When it comes to the healthiest natural oils, no other oil has been as much researched and studied as coconut oil. There have been more than 1500 animal, test tube and observational studies on coconut oil to prove its health benefitting aspects, most of which are attributed to its MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) content.
The medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are unique fats that contain Caprylic acid, Lauric acid, Capric acid. All the three fatty acids are extremely healthy.
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easier to break down and use as energy compared to other vegetable oils. They are not readily stored as fat in the body and have potent anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
In this article, we have collected the multitude of health benefits of coconut oil along with the guidelines to select and store coconut oil.
Composition of Coconut Oil
More than 90% of coconut oil comprises of healthy saturated fats along with traces of unsaturated fatty acids – monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E.
- Saturated fatty acids – Most of the saturated fatty acids are medium chain triglycerides that readily assimilate in the body.
- Lauric acid – It is one of the main components of coconut oil that comprises almost 40% of the total. Lauric acid contains potent antiviral and antibacterial properties that fight various diseases.
- Capric acid – Capric acid converts in a powerful antimicrobial agent monocaprin as soon as it reacts with the enzymes secreted by bacteria.
- Caprylic acid, caproic acid and myristic acid – All these components possess rich antimicrobial and antifungal properties that heal infections.
- Unsaturated fatty acids – Polyunsaturated fatty acids – linoleic acid, Monounsaturated fatty acids – Oleic acid.
- Polyphenols – Gallic acid, also known as phenolic acid. The polyphenols provide the refreshing fragrance and mild taste to the oil.
- Derivatives of fatty acid – Betaines, ethoxylates, ethanolamide, fatty polysorbates, fatty esters, polyol ester and monoglycerides.
- Derivatives of fatty alcohols – Fatty chlorides, fatty alcohol sulphate and fatty alcohol ether sulphate
- Vitamins – Vitamin E, vitamin K
- Minerals – Iron
Top 12 Health Benefits of Coconut Oil:
1. Promote Weight Loss
Coconut oil has the capability of creating energy which makes it beneficial for weight loss. Coconut oil promotes weight loss in three ways – it burns stored fat, decreases appetite and cuts out belly fat. A study published in 1958 in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health showed that a single injection of Capric acid caused initially rapid and then gradual decrease in food consumption and parallel loss of body weight. The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil increase calorie burn by almost 5% over 24 hours. Coconut oil is especially effective in reducing deep seated belly fat present in the abdominal cavity and around the organs.
2. Treat Alzheimer’s and Improves Brain Function
Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent cause of Dementia and it mainly affects elderly individuals. It has been observed that Alzheimer’s patients have reduced ability to utilize carbs as a form of energy for functioning of the brain. The Medium Chain Fatty Acids in coconut oil is broken down by the liver to create ketones, which is a readily accessible source of energy for the brain. A 2006 study shows that consumption of medium chain triglycerides lead to instant improvement in brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s.
3. Treat and Prevent Cancer
The ketones produced by coconut oil makes it a potent remedy for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Cancerous cells require glucose in order to thrive and divide. But when you use ketones a as an alternative source of energy, the cancer cells are deprived of the glucose that prevents them from growing. Therefore, doctors often prescribe ketogenic diet to promote the recovery of cancer patients. Medium chain fatty acids also digest the lipid walls of the bacteria and destroy the helicobacter pylori bacteria that increase the risk of stomach cancer.
4. Boost the Immune System
Lauric acid, Capric acid, Caprylic acid and antimicrobial lipids present in coconut oil has powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties that fight and destroy disease and infection-causing bacteria and fungi and creates a hostile environment for the viruses which makes them difficult to survive in the body. The human body converts Lauric acid into monolaurin that fights the virus and bacteria that cause herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus and even HIV. Coconut oil has the capacity to fight bacteria and protozoa such as listeria monocytogenes, helicobacter pylori and giardia lamblia.
5. Improve Digestion
Substituting other cooking oils with coconut oil can help to improve the functioning of the digestive system and prevent a number of digestive disorders along with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis. Coconut oil improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, calcium and magnesium and acts as a readily digestible source of energy. Coconut oil promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and destroys harmful bacteria such as Candida. Imbalance of Candida can lower the level of stomach acid and cause inflammation and poor digestion.
6. Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is one of the most prevalent bone diseases among elderly people and it is more common in women compared to men. Free radical damage and oxidative stress are the two main causes of osteoporosis. The high level of antioxidants in coconut oil neutralizes the damage caused by free radicals and acts as a natural treatment for osteoporosis. Coconut oil also increases the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the intestine and promotes stronger and healthier bones by enhancing structure and volume of the bones and decreasing bone loss due to osteoporosis.
7. Improve Type 2 Diabetes
A person is said to have pre-diabetes or diabetes when the cells of the body fail to respond to the insulin produced by the pancreas. The cells become insulin resistant. The pancreas then starts producing excess amount of insulin to compensate. Medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil helps to improve type 2 diabetes by balancing the insulin reactions in the cells. Coconut oil reduces the strain on the pancreas and provides a consistent source of energy to the body. An animal study conducted in 2009 found that a diet rich in medium-chain fatty acids could prevent obesity and fight insulin resistance. A recent study in rats also shows that it causes a reduction in blood glucose levels.
