It’s strange to think that a type of food can be ‘in fashion’ or otherwise, but this is actually very true DIY health hacks are all the rage at the moment, as is the general objective of eating naturally and eating healthily. It seems that the web is full of advice telling us to eat kale, eat quinoa and eat avocado. Which makes sense since these foods are natural, they’re packed with nutrition and they tick all those paleo/low carb boxes. Who wouldn't want to get more of that in their life?
But perhaps there is no food so full of hype as coconut and in particular, coconut oil.
Coconut is the ultimate superfood and is absolutely packed with goodness. It is low-carb and completely natural and it has a plethora of health benefits. What’s more, is that coconut oil has a ton of benefits that go beyond just health benefits. Coconut oil is being used as everything from shaving cream, to hair gel, to moisturizer!
But what are the benefits of coconut oilreally? What makes it so special? And is it deserving of all the hype?
While there are many benefits of coconut oil, let’s start by looking at the ‘big one’. That is that coconut oil contains a specific type of fat called MCT – medium chained triglycerides.
Once upon a time, everyone was telling us that fat was bad for us. Fat was the big scapegoat for obesity, heart problems and just about everything else. But like many scapegoats, it would later transpire that fat was not deserving of its bad reputation. In fact, it turned out that fat was very important for our health. Healthy natural fats actually lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Not only that, but they also improve our absorption of nutrients and support healthy brain function.
The fats found in coconut oil do all of that but they also go even further. That’s because MCT oil affects the body in a different way and unlike other types of fat do not lead to lipogenesis (the storage of body fat). Instead, coconut oil heads straight to the liver to encourage the production of ketones.
Now this has a number of benefits. For starters, it means that you don’t get as much of a caloric hit from cocunut oil, making it very helpful as a diet aid. At the same time though, you will also get a surge in energy from the ketones that won’t lead to fat storage.
What are ketones? Essentially, they’re the body’s ‘back up’ source of fuel. That means that when you get low on glucose, the body can use ketones instead. But far from being a ‘second best’ option, ketones are actually preferred in the brain for certain functions.
This also makes coconut oil a very good choice for those suffering with fatty liver disease, as well as for those with insulin sensitivity or diabetes – as it is providing you with energy without spiking glucose (blood sugar) levels. Better yet, this can actually help to increase the rate at which you burn calories. Seeing as coconut oil also reduces hunger, this makes it highly effective at combating weight gain!
It also means that coconut oil is very good for enhancing brain function, which is why coconut oil actually finds its way into a range of different products designed to increase productivity and focus – such as ‘Brain Octane’.
If you look at research that considers the diets of different populations, then an impressive truth comes to light: the cultures that eat the most coconut oil are also generally the most healthy and tend to suffer with the lowest incidences of heart disease and a range of other diseases. These include populations such as the Kitavans and the Tokeluans of the South Pacific. The latter get more than 60% of their calories from coconuts and they have fantastic health with very low rates of heart disease!
Coconut oil also contains a lot of lauric acid. This type of acid forms a substance called monolaurin when ingested, which in turn is known to be effective at killing harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. In one study, it was found that coconut oil could kill the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, which is responsible for many of the infections picked up in hospitals.
And yes, those people who promote the idea of rubbing their bodies in coconut oil are also onto something. Coconut oil benefits go far beyond nutrition as coconut oil has been shown to work as an effective moisturizer that can boost the healthy fats found on the skin that make up the ‘skin barrier’. This can in turn help to combat infection as well as sealing in the natural moisture of the skin to improve general skin health.
Coconut oil is also used by some as a mouthwash (look up ‘oil pulling’). While this is a lengthy process that won’t be worth it for many readers, it is nevertheless an effective way to kill off bacteria.
Coconut oil is even able to protect us from the sun and is shown to block around 20% of the sun’s UV rays.
There are countless benefits and uses of coconut oil then, making it a very useful addition to your cupboard. If you want an easy way to get more of it in your diet, then consider using it instead of other fats when cooking.
Note as well though that coconut oil works best when consumed in its natural state rather than as pure MCT oil which loses many of the additional nutritional benefits. Be wary as well of ‘Bulletproof coffees’ which suggest replacing your morning breakfast with MCT oil, coffee and butter. This notion sounds effective and even appealing on paper and yet it just leaves you sick, hungry and full of calories (and little nutrition) on paper.