Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

September 16, 2016 Debbie Bowman

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

By Debbie Bowman RHN

On-Staff Nutritionist for Edible Island Whole Foods Market

Called the "tree of life" in the Philippines and the "all giving tree" in Indian classics, the coconut palm has sustained cultures throughout millennia.   In fact, the coconut is the foundation of most diets in tropic and sub-tropic countries.  Though the flesh of the coconut is popular, as is its milk, the most widely used part of the coconut is its oil. 

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 chain triglycerides (MCTs).  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 MCTs – over sixty percent -  and as such, it is metabolized in a very unique way.  Specifically, coconut oil is metabolized through the liver so it’s less likely to be stored as fat.  In fact, study after study have shown that the MCTs found in coconut oil can be effective at both preventing and eliminating adipose fat, i.e. belly fat. As well, consuming coconut oil actually helps to increase one's metabolism, further helping to maintain or decrease one's weight.

MCTs are especially important if one is experiencing age related cognitive decline.   Studies have shown that one cause of cognitive decline is glucose deficiency in the brain cells.  Essentially, the brain cells lose their ability to take in glucose, and this causes the cells to deteriorate.  When one takes in coconut oil, the liver converts the MCTs into ketones. This is important, as the brain cells can use ketones instead of glucose, saving the brain cells from further deterioration.  Time after time, people with obvious signs of cognitive decline have shown dramatic improvement when they take in MCTs. 

Furthermore, coconut oil contains a high amount of lauric acid, 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.  The lauric acid found in coconut oil can also protect against high cholesterol, especially in diabetic individuals.  Specifically, in all individuals, coconut oil has been shown to raise levels of HDL cholesterol while lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol. 

Coconut oil is also 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 affect every body system, especially our brains.  Coconut oil is a delicious way to increase our intake of omega 3 oils, thus increasing the health of our entire body. 

An easy way to incorporate MCTs into the diet is to use MCT oil.   MCT oil contains 100% medium chain triglycerides derived from both coconut and palm oils.  It is suggested that one start with just one tablespoon of MCT oil a day and slowly work up to three tablespoons. 

Here is a delicious recipe for a salad dressing made with pure MCT oil.  A two tablespoon serving of this salad dressing will give you approximately one tablespoon of MCT oil.

MCT Oil Salad Dressing

¾ cup nutritional yeast

¾ cup water

1/3 cup tamari sauce or soy sauce

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 large garlic cloves

1 cup MCT oil

Blend the first five ingredients in a blender for one full minute.  Remove the small inner lid and whilst blending SLOWLY drizzle in the MCT oil. 

Store in a tightly sealed jar in refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

This is an adaptation of Hollyhock’s famous yeast dressing.