8. Cure UTI, Candida and Yeast Infection
Urinary tract infection is the infection of the urinary system that includes the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil possess natural antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that destroy the lipid that coats the bacteria and kills them. Consuming coconut oil protects the kidneys and urinary bladder from infection. It is recommended to consume 3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil along with 6 to 8 glasses of water every day for deriving maximum benefits. A study published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy reveals that Lauric acid and Capric acid found in coconut oil are potent natural treatment for yeast infection and Candida Albicans.
9. Prevent Heart Disease
Increased level of plasma cholesterol caused by high levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) is directly related to coronary heart disease. But high-density lipoproteins (HDL) show an inverse relation with heart disease. In a controlled study two groups of people were given coconut oil and copra oil. It was seen that the concentration of cholesterol in liver, heart and serum was significantly lower in the coconut oil-treated group. In an animal study it was seen that virgin coconut oil significantly increases HDL cholesterol in the animals. These studies lead researchers to conclude that there is a positive relation between coconut oil and prevention of coronary heart disease.
10. Build Muscles
Coconut oil not only helps in burning fat and promoting weight loss, but also helps to build lean muscle mass. The medium chain fatty acids present in coconut oil optimizes testosterone production in the body and boosts the activity of the enzymes that promote the synthesis of testosterone. Testosterone is the main hormone responsible for muscle growth, but it starts to wane out with age. But coconut oil can help bodybuilders with suboptimal testosterone levels to gain lean muscle mass and improve exercise performance.
11. Treat Various Skin Conditions
Vitamin E present in coconut oil helps to maintain the health of your skin and hair. It is a great natural moisturizer that heals dry skin and forms a protective layer against sunburn. Caprylic acid and Lauric acid in coconut oil reduces both external and internal inflammation and moisturizes the skin which helps to treat eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. The antioxidants in coconut oil protect the skin against free radical damage and prevent premature aging of skin.
12. Hair Care
Coconut oil is not only beneficial for your internal body, but also for your hair and scalp. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science showed that coconut oil was capable of preventing damage to all hair types and it had greater impact on reducing protein loss in hair compared to other oils such as sunflower oil. Coconut oil contains linear triglycerides that have a strong affinity for hair proteins and is capable of penetrating into the hair shaft thanks to its small size. It works as an effective hair protector that prevents breakage, dullness and split ends. Coconut oil hydrates the scalp and increases lipid levels on the surface of the head with eliminates itchy, dry scalp and dandruff.
Side Effects of Using Coconut Oil:
There are rarely any side effects of using coconut oil topically or orally. It can be applied safely to the skin and hair.
- There have been occasional reports of contact allergy in certain individuals who are allergic to coconuts. But it is not common.
- Coconut oil has high saturated fat content that can lead to weight gain and increase cholesterol level if it is consumed in large amounts. But, there have been no proven scientific research about this claim.
- Excessive ingestion of coconut oil can cause diarrhea and produce other symptoms of intestinal distress.
- When coconut oil is used as a treatment for fungal infections such as Candida it can cause the “Die-Off” effect. When coconut oil kill a large colony of fungal organisms, toxins are released into the blood stream that can cause temporary flu-like symptoms such as headache, dizziness, chills, hives, rashes and joint and muscle pain that goes away after a few days.
What is the Recommend Daily Dosage of Coconut oil?
Various studies have shown that 2 tablespoons or 30 ml of coconut oil per day is an effective dose that promotes weight loss, reduces belly fat and improves other markers of health.
Some studies used 2.5 tablespoons or 39 ml of coconut oil per day depending on the amount of calorie intake of the candidate.
2 tablespoons of coconut oil contain 18 grams of medium chain triglycerides. It has been seen that 15 to 30 grams of medium chain triglycerides is required to increase metabolic rate in the body.
Consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day is the right amount that leaves room for other healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados, etc.
But, it is best to start slow (1 tablespoon) and then gradually increase the intake to 2 tablespoons over a couple of weeks to avoid nausea and diarrhea.
How to Select and Store Coconut Oil?
It is important to understand that not all coconut oils are the same. In order to make the most out of the health benefits of coconut oil you must opt for organic virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil.
Taste and Smell – Pure coconut oil should smell like fresh coconut. Oils that have a roasted or nutty aroma are not raw. They are heated at a high temperature which takes away a considerable amount of nutrients from it.
Process of oil extraction – Opt for cold-pressed oil over expeller-pressed oil. Make sure that the coconut meat and oil is never heated from beginning to finish of the cold-pressed process. In case of expeller-pressed process, the coconuts are heated to extract the meat which damages the medium-chain fatty acids and Lauric acid.
Refining process – Opt for virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil that are unrefined. It is the best kind of coconut oil that you can use for your health. Refined coconut oil is odorless and tasteless.
Packaging – Choose coconut oil that is packed and sealed in a glass container or bottle. Glass does not affect the taste of the coconut oil and locks in the nutrients in a better way. Coconut oil that is packed in normal plastic containers is bulk-produced and has lower quality.
The benefits of coconut oil are endless, whether you use it to cook, moisturize our skin, boost the immune system or treat urinary tract infection. People of Asian countries and Pacific Islands have been using coconut oil for hundreds of years and they are considered the healthiest of population with low prevalence of chronic disease. In recent times, coconut has gained popularity in the western world and it is finally being accepted as a wonderful food with amazing health advantages.