Coconut Oil – Rich in Beneficial Medium-Chain Fats         More Articles

Reprinted from "Taste for Life" magazine

You thought it was an ingredient in suntan lotion, or worse, a food too dangerous to swallow. After all, coconut oil is a saturated fat, “guaranteed” to raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. That belief (now known to be mistaken) led to the replacement of coconut oil with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, often hydrogenated into equally dangerous fats, in America’s food supply.

Trouble is, these hydrogenated oils (or trans fats) caused health problems that coconut oil never did, so now coconut oil is making a comeback. “It doesn’t cause heart disease,” says Bruce Fife, CN, ND, author of Coconut Cures and other popular titles. “It actually helps prevent atherosclerosis, improves cholesterol balance, reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack, helps prevent persistent low-grade infections often associated with heart disease, including bacterial infections of the mouth and gums, and protects against free-radical injury,” he explains.

Tropical Benefits
According to its advocates, coconut oil does far more than that. It may help people to:
  • lose weight and feel more energetic since it contains fewer calories than other fats

  • lower the risk of cancer and other degenerative conditions

  • improve digestion and nutrient absorption

  • protect against arthritis

  • relieve symptoms of digestive disorders like colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers
    prevent and treat yeast and funal infections, including thrush and candidiasis

  • feed the brain, keeping the mind, as well as the body, youthful and resilient

  • prevent osteoporosis

  • balance the body’s metabolism, promoting normal thyroid function and helping to prevent or control diabetes

  • rejuvenate the skin, protecting against skin cancer, age spots, acne, and other blemishes.

In addition, coconut oil contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agents. HIV/AIDS researchers consider coconut oil a promising therapy because it kills the human immunodeficiency virus. Applied topically, coconut oil helps disinfect cuts and promote wound healing. It conditions the hair, may reduce wrinkles, and helps to clear up psoriasis, eczema, dandruff, precancerous lesions, athlete’s foot, diaper rash, ringworm, and other fungal infections.

Healthy Fat
Most of these benefits come from medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil, also known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Because these fats are efficiently metabolized to provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, they’re less likely to be converted into body fat or cholesterol the way other fats are. This may explain how coconut oil can enhance athletic performance and aid in weight loss.

“The energy boost you get from coconut oil is not like the kick you get from caffeine,” says Dr. Fife. “It gently elevates the metabolism, provides a higher level of energy and vitality, protects you from illness, and speeds healing.”

Coconut oil’s fatty acids may also help block the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which contributes to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In this respect, coconut oil resembles saw palmetto, a popular herbal treatment for BPH.

The Whole Nut
All unsweetened organic coconut products offer health benefits, including fresh and dried coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flour, and coconut water. All of these products are beginning to appear in natural food stores.

Grown in tropical parts of the world, coconut oil is often made from dried coconut meat, which is called copra. For culinary use, however, look for organic coconut oils that are pressed using traditional methods or mechanically produced from fresh coconut meat.

Coconut oil is solid white at temperatures below 75 degrees F and becomes a clear liquid at temperatures above 76 degrees F. to melt solidified oil, place its container in warm water. Coconut oil is very stable and keeps for months without refrigeration.

Recommended usage, according to Mary G. Enig, PhD, and other experts, is about 3-1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day for adults. This is the same amount found in 7 ounces of fresh coconut meat (about half a coconut), 2-3/4 cups dried and shredded coconut, or 10 ounces (2-1/4 cups) coconut milk.

Use coconut to vary your fruit intake, and substitute coconut oil for saturated and trans fats in your diet. It may be wise to start with small quantities, such as 1 teaspoon per day, and increase your intake gradually: Too much too soon may result in diarrhea or flu-like symptoms including fatigue, headache, or nausea in some individuals.

“That’s because the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil kill disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites,” explains Dr. Fife. “It takes time for the body to rid itself of dead organisms and other byproducts of detoxification. Once you’re used to coconut oil, you can consume 2-4 tablespoons per day, preferably in divided doses, with no adverse effects.”

Selected sources

“The Coconut Miracle” By Bruce Fife
“Coconut oil: You want a Food Loaded with Real Health Benefits? You want Coconut Oil” by ray Peat, PhD
“Endogenous Fat Oxidation during Medium-Chain versus Long-Chain Triglyceride Feeding in Healhty women” by A. A. Papamandjaris
“Health and Nutritional Benefits from Coconut Oil: An Important Funtional Food for the 21st Century” by Mary G. Enig PhD
“How a PR Campaign Led to Unhealthy Diets” by Beatrice Trum Hunter
“The End of the Line for Trans Fats,” UC Berkeley Wellness Letter


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