Coconut oil is a product that defies all expectations—it’s very high in saturated fat, and yet it’s also got a long list of undeniable health benefits. These benefits range from more luscious hair to a healthier heart, and that’s why this near-miracle oil is so popular among Paleo dieters. Even more mainstream dieters are beginning to realize it works wonders too! If you’re still not convinced about all the wonderful benefits that coconut oil can provide, then read on. I’ll discuss everything you need to know about it—from its nutritional makeup to how it can keep you looking and feeling great.
A Nutritional Overview of Coconut Oil
Coconuts have long been prized for their sweet flesh and tasty juice; however, the oil from a coconut is arguably the healthiest component of the entire fruit. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has been found to have amazing antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It’s also known to be a natural and powerful antioxidant.
Lauric acid is tied to the health of our immune system, and coconut oil contains tons of the stuff. Our bodies convert this fatty acid into monolaurin which is then used to stave off disease and bacterial infection. This means that if you’re suffering from anything from the flu to intestinal parasites, then try adding a little coconut oil into your diet. The medical benefits of this fantastic substance are so powerful that humans have been using it to treat illness for thousands of years before we even knew what lauric acid was!
Many people are put off by coconut oil’s 90% saturated fat content. This is a perfectly understandable concern to the uninitiated; however, it’s important to realize that dealing with a food that’s naturally high in fat is not the same as dealing with processed foods that have been pumped full of extra fat. For one, almost half of coconut oil’s saturated fats are lauric acid, and as you’ll recall, this stuff is just too good to pass up since it works wonders for your immune system.
Plus, the saturated fats in coconut oil are classified as “medium chain tryglycerides.” Without getting into a lot of detail, this simply means that these fats are broken down and used as energy much more quickly than other kinds of fat, so there’s less chance for your body to convert coconut oil into excess fat stores.
While it should now be obvious that coconut oil has lots of nutritional benefits to offer your body, always keep in mind that moderation is key. Even good saturated fats, like those found in coconut oil, should be limited to no more than the daily recommended 20 grams.
What Can Coconut Oil Do for You?
It would probably take an entire book to describe all the fantastic benefits of coconut oil, but here are a few of the most common reasons people decide to include it in their lives.
Coconut oil is one of the best all-natural ways to give your hair a sleek and shiny look. The nutrients it provides ensure that you’re not losing protein, which is one of the main reasons that people experience dull or unflattering hair.
The best way to experience these great benefits is to gently massage coconut oil into your scalp daily after showering or bathing. Incorporating the oil into your cooking will help your hair as well but not as much as the direct topical application of it.
It may seem counter intuitive that a food product so high in saturated fat could do anything to benefit your heart, but it’s true! The saturated fat you find in coconut oil is actually part of the family of fatty acids that helps to increase your good (HDL) cholesterol while ensure that your bad (LDL) cholesterol stays in check.
When applied topically, coconut oil is a fantastic way to keep your skin hydrated and healthy, so if yours is dry or flaky, this is a natural way to keep it looking great. Often times, people will use this as a safer alternative to mineral oil skin treatments, since it can often cause unwanted side effects. Coconut oil has also shown promise in fighting wrinkles and other signs of aging (like saggy skin) as well as more serious skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Coconut oil can sometimes seem like a paradox—especially since this high-fat food is a great way to help keep your weight under control. However, the fatty acids in it are burned off as energy very quickly, and this means that they don’t have time to be converted into abdominal fat stores. This quick-burning energy also gives your metabolism a boost, so that your body can eliminate fat even more quickly!
As with all good things, too much coconut oil in your diet can be harmful to your health. Yes, the fats it contains are of the healthy variety, but even those should be limited and make up only a relatively small percent of your diet.
What Kind of Coconut Oil Is Right For You?
There are currently three popular kinds of coconut oil on the market, and each one has its own particular benefits, depending on what you’re going to be using it for. Use this list to help you determine which type is right for you and your own situation.
- Pure Coconut Oil: This type of oil is extracted from the dried meat of a coconut and contains no other additives. It is the oldest and most common form of coconut oil, and is typically used for hair and skin health.
- Virgin Coconut Oil: This oil is derived from the milk of the coconut and not the flesh. It’s extracted at a very low temperature to ensure that it contains the highest levels of medium chain tryglycerides possible. Virgin coconut oil is best used for weight loss.
- Refined Coconut Oil: This coconut oil has been chemically refined, bleached, and deodorized. This type of oil is perfect for all-purpose cooking, but it does not have nearly as much nutritional value as virgin coconut oil.