coconut_oilCoconut oil contains high amounts of lauric acid, which has been shown to exert anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects.

Interest in coconut oil has rapidly grown after being added to the list of superfoods, joining the more renowned quinoa, chia seeds and kale. These foods were already present on the menus of many health conscious people before being labeled as “super,” but now there seems to be an obsession with them.

It’s always great when people are interested in eating healthier and incorporating more nourishing foods into their diets, but before adopting the latest trend or adding a new food to your diet, it’s worth becoming familiar with the nutritional value of that specific food and its potential health effects, good and bad.

IF IT’S HIGH IN SATURATED FATS, HOW CAN IT BE HEALTHY?

Some dietitians hold back when recommending to replace olive oil or butter with coconut oil because it contains 90% saturated fats. If you’re familiar with the general guidelines for healthy eating, you probably know that saturated fats are traditionally considered unhealthy.

Coconut oil does contain a lot of saturated fats, but the interesting fact is that these fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), and theory says these fatty acids are beneficial. According to existing studies, MCTs, like lauric acid, which is found in large amounts in coconut oil, possess anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties and are easier to digest than other fats.

Lauric acid, in particular, has the ability to improve the levels of HDL and can be used very effectively for energy production. Unlike long-chain saturated fatty acids, like those found in junk food, MCTs are metabolized differently; they go directly to the liver from the digestive tract and the body quickly turns them into energy or uses them to produce ketone bodies, which have been shown to have therapeutic effects in people with Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

PROVEN BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL WEIGHT LOSS: Studies have shown that coconut oil can help in weight loss, as it contains fewer calories than other fats and increases energy expenditure by about 5%. Moreover, the same ketone bodies that help Alzheimer’s and epilepsy patients have been shown to exert an appetite-reducing effect, so by simply adding coconut oil to your diet you can control your cravings and hunger in a more efficient manner (McClernon, Yancy, Eberstein, 2007).

INFECTIONS: When the body digests the fatty acids in coconut oil, a substance called monolaurin is produced, and both lauric acid and monolaurin have been shown to exert anti-bacterial effects. This makes coconut oil a powerful ally against bacterial and viral infections, and a trustful solution for people struggling with yeast infections.

SEIZURES: The ketone bodies produced in the liver when coconut oil is metabolized have been proven to reduce the rate of seizures in children affected by epilepsy.

SKIN AND HAIR: Some studies suggest that this superfood can be used not only internally but externally as well, being able to improve the moisture and lipid content of skin. Also, it has been shown that coconut oil can protect the hair against sun damage and can block about 20% of UV rays, acting as a natural sunscreen. Given that it is skin-friendly and can kill bacteria and pathogens found on the skin’s surface, coconut oil can also be used for cleansing and reducing the risk of acne outbreaks.

With so many studies supporting the use of coconut oil, it’s no wonder that this superfood has been embraced so enthusiastically; however, there aren’t enough studies on the long-term effects of coconut oil, so before stocking up and eating it by the spoonful, keep in mind that even if it is a superfood, it is still an oil and should be consumed in limited amounts, just as with olive oil, canola oil and with butter.

By Andreea Macoveiciuc

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