickly, your system may respond to the influx of good fats with GI issues (i.e., you’ll be spending some time in the bathroom). Start with 1 tsp twice per day and increase to 2 TBSP over time.
You can eat coconut oil on its own (straight from the spoon) or mix it in with food. Examples include:
What Kind of Coconut Oil to Buy
There are many different variations of coconut oil available for sale. The best option is organic unrefined coconut oil. This means that the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point and doesn’t have a strong coconut flavor; however, this process uses desiccated/dried coconuts that are often deodorized and bleached rather than fresh coconuts.
Summary and Conclusion
Whether you are trying to heal from an inflammatory condition or prevent disease and optimize your health, coconut oil does live up to the hype. Try adding a little coconut oil to your day. You may be surprised by how great you feel!