The health benefits of coconut oil have not always been fully appreciated because of the demonization of saturated fats over the last half century, and their link with heart disease. However, opinions in the health community are beginning to change, as more recent studies are showing that there is little evidence to support that link, and coconut oil is proving to be a star in terms of the health benefits it brings.
The fact that coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat means that it is great for cooking with, as it doesn’t easily break down and become oxidised at high temperatures (which is when damaging free radicals are formed).
Source of Energy
Because coconut oil is made up largely of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), it can provide a quick source of energy. These MCFAs are sent straight to the liver for easy digestion, where they can be used immediately for energy, or turned into ketone bodies.
Increase Metabolism and Promote Weight Loss
Through this instant source of energy, and the fact that coconut oil is a thermogenic food (it increases energy expenditure), coconut oil can help increase the metabolism and promote weight loss. Several studies have shown that MCFAs have a greater satiating effect than the same amount of other fats in the diet, therefore reducing appetite and calorie intake – another bonus for weight loss!
Lower Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
The ketone bodies that are made once coconut oil is taken to the liver can provide energy for the brain when glucose is not available. Ketogenic diets have been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, making it a healthy choice for diabetic patients. A number of studies have also shown that ketogenic diets are effective in controlling seizures in epileptic patients.
Antimicrobial, Antibacterial and Antiviral Properties
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is also found in human breast milk. Once digested, lauric acid forms monolaurin. Monolaurin is well known for its powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties, inhibiting the growth of and killing harmful pathogens in the body. Because of this, coconut oil and other food rich in lauric acid have been used to treat viral infections such as colds, flu and fevers. It has also been shown to be effective in treating other viral infections such as herpes simplex, and can kill bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureas.
Treat Fungal Infections
It also contains high levels of caprylic acid, which has highly effective anti-fungal properties, and is often used to treat fungal infections such as candida albicans (thrush).
Improve Oral Health
Coconut oil can also improve oral health, through ‘oil pulling’, which is the practice of swishing the mouth with coconut oil (like a mouthwash) every day. The basic premise is that the oils bind to plaque and bacteria on teeth and in the mouth, effectively reducing tooth decay and gum disease without damaging tooth enamel or gums. Coconut oil can also be used as an ingredient in home-made toothpaste!
Benefits for Skin and Hair
This wonder oil can also have amazing benefits for skin and hair. Add some baking soda and essential oils to coconut oil and you have an effective, non-irritating, aluminium-free deodorant! Coconut oil can also be used on its own as a skin moisturiser, or mixed with ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter and beeswax to make luxurious body lotions. Some hair types really benefit form a boost of coconut oil, applied topically, too, leading to healthier, shinier hair. The lauric acid content can also prevent hair loss in some people.
All in all, there are many benefits to be gained from introducing coconut oil into your diet and beauty regime, with little (if any) negatives – so if you haven’t already, get some high quality organic, unrefined coconut oil and enjoy!