Coconut oil has earned a bad reputation for its high saturated fat content, but it still seems to be gaining in popularity around the world.
Instead of only being found in health food stores or specialty stores, coconut oil can now be found at most local grocery stores.
How can coconut oil still be popular if it is loaded in harmful saturated fats? Well, the answer to that question is found in what type of saturated fats are in coconut oil!
Nutritional Breakdown of Coconut Oil
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories, 0 grams of protein, 13.6 grams of fat (11.8 grams are saturated and 0.2 are polyunsaturated) and 0 grams of carbohydrates.
It also provides little to no vitamins and minerals. This means that coconut oil is comprised of 100% fat. However, the structure of fat found in coconut oil differs from traditional saturated fat found in animal products.
While animal products are composed primarily of long chain fatty acids, coconut oil is made up of medium chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil contains an unusually high amount of medium chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCT), which are harder for our bodies to convert into stored fat.
This makes medium chain fatty acids easier for the body to burn off than long chain fatty acids.
About half of coconut oil’s saturated fat is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that can help improve the levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). It also contains caprylic acid and capric acid.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Raises HDL levels
While most hydrogenated saturated fats raise bad cholesterol levels, coconut oil has been shown to increase the levels of good cholesterol in the body.
The type of coconut oil however, is critical. Virgin coconut oil contains both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both of which are known to help decrease cholesterol levels.
Virgin coconut oils also increase enzyme production in the body, such as lipoprotein lipase, which can help break down fat. As long as you are using virgin coconut oil, you will be able to reap this heart healthy benefit.
Combats tooth decay
Research has found that coconut oil stops the growth of most strains of s. mutans bacteria, the strain responsible for tooth decay.
This research has led to the growth of a process known as oil pulling, where coconut oil is swished around in the mouth for 20 minutes to rid the mouth of bacteria.
Soothes skin conditions
Coconut oil can do wonders for dry, irritated skin. Many users claim that regular use has helped to improve symptoms of both eczema and psoriasis.
The lauric acid found in coconut oil has also been shown to fight off fungal infections.
Aids weight loss
Virgin coconut oil contains roughly 60 percent medium chain fatty acids, which our bodies use as an energy source instead of storing it as fat. This results in an increase of calorie burning and thus can help to promote weight loss.
Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, an anti-microbial agent that can kill yeast and candida. Research has found that coconut oil was active against species of candida at 100 percent concentration, which is greater than the drug fluconazole.
Coconut oil promotes the growth of healthy probiotics in the digestive tract. The anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties help to control parasites and fungi while aiding in the absorption of essential nutrients.
Uses of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil isn’t just for cooking. Check out all the ways that coconut oil can be used!
Coffee creamer – Adding a spoonful of coconut oil to your coffee can help to give you an energy boost as well as replace dairy creamer. Blend together the coffee, coconut oil and desired sweetener for a rich, creamy coffee drink.
Sports drink replacement – The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil provide the body with quick energy. Instead of relying of sugary processed drinks, try adding coconut oil and chia seeds to water.
Natural makeup remover – Coconut oil can be used to liquefy eye makeup, making it easy to wipe off. Simply rub coconut oil gently over eye lids and wipe off with a warm cloth. Coconut oil will not sting or irritate eyes and will also hydrate the skin around the eyes.
Hydrate your skin – Apply coconut oil liberally all over your body after a shower to help hydrate your skin. As a bonus, coconut oil has natural SPF and can help protect your skin from sun damage.
Oil pulling – Oil pulling is used to detoxify the mouth by killing bad breath, fighting bacteria, curing tooth decay and helping to boost the immune system. Simply swish 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes, then spit the oil into the trash can!
Natural wound salve – Coconut oil can be used just like you would Neosporin. The antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of coconut oil help to keep the wound free of infection and the lauric acid helps to speed healing.
If you are looking for an easy yet tasty way to incorporate coconut oil into your diet, then give these Coconut Fudge Truffles and Goji Berry Granola a try! Both incorporate coconut oil, packing the recipe with an extra superfood punch.
How To Choose
It is important to notice the type of coconut oil you are using, since not all coconut oils are created equal.
Partially hydrogenated coconut oil is just as harmful as other highly processed oils and can wreak havoc on your health.
When looking for coconut oil, look for virgin coconut oil to be listed on the label. This type of coconut oil is extracted from the fruit of fresh coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals.