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Everything You Need to Know About Coconut Oil


Over the past few years coconut oil has reached mythical status.  Claimed benefits have ranged from improvements to heart heath to better hair and nails to living indefinitely!  Is coconut oil all it’s cracked up to be?  Let’s learn more about it so we can separate fact from fiction.

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is the edible oil extracted from the meat of a coconut.  Coconut oil is over 90% saturated fat, which historically has put it on the “do not eat” list.  However, in recent years we have learned that saturated fat is not necessarily associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease.  Moreover, some of saturated fat that is found in coconut oil is special and different than the saturated fats you find in red meat or dairy.  These special fats are called Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA’s).

What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil?

MCFA’s are where most of the health benefits of coconut oil are derived.  They are:

Easier to Digest

Due to their smaller size, MCFA’s don’t require as much work by the body to digest.  They don’t require pancreatic enzymes to be digested and are less of a burden on your digestive tract.  This can:

  • Improve digestion and reduce bloating
  • Increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins

Less Likely to be Stored as Body Fat

By the time the MCFA’s reach your intestinal tract they are broken down to into individual particles.  This allows it to be sent directly to the liver to be used as energy rather than stored as fat.  This process can:

  • Boost your metabolism
  • Reduce your appetite

Anti-Viral, Antibacterial and Anti-Fugal

Coconut oil contains Lauric Acid.  Lauric Acid can help kill viruses, bacteria and fungi.  These properties are where most of the topical health benefits come from, such as:

  • Improve oral health
  • Reduce inflammation and soothe skin conditions such as acne
  • Act as a natural deodorant

What’s the Down Side to Coconut Oil?

After reading all the benefits, it may seem like coconut oil really is the elixir of the Gods!  However, it is important to note that many of these claims are based on very small studies or are simply anecdotal.  That doesn’t mean that they are not valid, but that some more information needs to be gathered.  The down side becomes an issue of portions and expectations.

Typically we think that if a little of something is good, a lot of it will be solve all problems!  Unfortunately this is rarely true.  Coconut oil has many health benefits, and it is also high in calories and contains only one of the important macronutrients that you need for your health.  What this means is that if you go overboard, you can inadvertently eat a lot more calories than you need and may risk missing out on the other important macro and micro-nutrients found in proteins and carbohydrates.  So make sure you are not only focusing on one fantastic ingredient but also looking at your diet and lifestyle as a whole.

Along the same lines, it is important to manage your expectations.  Again, coconut oil can be a part of a larger healthy diet and lifestyle but you shouldn’t expect it to be a silver bullet.  For instance, taking a tablespoon of coconut oil per day with the hopes of never getting sick again may leave you feeling disappointed and sniffley.  Whereas incorporating coconut oil into your vitamin packed smoothie while getting enough sleep and washing your hands is a more holistic approach.

Article was written by Tara Coleman and first appeared

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