Coconut Oil - Should You Love It Or Leave It?
Let's take a close look at coconut oil, as it's different from most oils. Firstly, coconut oil, though saturated, is made up of medium chained fatty acids (MCFAs). All oils are either long, medium or short chained, and the length of the carbon chain determines how it will be metabolized in the body. Coconut oil is nature's richest source of MCFAs and as such, it is metabolized in a very unique way. Specifically, MCFAs are metabolized through the liver so they are less likely to be stored as fat. In fact, study after study have shown that MCFAs can be effective at both preventing and eliminating adipose fat, i.e. belly fat. (1, 2) As well, consuming coconut oils actually helps to increase one's metabolism, further helping to maintain or decrease one's weight. (3,4) Alternatively, long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), found in animal fats such as lard and butter, are larger molecules and therefore more difficult for the body to break down. LCFAs are largely stored as fat.
Coconut oil is also forty percent lauric acid. Though a component of breast milk, lauric acid is a substance rarely found in nature. Lauric acid is a powerful anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent. In fact, lauric acid has been proven effective against H. pylori - which causes stomach ulcers. Used topically, lauric acid has also been shown to be effective in combating inflammatory acne.(5,6) Lauric acid can also protect against high cholesterol, especially in diabetic individuals. (7) Specifically, in all individuals, coconut oil has been shown to raise HDL, the good cholesterol, without raising LDL, the bad cholesterol.(8)
Coconut oil is also healthy in that it's a source of those illusive Omega 3 fatty acids. Our modern diet of processed foods and vegetable oils has made us deficient in this essential lipid. Some experts say that Omega 3 deficiency has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, most of us, more than ninety percent, are said to be deficient in Omega 3 oils. These deficiencies effect every body system, especially our brains. Coconut oil is a delicious and effective way to increase our intake of Omega 3 oils, thus increasing the health of our entire body.
It's easy to incorporate coconut oil into our diets. Use it in place of butter, lard, or vegetable oil in all your recipes. Coconut oil has a very high smoke point, so even with high heat, it will not oxidize, making it the best choice for high heat cooking. Other than olive oil, which is fine for salads, etc., standard vegetable oils should be avoided altogether. Specifically, when heated, vegetable oils become rancid and create free radicals in the body - which in turn damage our cells. These oils also lead to an overabundance of Omega 6 fatty acids in our body, which compete with Omega 3s for absorption - further leading to Omega 3 deficiency.
So for all the reasons above, it should be clear that coconut oil, like the ancient sayings state, really is life giving. Incorporating coconut oil into your daily regime is one of the easiest - and most delicious - ways to improve your diet and your overall health.
In my research I saw it mentioned that there are no scientific studies to back up the health claims of coconut oil. Au contraire, I say. In fact, each health claim I've made in this article is completely supported by studies published in peer reviewed scientific journals. Most can be viewed in Pub Med. To see the studies go to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ and in the search column enter the study number given below.
MCFAs can be incorporated in weight loss program with no negative effect on cardiovascular health.
2 - PMC3226242
MCFAs effective at reducing waist circumference, especially in males.
3 - 19931617 (no prefix)
MCFAs suppress fat deposition through enhanced metabolism and preserve insulin sensitivity.
4 - PMC2768163/
MCFAs may be beneficial for preventing obesity and peripheral insulin resistance
5 - PMC163106
Lauric acid inactivates H. pylori - the cause of stomach ulcers.
6 - PMC2735618 and PMC2772209
Lauric acid is able to kill the bacteria that promotes inflammatory acne.
7 - PMC2937313
Lauric acid may protect against diabetes induced high cholesterol.
8 - PMC3146349
Study that showed positive correlation between HDL levels and coconut oil intake.
HOW TO PURCHASE:
When purchasing coconut oil, you should look for two kinds. The extra virgin variety is the most healthy and it retains a wonderful coconut flavour and aroma. Use when the coconut taste is appropriate, such as baking, stir-frying, and smoothies. For other times, such as cooking eggs, use coconut oil that is not extra virgin - that way you will not have any coconut flavour, though you'll still have health benefits. Spectrum Naturals carries a second press coconut oil which is affordable - available at Thrifty Foods.
Extra Virgin coconut oil, when bought in smaller quantities can be expensive. A better way to buy extra virgin coconut oil is to order it online in larger quantities. One online source is www.rawnutrition.ca where one can purchase 3.75 litres for $75. And remember, due to its anti-bacterial properties, coconut oil has an extremely long shelf life and can melt and go solid without any degradation.
All edible parts of the coconut are good for you. Coconut milk is a wonderful way to get the health benefits of coconut oil. Here is an easy recipe that's delicious too. Makes a yummy breakfast.
Coconut Milk Rice Pudding
2 cups organic coconut milk
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. honey - or sweetener of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil (optional)
For a warm dessert, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until warmed through. Alternatively, you can mix together and refrigerate to serve cold.