Over the past few years, the popularity of coconut oil has increased all over the world. The numerous benefits of this oil have given it a place among some of the top super foods. Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of coconuts that grow in the coconut palm or Cocus nucifera. It forms the main source of cooking oil in tropical regions like Eastern and south eastern Asia. Coconut oil has been extensively used in many fields such as medicine, food, industry, skin care and hair care. Pure virgin non hydrogenated coconut oil is made up of 92% saturated fat. The health benefits of coconut oil are primarily attributed to this unusual combination of fatty acids.
Myths about Coconut oil
Many people think that Coconut oil contains saturated fats which are harmful to human body. Saturated fats are those which freeze at room temperatures. However, it is essential for us to know more about fats and oil before making this assumption. Unlike other saturated fats, coconut oil is unique due to the fact that it has a strange combination of medium chain and short chain fatty acids like lauric acid and myristic acid.
Fats and oil in our diet, most of them, are composed of long chain fatty acids, whether saturated or unsaturated fats. Very few dietary sources of medium chain fatty acids are available. Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides which are not notorious as compared to long chain triglycerides. This is the reason why coconut oil is different from other oils. Coconut oil contains remarkable fat called Lauric Acid. It contains unique group of saturated fats found in mother milk and coconut oil – known as medium chain fatty acids, commercially available as Lauricidin.
Long chain fatty acids, in intestine are packaged into lipoproteins and through blood circulated to various fat storing cells in body. Coconut oil being medium chain fatty acids, digest quickly as they do not need pancreatic digestive enzyme to break down unlike long chain fatty acids. Hence by the time coconut oil enters intestinal tract it is broken down into simple fatty acids, which are absorbed immediately into the portal vein which sends it directly to the liver. In the liver they are used as a source of fuel to produce energy. Coconut oil thus produce energy not body fat and not arterial plaque.
Nutritional value of coconut oil
Coconut oil is an excellent source of energy. 100 grams of the oil can provide you with 884 calories. It is made up of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the ratio 86.5: 5.8: 1.8 respectively. Coconut oil is free of cholesterol and trans fat. A tablespoon of coconut oil contains 12 grams of saturated fat, 14 grams of fat. It does not contain vitamins, minerals, protein, or dietary fiber.
Health benefits of coconut oil
“Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth,” says Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor and the author of the book The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil.
Health benefits of Coconut oil have long and highly respected reputation in many countries throughout the world, not only as a valuable food but also as effective medicine. Coconut oil is used throughout the tropics in many of the traditional medicinal systems due to its health benefits. In India, health benefits of coconut oil have been recognized since ages and it is important ingredient of many ayurvedic formulations, which have been practiced for thousands of years. In Panama, people drink coconut oil to help themselves overcome sickness. They have learned that coconut oil speeds up the process of recovery from sickness. In Jamica, it is considered as health tonic good for heart. In Africa, coconut kernel oil is considered medicine for all types of illness.
Coconut oil comes with a multitude of health benefits. Some of the health benefits of Coconut oil are mentioned below:
Benefits of Coconut oil for hair
Coconut oil has been used by people in many parts of the world for achieving beautiful and healthy hair. This amazing oil can prevent damages to your hair by improving the health of your scalp and cuticles. The fatty acids present in coconut oil protect the roots and hair strands and thus prevents breaking of hair and split ends. The oil also acts as perfect moisturizer, keeping your hair conditioned and glowing. Massaging warm coconut oil on the scalp can improve the blood circulation and can promote growth too. It also provides softness, shine and luster to your hair. The antifungal and antimicrobial properties of coconut oil help to prevent all kinds of potential infections including lice and dandruff. It is because of these benefits of Coconut oil, it is often used as base oil for other herbal hair oil.
Coconut oil and skin health
In India, people apply coconut oil to their skin regularly. This helps in keep the skin look young and radiant. It can act as sunscreen. It makes an ideal ointment for the relief of dry, rough and wrinkled skin. It is a wonderful moisturizer and can be used to remove flaking and itchiness. Coconut oil hydrates and conditions your skin, making it look healthy and glowing.
Coconut oil happens to be an excellent remedy for many kinds of skin problems. Since it has antifungal properties, it is used to combat athlete’s foot, ring worm infection, eczema etc. The antimicrobial qualities of coconut oil may make it beneficial for alleviating acne. Coconut oil is safe for massaging small children. Regular application of coconut oil will provide you wide benefits. Salts of lauric acid, found naturally in coconut oil, can be found in various skin care and cosmetics products. Dietary coconut oil reduces our need for vitamin E for skin.
Coconut oil reduces aging signs
Coconut oil has antioxidant properties that help to eliminate the free radicals and prevent the damage caused by these radicals to the healthy tissues in your body. Oxidation is a major cause of early aging signs and many other health problems. Coconut oil, with its antioxidant properties reduces the effects of aging on your skin.
Coconut oil can reduce stress
Massaging your head with coconut oil can reduce mental exhaustion. The aroma of this oil is so soothing that it helps to relieve stress and allows you to relax.
Coconut oil relieves digestive disorders
Adding coconut oil to your daily diet will help to ease digestion. The fatty acids contained in this oils has anti microbial properties and hence fights against digestive problems like poor digestion, infection and irritable bowel syndrome. Coconut oil can remove the harmful bacteria in the digestive tract and improve the health of your digestive system.
Treatment of type 2 diabetes with coconut oil
According to a study conducted by the Garvan institute of medical research, a diet that is rich in coconut oil can protect your body against insulin resistance. It also helps to prevent the buildup of fat in your body. It is well known that insulin resistance and obesity are key factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes. So by helping to improve your insulin sensitivity and by preventing fat accumulation, coconut oil goes a long way in managing type 2 diabetes.
