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Coconut Oil: The Good and the Bad

Coconut oil is extremely popular. There are many good reasons for the rise of coconut oil in the public imagination. For one thing, it tastes good. This reason alone has many people adding a dollop of coconut oil to smoothies and other raw foods. 

Often marketed as something of a superfood, coconut oil has gained some real traction in the world of health and fitness. It has also caught on with the cosmetic and beauty industries. Coconut oil is yet another example of something completely natural that does most, if not all, of the things the synthetics have been promising. 

Coconut oil also has many health benefits. It is not simply a delicious thing to add to your foods. It appears to be good for you inside and out, and this accounts for the increasing popularity of coconut oils. 

What do we know about coconut oil? How do we benefit from including coconut oils as part of our health routines? What exactly are the benefits of coconut oil? Are there any downsides to coconut oil? This guide will give you all the information you need to understand coconut oil. 

Coconut Oil benefits

It is a fact that coconut oil is good for you. But the benefits of coconut oil are many, and it benefits the body both inside and out. Here are some of the benefits of coconut oil. 

Great source of healthy fatty acids

Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats. Saturated fats have a completely different impact on the body over other forms of dietary fats. 

The presence of fats in food sources tends to make us recoil, but saturated fats encourage your body to burn excess fat. They are also a great source of energy for the body and brain. 

Saturated fats tend to increase levels of HDL, or "good cholesterol." This helps reduce your risk of heart disease. The type of fats in coconut oil is characterized as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Rather than adhering to your body and causing weight gain, these MCTs tend to go straight to the liver and are converted into energy. MCTs in coconut oil give your energy and cause your body to burn excess fat.  

What is more, these MCTs are quickly converted into ketones. Researchers have found that ketones from MCTs have the potential to treat things like epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and other similar conditions. 


Good for your heart

While coconut oil is a relatively new food source in western countries, it has been a staple in other parts of the world for centuries. Researchers have discovered that in parts of the world that rely on coconut oil as a staple food source there are far fewer cases of heart disease that are so prevalent in the west. 

For example, a study of the population of Tokelau in the South Pacific revealed that the population of people there have significantly lower rates of heart disease. This population also relies on coconuts for as much as 60 percent of their diet. Other studies have shown the cultures that rely on coconuts and things like coconut oil have far fewer incidents of stroke and heart disease. 

Helps burn fat

We tend to think of burning fat in terms of exercise and cutting calories. The reality is that different foods impact our metabolism in different ways. The MCTs in coconut oil is one of those things that changes the way metabolism works. 

MCTs in coconut oil cause your body to burn fat even though it technically contains calories. The reason for this is that the MCTs cause your metabolism to increase and burn the long-chain fatty acids that accumulate in the body. 

Studies have shown that eating 15-30 grams of coconut oil can cause an energy expenditure of 5 percent over 24 hours. This means adding a little coconut oil to your diet burns fats and calories entirely on its own. 

Antimicrobial properties

Roughly half of the fatty acids in coconut oil is lauric acid. As your body digests lauric acid it converts it into a chemical called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful microbes and pathogens. These include bacteria, viruses, and fungi. 

Laboratory studies have shown that coconut oil can kill the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This is the bacteria that causes staph infections which can sometimes be fatal. Coconut oil can also control Candida albicans, the most common source of yeast infections.  

It is also known that using coconut oil as a mouthwash is an effective form of oral hygiene, capable of helping to fight tooth decay. 

Helps control hunger

Since the MCTs in coconut oil break down into ketones, coconut oil tends to curb your appetite. Research has shown that those who included coconut oil in their diets tended to consume far fewer calories over a day. One study, in particular, revealed that men who began their day with some measure of coconut oil ate less between breakfast and lunch than those who ate only a traditional breakfast. 

May reduce seizures

Perhaps one of the most striking discoveries about the benefits of coconut oil is how it can potentially control seizures. 

These findings were discovered in the course of research on the ketogenic diet and how ketones can control seizures in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. What these scientists found was the increased levels of ketones in the body tended to reduce seizures in these patients. 

This research led them to conclude that the elevated levels of ketones that come from a diet that includes coconut oil can also help alleviate these seizures. Further research revealed that a diet rich in coconut oil can reduce rates of seizures in children with epilepsy. 

All of this has led researchers to conclude that the MCTs in coconut oil, in conjunction with a modified ketogenic diet that includes some carbs, can diminish seizures in some epilepsy patients. 

Raises HDL (good cholesterol)

Coconut oil is naturally rich in saturated fats. These saturated fats increase levels of the so-called good cholesterol, or HDLs, in your system. By increasing HDL levels, you can substantially improve the health of your heart. 

