Coconut oil has taken the health world by storm. From smoothies to shampoos, this nutritious natural oil has found its way into all types of recipes, products and healthy eating regimes.
But why exactly is coconut oil so good for us? And how can we make the most of it?
Coconut Oil: The Lowdown
The world of coconut can sometimes seem like a confusing place. There’s coconut milk, coconut cream and, of course, coconut oil – but what’s the difference? The answer’s actually pretty simple. Whereas milk and cream are made from pureed coconut meat, coconut oil is made from the fat pressed from the meat.
This processing method preserves many of the nutritious compounds abundant in this superfood nut, including lauric, capric, and caprylic acids. Lauric acid in particular is the medium-chain fatty acid responsible for so many of the oil’s purported health benefits thanks to its antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Even coconut oil’s high fat content can be something to smile about. After all, fat is an essential part of a healthy balanced diet. Plus, coconut oil in particular is a source of essential fatty acids that helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as E, D and A.
However, not all coconut oil is created equal. While refined oil is generally the cheapest option, intensive processing robs it of many of its benefits. In comparison, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil uses younger, fresher coconuts, which preserves that delicious coconutty flavor and smell, as well as their incredible health benefits.
5 Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. It Could Help Treat Alzheimer’s
Did you know that coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat in the world? That might sound scary, but actually it’s the key to many of the product’s incredible health benefits. In fact, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently to many other fatty acids, and head straight to the liver from the digestive tract. Here the fat is used as a quick source of energy or turned into ketones, which can have therapeutic effects on brain conditions including dementia.
This idea has got researchers interested too, with one study suggesting that the ketones in coconut oil could potentially create an alternative source of energy to repair brain function.
2. It Can Contribute to Reducing Inflammation and Arthritis
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory credentials, coconut oil can play an important role in reducing inflammation and arthritis. One study in India concluded that the high levels of antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil can even help reduce inflammation and heal arthritis better than leading medications. Another study found that coconut oil that was processed using only medium heat effectively suppressed inflammatory cells, working as both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.
3. It Can Help Heal Skin
You’ve probably seen coconut oil included as a key ingredient in all sorts of moisturizers, cleansers and even sun screen. But why? Rich in caprylic and lauric fatty acid, coconut oil has the ability to both reduce inflammation internally and externally, making it an effective moisturizer for all types of skin, as well as a topical treatment for skin conditions ranging from eczema to dandruff.
4. Used Correctly It Can Boost Weight Loss
Fat has earned a bad rep when it comes to weight loss. But new research has shown that healthy fats like coconut oil may well be a dieter’s best friend.
Not only can this fat-rich oil reduce appetite and ensure steady blood sugar levels, but it’s been proven to actively reduce belly fat. In a study of 40 obese women, researchers found that taking 30ml of coconut oil per day led to a significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference in a period of 12 weeks.
5. It Can Help Fight Yeast Infections
Most yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of candida – a type of yeast that can cause havoc when out of balance. Antimicrobials like coconut oil are fantastic when it comes to tackling candida overgrowth, as shown by researchers from Tufts University.
In the 2015 study, mice suffering from an overgrowth of Candida Albicans were given coconut oil. The results showed that a diet high in coconut oil, or coconut oil and beef tallow, reduced candida in the gut by more than 90 percent when compared to the mice fed with just the high beef tallow diet.
While more research needs to be done, coconut oil is shaping up to be a very promising treatment for all kinds of health problems.