Coconut oil has been a dietary staple in tropical cultures for centuries and nearly one third of the world’s population relies on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Coconut has a long and respected history among Asian and Pacific populations and is valued both as a food source and for its medicinal properties. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides health benefits beyond its nutritional content.
Coconut oil, once used extensively by the baking industry in the U.S. and Canada, fell out of favor and was considered harmful to the human body because of its high level of saturated fat. Saturated fats were mistakenly linked to trans fats and hydrogenated fats, which do have negative health effects. Coconut oil, with 90% saturated fat, is one of the richest sources of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are easily digested and are readily absorbed and utilized by the body. The majority of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) which must be broken down before they can be absorbed. MCFAs provide a quick source of energy, as no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion. Saturated fats are necessary for cell function and growth and have been linked to weight loss and increased health.
Food scientists have long recognized the nutritional benefits of coconut oil. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTS) from coconut oil are routinely used in hospital IVs and commercial infant formulas. Pure coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid and is one of the two most abundant natural sources of lauric acid along with breast milk. Lauric acid is converted in the body to monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound that exhibits antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties. Monolaurin has been shown to be an effective treatment for candida and for fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot. It also targets bacterial infections and viruses.
In traditional medicine around the world, coconut oil is used to treat a variety of health problems. Modern medicine is beginning to agree. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut oil may provide a wide range of health benefits. Some of these benefits are thought to include:
- Improved cholesterol ratios benefitting heart health. MCT’s provide fuel readily used by the heart and the ketones produced from MCT’s aid in increased oxygen delivery.
- Nutritional source of quick energy.
- Improved digestion of other nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, K, beta carotene and CoQ10, amino acids and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
- Aids in relief of symptoms associated with diabetes, pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease and prostate enlargement.
- Supports liver, kidney and bladder function.
- Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin, moisturizes, and protects against damaging ultraviolet rays.
- Helps promote normal weight by supporting metabolic function, improved insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
- Functions as a protective antioxidant fighting free radical damage.
- Boosts sustained energy and endurance levels enhancing physical and athletic performance.
- Promotes healthy skin, hair, teeth and bones.
- Reduces inflammation, improves digestion and bowel function.
- Supports the immune system with its antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
- Has shown promise in improving some symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Non-toxic with no known harmful side effects in humans and animals.
Some of the many ways to use this versatile oil:
- Cooking. Coconut oil can be used as a replacement for various oils for baking, stir frying, sautéing and just about any other cooking use. It is a very stable oil with a long shelf life that doesn’t break down under high temperatures.
- Beauty Aid. Coconut oil can be rubbed into your hair before showering and is an effective control for dandruff. Quickly absorbed, it can be used as a body lotion that leaves the skin feeling soft, moisturized, and silky. It has wonderful protective properties and helps relieve symptoms of skin problems such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. This oil promotes healing of burns, bruises, bug bites and scrapes and protects against permanent scarring.
- General health and wellness. Consuming 3 – 4 tablespoons a day can boost energy and endurance, aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals, ease digestive problems, improve insulin secretion, stimulate metabolism and promote cardiovascular health.
- Detoxify. Oil pulling, an ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine tradition, is a cleansing technique that involves swishing the oil in the mouth for about 15 minutes each day. This tradition is used to kick start weight loss, whiten teeth, promote dental health, fight periodontal disease and detoxify heavy metals and other pollutants from the body. This practice is thought to help renew appetite and energy, improve memory and promote restful sleep. Oil pulling, with one tablespoon of cold-pressed unrefined oil, should be done on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning and the oil should be spit not swallowed when swishing is complete.