Coconut Oil. The debate goes on about whether or not it is actually good for you. Some say that it raises cholesterol and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease while others claim it is a gift from God that can decrease the size of our waistlines, help treat thyroid issues, burn fat… and the list goes on and on. So are the amazing benefits of coconut oil just a hoax? I dug into some research to answer this very question.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats to seven percent or less of your total daily calories. They suggest these guidelines because saturated fats, in general, are associated with increased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as “bad” cholesterol, along with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Coconut oil has been thrown into the pot of saturated fatty acids that are known to cause adverse health issues, but what people have failed to recognize is the difference between the saturated fats in coconut oil compared to other common saturated fats.
Coconut oil is unique because it is primarily made up of medium-chain fatty acids, or MCFAs, whereas most oils consist of long-chain fatty acids, or LCFAs. These MCFAs are metabolized very differently inside of our bodies compared to the LCFAs. One researcher at Columbia University claimed, “MCFAs are transported directly from the intestinal tract to the liver, where they’re likely to be directly burned off as fuel and raise the metabolic rate slightly.”
Another study published in The Journal of Nutrition elaborated on how our bodies process MCFAs. It was discovered that energy expenditure peaked at 16% above baseline after MCFA consumption compared with 5% for corn oil, which contains primarily LCFAs. Most of the studies that have examined the increased energy expenditure after consuming MCFAs have yielded the same result, however it is important to note that almost all of the studies were only one day to a few days long. “Whether effects of MCFA on energy expenditure are long lasting and result in actual measurable and sustainable changes in body composition of humans remain to be established.” That being said, coconut oil is a great replacement for many vegetable oils and unhealthy trans fats and may temporarily increase energy expenditure in our bodies, but until more longer duration trials are performed I wouldn’t bank on it to be your new “magic diet pill.”
One thing coconut oil has been confirmed to have is lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin, a compound also found in breast milk that strengthens a baby’s immunity. Monolaurin has also been shown to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. One study said, “Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth!”
Coconut oil has also proved to be amazing for topical use. I wash my face with the oil every night, use it as a moisturizer and as a hair mask to prevent damage from split ends and dryness. Don’t shy away from using the oil on your face because you are afraid of the oil making your skin more oily and clogging your pores. Washing your face with oil actually has the opposite affect. Oil is produced on our skin when our skin feels dry and deprived. Therefore, when we wash our face with oil we are providing the skin with the oil that it needs so it doesn’t feel the need to produce excess oil.
My favorite brand of coconut oil is from tropical traditions. And even though it might not be your next weight loss genie I highly recommend making coconut oil a part of your daily routine. I have a jar in the kitchen and one in the bathroom! I also love Tropical Traditions coconut cream! It is a delicacy in my oatmeal, mixed into desserts, as a frosting and on top of fruit. By clicking on one of the links above you can easily order both the coconut oil and coconut cream!
I would recommend consuming around 2 Tblsp of the oil through cooking, in your smoothies or in your coffee/tea every day.
Have you used coconut products and seen a positive affect on your health internally or externally? I would love to hear about your experiences.