A friend of mine asked me if I would post some information about the virtues of coconut oil. She said she was only familiar with the “negative” aspects of coconut oil. I haven’t had a chance to ask her what the “negative” aspects are so I’m just going to go with what has historically been believed about coconut oil.
First, Coconut Oil is a saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil is one of the most highly saturated fats found on the planet. That alone might be enough to frighten people off. We have all been living with a fear of saturated fats and a belief that they are a cause of high cholesterol and therefore cardiovascular disease and eventually an early death. Yipes. That does sound scary.
Unfortunately, I think I have to cover a little information about saturated fats before I can tell you how great Coconut Oil is. If you believe saturated fats are the big evil you will never go near coconut oil and that is just plain sad.
O.k, so the saturated fats discussion could go on for pages and pages. There are smarter people than me that have already written pages and pages debunking the evils of saturated fats. I’ll try and bullet some highlights and then point you to the longer posts. No reason for me to repeat what has already been written.
I’ll start with this short youtube video by FatHead:
- Many cultures that have very high saturated fat intake have superior cardiovascular health: The Tokelau (50% of their diet is saturated fat), The Masai (their diet is made up of meat, blood and milk) and The Inuit (high-blubber intake). Here is more information about the Tokelau, the Masai and the Inuit.
- The Seven Countries Study by Ansel Keys that started the belief that Saturated Fats are “The Big Evil” was bad science. Keys omitted data that didn’t support his hypothesis that eating fat causes heart disease. You can see a graph of the original evidence over at Mark’s Daily Apple.
- It’s been said that Saturated Fat increases triglycerides which many consider a sign of poor health. Saturated Fats DON’T increase triglycerides, carbohydrates do. Personal note: my last blood test showed my triglycerides at 51. This is after 6 months of high saturated fat intake. That is super low. Oh, and my HDL was close to 100. Unfortunately I don’t have a previous blood sample to compare that to.
More information about saturated fats can be found at Mark’s Daily Apple (same link as above), in Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories and over at Chris Kresser’s blog post “I have high cholesteral, and I don’t care”. There is a heck of a lot more information but this is a good start.
O.k. so, if we go with the belief that saturated fats aren’t bad for you (excess carbohydrates and sugars are – that’s for another day) then we can start talking about why coconut oil is so GOOD for you. Yay!
Coconut oil is classified as a Medium-Chain Fatty Acid or Medium-Chain triglyceride (6-12 carbons). Most people eating a western diet don’t eat very many medium-chain fatty acids. Almost 100% of the fats in our diet are long-chain fatty acids. This is important because the physiological effects of medium-chain fatty acids is very different than the physiological effects of long-chain fatty acids. This difference is what gives coconut oil it’s healing properties.
Coconut oil is good for you:
- Coconut oil IS HEART HEALTHY: it doesn’t promote platelet stickiness and does not collect in the arteries. It actually protects the arteries from atherosclerosis and heart disease. (Fife 2004).
- It’s easily digested and immediately used to nourish the body.
- Coconut oil puts little strain on the digestive system and coverts quickly to energy
- Not stored as body fat
- Coconut oil (and other medium-chain fatty acids) produce energy whereas other dietary fat produces body fat.
- Coconut oil improves vitamin and mineral absorption
- Coconut oil is used medically for people with digestive disorders
- Coconut oil helps increase your metabolism. Many athletes use it to enhance their performance.
- Coconut oil helps protect us from illness and speeds healing.
- Lauric Acid makes up about 50% of the fatty acids in coconut. Lauric acid converts to Monolaurin in the body. This is a very powerful germ fighter. Medium-chain fats in coconut oil are antimicrobial.
- Coconut oil helps protect the gut and liver against pathogens (Jaminet & Jaminet 2010, p. 87).
- Coconut Oil is better than Niacin for Cardioprotection. Coconut oil has the same benefits of niacin without flushing and liver toxicity (Jaminet & Jaminet 2010, p. 90).
- Coconut oil has gained a reputation as being a low-calorie fat.
- Coconut oil is being recommended as a way to prevent and treat obesity.
Hopefully that helped explain why coconut oil is a good addition to your diet. Keep in mind, when I talk about coconut oil I am talking about natural, organic coconut oil. NOT hydrogenated coconut oil (found in cake frosting for example). That stuff is BAD – transfats – BAD.
More information about the benefits of coconut oil:
The Nourishing Gourment : long list of the health benefits of coconut oil
Coconutoil.com : lots of research on coconut oil
Fife, Bruce & Kabara, Joh J. 2004. The Coconut Oil Miracle. 4th edition. Avery Trade
Jaminet, Paul & Jaminet, Shou-Ching. 2010. Perfect Health Diet. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Yin Yang Press.
Eat well, Feel Great!
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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