Last fall I started a new love affair.
With coconut oil.
Unfortunately, throughout the years it’s received a bad rap due to it’s high saturated fat content and has been labeled “unhealthy”.
But is it unhealthy?
Let me just say – heaven’s no! While it may be full of saturated fat, coconut oil is fantastic and has so many great uses. And while I am not making any health claims about it I do want to to tell you some of the benefits of using coconut oil.
First off – The Fat
Yes, coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat. But about 2/3 of them are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are supposed to assimilate well into the body. These “medium” sized fats are important because our bodies actually metabolize fatty acids depending on their size. Medium chain fatty acids do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and can actually help protect against heart disease. This medium chain triglyceride, or lauric acid, is also used in the body to produce something called monolaurin which is an antiviral and antibacterial monoglyceride that helps protect us from things like colds and flu virus’s.
I also found an interesting quote from a Dr. Ray Peat Ph.D., (physiologist who has worked with progesterone and related hormones issues for over 30 some years) And while this quote doesn’t quite boast the benefits of coconut oil, it’s being said that changes have been made in our hormones due to the increase of polyunsaturated fats (corn oil, canola oil, soy and flax oil) we now consume.
Their [polyunsaturated oils] best understood effect is their interference with the function of the thyroid gland. Polyunsaturated oils block thyroid hormone secretion, its movement in the circulatory system, and the response of tissues to the hormone. When the thyroid hormone is deficient, the body is generally exposed to increased levels of oestrogen. The thyroid hormone is essential for making the ‘protective hormones’ progesterone and pregnenolone, so these hormones are lowered when anything interferes with the function of the thyroid. The thyroid hormone is required for using and eliminating cholesterol, so cholesterol is likely to be raised by anything that blocks the thyroid function (http://www.efn.org/~raypeat/efatox.rtf)
A Quick Side Note on Why We Need Saturated Fat in Our Diet
For many reasons actually.
First off, saturated fat constitutes about 50% of our cells. It helps to maintain good cellular structure by making sure the walls of our cells are not to thin.
It also helps our bodies absorb calcium which can play a vital role in the health and strength of our bones.
And “Saturated fatty acids are needed for the proper utilization of omega-3 essential fatty acids because omega-3’s are better retained in the tissues when the diet is rich in saturated fats (particularly organic virgin coconut oil)” (source)
Secondly – Some Benefits
While I make no claims myself, here are a few ways coconut oil can be used as modern medicine via The Coconut Research Center
- Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, AIDS, and other illnesses.
- Kills fungi and yeasts that cause different things like candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
- Provides quick energy.
- Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
- Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose. (important when trying to balance insulin levels and hormones!)
- Promotes weight loss
- Contains important nutrients our bodies need
Thirdly – It Rocks
Above all else I have found coconut oil to be extremely tasty (depending on the brand some are more flavorful than others) and versatile. I use coconut oil in so many different ways; everything from baking to frying to face lotion.
It has a melting point of 76 degrees which means when it’s warm out, it’s a liquid. Here in chilly Michigan winter, it’s definitely solid! So to use for baking you may substitute both oils and butter/shortening with it! I also have found that because it is slightly sweet and has a great flavor, I can usually reduce the amount of sugar I add to anything I bake.
How I’ve used coconut oil
While this oil has so many more uses, here’s what we use it for:
- Chapstick – great for dry and chapped lips
- Face lotion – I always put on a light layer after showering
- On eczema – because of it’s anti-fungal properties
- On my pregnant belly – seemed to help the itching!
- As a diaper rash ointment – works better than anything I’ve tried
- Hair gel/conditioner – while not perfect for me, it’s worked wonderfully in a pinch
- I use it when making nourishing fudge and most of my baked goods
- I also put a tablespoon or two into smoothies
- I also make a great cold/flu fighting garlic herb butter with it
I would be very lost without this oil in my house now. It’s one of my most favorite things in my pantry!!
So do you use coconut oil? What’s your favorite use?
Other sources of information
- Health Benefits
- Alzheimers and coconut oil
- Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on women with belly fat
- A huge list of coconut oil research
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