Coconut oil has been steadily gaining popularity over the last number of years, and with good reason. It contains many health benefits from boosting the immune system, increasing mineral absorption, anti-aging and most interesting stimulating the metabolism aiding weight loss! Sounds good doesn’t it. As it becomes more popular with athletes and celebrities alike you can expect to hear a lot more about the amazing health benefits of coconut oil!
A Healthy Fat That Helps You Burn Fat!
While it’s true that over 90% of coconut oil’s fatty acids are saturated fat they are not the same as the saturated fat found in animal products and actually the main reason it’s so healthy. The saturated fats in coconut oil come from medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) which the body does not readily store as fat. Instead the body prefers to use MCT as a source of fuel, meaning you will burn them for energy rather than store them as fat or have them attach to the walls of your arteries. MCT are shorter than the long-chain-triglycerides (LCT) found in other fats and oils and require less work to breakdown making a quick and efficient energy source.
The good news doesn’t stop there. The rapid digestion of MCT within the body has a thermogenic, or calorie burning, effect which can actually help you to burn more calories besides the ones you get from the coconut oil it’s self speeding up your metabolism! Of course you still need to be eating healthy and exercising regularly to get the benefits.
What About Cholesterol?
Once again, unlike saturated fat from meat, the saturated fat in coconut oil actually raises levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. Coconut oil’s effects on health can be seen in the people of the Philippines and Asia where it has been the main source of dietary fat for thousands of years while the people remain slim with obesity and heart disease being rare. So anyone who dismisses coconut oil because of it’s saturated fat content clearly hasn’t done their research.
Coconut oil has a natural antibiotic effect in the body killing the bad bacteria without damaging the good bacteria, helping to maintain a healthy gut. A healthy gut is directly linked to the condition of overall health. If that wasn’t reason enough to start using coconut oil, it also helps to boost the immune system due to it’s high concentration of lauric acid and caprylic acid, fatty acids which possess antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties so potent that they are being studied in medical trials for their potential to treat HIV/AIDS. Coconut oil also increases the absorption of minerals calcium (strong bones) and magnesium (nerve function and youthful skin) as well as amino acids (for lean muscle) from the foods we consume.
How To Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used in place of any other fats or vegetable oils from an alternative to butter or for cooking and baking. It has a very mild taste and being solid at room temperature it has the same texture and consistency as butter. By making this simple switch you can actually aid weight loss thanks to the MTC.
When it comes to cooking, coconut oil is quite possibly the best option as it has a high smoke point (the heat it can tolerate before becoming damaged) unlike unsaturated vegetable oils which become unhealthy and damaged when exposed to high heats (think sunflower oil or rapeseed oil). While there are other vegetable oils such as extra virgin olive oil which are very healthy and full of heart and skin healthy antioxidants they are best kept for salads or added to foods after they have been cooked as they too can become damaged at high heats.
You can even use coconut oil topically on dry skin or to help soothe sun burnt skin while speeding up the healing process. It can also help to improve the condition of the hair by minimising protein loss (which leaves hair dry and brittle) and helps to soothe dry scalp conditions such as dandruff.
While coconut oil undoubtedly offers many health benefits it’s important to note that it is a fat and all fats, good or bad are high in calories. A tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 120 calories. You can still enjoy all of the benefits of healthy fats as long as you use in moderation and factor the calories into your total calorie intake.
Buying Coconut Oil
When buying coconut oil health food shops are your best bet. Look for virgin and if possible organic coconut oil but most importantly make sure the brand you choose says unbleached, undeodorised, unfiltered and chemical free. I like the Viridian and Biona brands as they tick all the boxes and aren’t too expensive.
Expect to hear a lot more about coconut oil in the future as it’s many health benefits continue to be discovered, and especially if you’re talking to me for more than five minutes
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