Is it really a super food? How many health implications does it have? What could you possibly do with coconut oil?
Well, to put things into perspective, coconut oil literally is a miraculous food and is used for practically anything. From using it to cook, substituting it for sugar in your coffee, using it to do oil pulling (which we will briefly go over), and can also be applied topically on the skin to treat skin issues.
Coconut oil is a healthy fat which its fatty acid properties (which are medium-chain fatty acids or MCFA), have health benefits from helping the brain function to losing fat. Why do these MCFA have health benefits? They are:
-Easy for the body to digest
-Not stored as fat
-Anti-bacterial and anti-viral
-Small in size which provides the body with instant energy
-Not stored as fat because the liver is able to convert it right away. (1)
There are many benefits with coconut oil. When you read about coconut oil, some articles only give a select health benefit. For this article, I will list the benefits which I think are most important, and how coconut oil can be used in different ways.
Helps prevent and treat all brain functions and issues, including Alzheimer`s, Parkinson's, depression and memory. As the liver digests the oil, it converts the fat into ketones. These ketones are what supply the brain with energy without the need of insulin to produce glucose (the brain's major energy source). (1) In a 2015 study, authors Yang and associates, demonstrated how extra-virgin coconut oil had a positive effect on Alzheimer's and dementia. (2)
Has been shown to act as a cancer prevention and treatment. As mentioned in the previous point, the liver processes coconut oil into ketones, in which cancer cells cannot feed off of ketones. Instead cancer cells feed off of sugar, or insulin. Also, coconut oil has been shown to kill some bacteria in the stomach, such as H. pylori. (1) It can then be said that if coconut oil can kill certain bacteria in the gut, then we can conclude that the oil helps with digestion while reducing ulcers.
It's anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties boost the immune system. Needless to say, keeping your body clean from any infection or bacteria, it means that your immune system is strong enough to fight these foreign bodies. When your immune system is strong, it is hard for any bacteria to set in.
Helps prevent and improve Type II diabetes and insulin resistance. Type II diabetes is when someone's pancreas cannot create insulin anymore or because there is just so much sugar in the body that the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand to alter the sugar into energy. That being said, remember that the liver creates ketones when digesting coconut oil? Well those ketones are now the essential fuel for the body. The MCFA's help rebalance insulin hormones allowing for an easier digestion and less work for the pancreas.
Helps cardiovascular health and cholesterol. The MCFA of coconut oil helps increase HDL levels (good cholesterol levels) while decreasing LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and converting the LDL into HDL. (1)
Helps promote weight loss and muscle growth. The body uses this fat, or the ketones produced, as fuel. This increases fat production, as well as suppresses appetite. Certain properties of the MCFA have a fat burning ability, that mimics the characteristics of fasting because of the fat breakdown. (1) Not only do you lose weight, but you also lean out and build more muscle because of the MCFA properties that are directly correlated to muscle growth.
Now that you have the health benefits of coconut oil, let's see how to use coconut oil.
Eat it directly. If you are able to have coconut oil directly, go ahead. Many people seem to not be able to, but eating a tablespoon or two will suffice. If you cannot eat the oil just like that, add it to your shakes or blend it in with your food.
To cook. Instead of using carcinogenic oils when cooking with the pan, use coconut oil. Most oils are unsafe when cooking at high temperatures, like olive oil because its texture changes. Coconut oil on the other hand is a safer alternative that does not become carcinogenic because of its MCFA.
Topical. You can directly apply coconut oil onto your skin. It has been proven to help with any skin disease like burns, psoriasis, eczema, etc. This is because the fatty acids decrease the inflammation both internally and externally due to the anti-bacterial properties and antioxidants. (1)
In your coffee. If you are someone who likes coconut oil, this is honestly the best combination. Substitute sugar with coconut oil, without putting milk, so you can have the health benefits of coconut oil and the coffee. This will also help boost mood and alertness. You may even feel full after drinking this combination. I usually drink this especially before a workout session or when I need to wake up. Although taking it every day is very beneficial.
Oil Pulling. This is a technique that involves swishing a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. The technique helps cleanse the mouth of bacteria, helps repair teeth enamel, helps prevent and cure gum disease, and heal any periodontal disease (1). How does this work? Well simple. As you are swishing the oil in your mouth, the bacteria sticks to the oil. As simple as that. Once you are done, brush spit it out and brush your teeth to get rid of excess bacteria. Some will recommend doing it 3x a week for 20 minutes, but I would recommend doing it first thing in the morning, every morning, or when you have 20 minutes to yourself during the day. Just make sure to have a tooth brush handy.
Well there you have it. Coconut oil broken down for you to understand it's importance in any one's diet.
1) Dr. Josh Axe, (2015), Dr. Axe: Food is Medicine, 20 Coconut Oil Benefits & Side Effects (#5 is Life Saving), https://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/
2) Yang, Hu, et. al., (2015), Nutricion hospitalaria, [COCONUT OIL: NON-ALTERNATIVE DRUG TREATMENT AGAINST ALZHEIMER´S DISEASE], 32(6): 2822-2827, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26667739