One study showed that patients with coronary artery disease who took coconut oil as part of their daily diet experienced increases in their HDL levels that would be consistent with combatting the coronary artery disease.  

Healthy skin and hair

Beyond eating coconut oil, it has many benefits for cosmetic purposes. Many people have already seen the benefits of using coconut oil as a skin and hair treatment. Coconut oil can even be used as a treatment for skin conditions like eczema. 

Coconut oil naturally nourishes skin without the addition of oils that are not water-soluble that damages the skin. Coconut oil also naturally resists UV light which can damage both skin and hair. 

May alleviate Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder and the most common cause of dementia. It largely affects older adults. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by a drastic reduction in the brain's ability to access and utilize glucose for energy. 

Since the primary alternative to glucose as an energy source is ketones, the high ketone levels that come with coconut oil are now believed to be a potential way of reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

Early studies have shown that the high levels of MCTs that come with coconut oil are sufficient to boost ketones enough to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. 

Coconut Oil Nutrition

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these are the nutrition facts for a 1 tablespoon serving of coconut oil.

Calories 121

Protein 0 grams (g)

Fat 13.5 g

Saturated fat 11.2 g

Carbohydrates 0 g

Fiber 0 g

Sugar 0 g

By way of comparison, a tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories and 13.5 g of fat. 

Types of Coconut Oil

Just like olive oil, there are multiple forms of coconut oil. They break down from the purest to types that have been chemically altered. 

Virgin or Extra-virgin coconut oil

There is no real distinction between virgin and extra-virgin coconut oil. For olive oil, the distinction has to do with fatty acid content. No such difference occurs for coconut oil. 

Cold-pressed coconut oil

A method used to preserve nutrient content, cold-pressing involves the production of coconut oil in heat-controlled environments and without the use of chemicals. The oil is processed in temperatures not exceeding 120° F (48° C). By using a heat-controlled process, high-quality coconut oil with abundant phenolic compounds is produced. These preserved substances act as antioxidants that rid the body of free radicals. Also, in addition to affecting nutrient quality, the low temperature involved in the process imparts a milder and almost neutral flavor to the cold-pressed coconut oil.

Expeller-pressed coconut oil

In contrast to cold-pressed coconut oils, expeller-pressed varieties undergo higher temperature processing (210° F/99° C). The heat involved in the process toasts the produced coconut oil and gives it a nuttier and more characteristic taste.

Hydrogenated coconut oil

Hydrogenated is a term used to describe coconut oils that have undergone the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation means that, in high heat, hydrogen atoms are added to the coconut oil to turn its unsaturated fat components into saturated fats. This results in a more solid form and longer shelf life as it prevents quick spoilage. It also increases the melting point of the coconut oil from 77° Fahrenheit (25° C) to 86-97° Fahrenheit (30-36° C).

Most experts suggest you use virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil for any purpose. These retain the most natural properties and the least amount of chemical or physical intervention. 

Coconut Oil side effects

There are no known side effects of coconut oil. As with anything else, use caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Coconut oil is even safe for children, although it is recommended that you do not give children coconut oil for more than a month.  

Coconut Oil FAQs

What is coconut oil? 

Coconut oil is the fatty portion of coconuts that are extracted for dietary and cosmetic purposes. 

What is coconut oil sued for? 

People use coconut oil in cooking and as a health supplement. 

Is coconut oil healthy? 

There are numerous health benefits to coconut oil. It is good for your heart, it can help reduce blood pressure, and coconut oil can help you lose weight. Coconut oil is a great part of oral hygiene, and it is good for skin and hair. 

Are there different types of coconut oil? 

Coconut oil is similar to olive oil in that it comes in different forms. The best coconut oils are virgin coconut oil and cold-pressed coconut oil.

Conclusion

Coconut oil has been trending for quite some time now. It would be easy to dismiss coconut oil as just another trend if it were not for the fact that the trend comes from sound reasons. Coconut oil is incredibly healthy. The list of health benefits of coconut oil is extensive. It is good for just about every part of your body in one way or another. 

Since coconut oil has such a positive impact on things like your circulatory system and your metabolism, it carries those benefits to the rest of the body. Research has shown that coconut oil is good for everything from our heart and brain to our skin and hair. 

Coconut oil is also delicious. Using it in cooking or adding it raw to things like smoothies gives everything a flavorful lift. There are reasons why cultures that have had access to coconuts have built entire cuisines out of coconuts and coconut oil. 

While a trend alone may not convince you to try something. Scientific evidence should. Perhaps because coconut oil has been on the rise, researchers have focused their attention on coconut oil and found myriad positive results. 

Maybe the best things about coconut oil are that it tastes great and it is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. Whether you eat coconut oil or use it as part of your skincare routine, coconut oil is legitimately good for you. 

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