Coconut oil boosts your metabolism
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easily digested and immediately converted into energy. This helps to boost your metabolism and you stay energetic for a long period of time. A study involving effect of medium-chain fatty acids on the metabolism of people, found that these fatty acids have the capability of increasing the rate of metabolism by up to 48% and also for a longer period (as long as 24 hours). For people struggling with obesity, metabolic rate increased by 65%.
Coconut oil aids in absorption of various nutrients in our body. It increases absorption of some of the B vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, beta-carotene, and some amino acids. This helps in good digestion. Coconut oil has been recommended in the treatment of malnutrition. Studies reveal that it also helps in absorpotion of minerals like calcium and magnesium, thereby helping prevent osteoporosis.
Does Coconut oil aids in weight loss?
Research suggests that coconut oil may actually help in reducing weight. Coconut oil has fewer calories per gram of fat than long-chain fatty acids. Thus replacing vegetable oil used for cooking food with coconut oil reduces intake of calories. Medium chain fatty acids including lauric acid are converted to energy just like carbohydrates and not stored in fat cells. Eat Fat, Look Thin: A Safe and Natural Way to Lose Weight Permanently – book outlines a dietary program based on coconut and includes numerous delicious recipes
Consumption of coconut oil can boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. Coconut oil is metabolized in the liver and converted into energy rather than being stored in the form of fat. Overeating is one of the major factors that lead to weight gain and obesity. It has been found that including coconut oil in your diet fills you up for a long time and reduces your sugar cravings. This prevents overeating and helps you control your weight.
Coconut oil improves immunity
Coconut oil consists of healthy fatty acids like lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. These fats have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties to protect you from many kinds of diseases and infections. Inside the body, lauric acid is converted into a monoglyceride called monolaurin that has immense antiviral properties. Monolaurin is capable of attacking and killing the viruses that are enveloped by lipids and phospholipids.
Studies on health benefits of coconut oil reveal that Coconut oil may help in increase immunity of the body, unlike unsaturated oils high in omega-6 fatty acids that can weaken our immune systems. It has shown to protect from six dangerous cancer causing agents including benzpryine, azaserine and nitrosamines (found in cigarettes). It has shown health benefits for prevention of liver disease, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, cancer and many infectious illnesses such as the flu, herpes and bladder infections. Preliminary studies have shown its effectiveness against serious illness like AIDS and SARS.
Coconut oil helps to reduce cholesterol
Coconut oil contains a saturated fatty acid called lauric acid that has been found to increase the level of good cholesterol or HDL in the blood and improve the cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut oil promotes the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, which is a steroid hormone that is a precursor to several other hormones essential to our body. Poor functioning of the thyroid gland can lead to high levels of bad cholesterol or LDL. Coconut oil helps to promote the normal functioning of the thyroid and reduce the LDL level.
Coconut oil and heart health
Coconut oil is considered to be heart healthy oil. As mentioned earlier, coconut oil can reduce the bad cholesterol level in your blood. This helps to keep your heart healthy and prevent heart problems. Studies show that medium chain fatty acids in Coconut oil are very effective against heart diseases.
Coconut oil for hypothyroidism
Coconut oil offers many benefits to people suffering from hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism are found to lack energy. Coconut oil increases the rate of metabolism and provides more energy. Another problem faced by hypothyroidism patients is overweight. Consuming coconut oil is considered to promote weight loss, which is very beneficial to these patients. Hypothyroidism causes the patients to feel cold most of the time. As coconut oil increases the rate of metabolism, it also increases the temperature of the body.
Coconut oil prevents nose bleeds
Nose bleeds can occur during severe weather conditions like extreme cold or extreme heat. These weather conditions may cause the blockage of the nasal passages, leading to cracks in the mucous membrane. A few drops of coconut oil in your nostrils can be very useful in preventing such nose bleeds.
Coconut oil nourishes the brain
Studies reveal that coconut oil has the power to improve your brain functions and can even reverse some of the neurodegenerative diseases in their preliminary stages.
Antimicrobial and Antifungal Effects
Coconut oil is effective against wide variety of bacteria, virus, germs and fungus.
Lauric acid in coconut oil inhibits Streptococcus bacteria and dental plaque. Tapeworms and lice can be eliminated with coconut oil. Coconut oil helps speed healing of cuts and burns.Research has shown that Coconut oil is effective against Candida at 100% concentration compared to fluconazole (popular antifungal). It is also effective against fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s food
Other uses of coconut oil
Apart from being a perfect food for promoting your health and beauty, coconut oil has many other uses too. It is used in several beauty products like cleansers, make up removers, moisturizers, scrubs, deodorants and lip balm. It can be used as an after shave as it helps to heal your skin soon after shaving. Coconut oil is also used as a bath soak and in the manufacture of soap. By mixing coconut oil and baking soda, it is possible to make toothpaste that is very effective in cleaning your teeth as well as to get rid of harmful bacteria. The antimicrobial properties of coconut oil makes it suitable for treating ear infections, insect bites, cold sores, fungal infections, skin rashes, bug bites, piles and hemorrhoids. Coconut oil also finds use in cleaning wooden furniture, softening leather products, and lubricating hinges.
For several years coconut oil had the bad reputation of increasing the level of cholesterol and causing heart problems. In spite of the fact that coconut oil was once considered to be unhealthy due to the presence of high fat content, nowadays it has gained immense recognition as a highly nutritious food. The fat in coconut oil is different from the other kinds of saturated fats and is actually known to possess many properties that are beneficial to your health. In fact coconut oil has been portrayed as the healthiest oil available on earth.Image Credits: Flickr - Phuthinhco