The Top Health Benefits of Coconut Oil You Need to Know
November 3, 2023
November 3, 2023
Coconut oil is a popular cooking medium and edible oil. It is a derivative of coconut kernels, meat, and milk. Coconut oil takes the form of a white viscous liquid in colder regions and a clear, thin liquid oil in warmer climates. Unrefined varieties have a distinct coconut aroma. Coconut oil is an edible oil and also has limited industrial applications. The oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, high levels of good fat, and numerous health benefits.
Coconut oil has a long culinary history in Asia. Its usage is prevalent in tropical regions where the plant grows aplenty. It is the most popular cooking medium in Sri Lankan cuisine, Thailand and Southern India. This oil is gaining popularity in Western countries as well. Coconut oil is now quite common in baked goods, pastries, and savoury dishes like fries and sautés.
Coconut oil is composed mainly of fats. Here’s the nutritional composition of coconut oil per 100 grams as per USDA:
Coconut oil has a high saturated fat content, particularly lauric acid. This saturated fat content is significantly higher than that of most other vegetable oils, which are primarily composed of unsaturated fats. While some believe that the unique composition of fatty acids in coconut oil, particularly the presence of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), has health benefits, it’s essential to consider the potential implications of the high saturated fat content, especially for heart health.
In terms of vitamins and minerals, coconut oil contains very minimal amounts:
Coconut oil has gained significant popularity due to numerous health benefits. One can attribute the surge in coconut oil’s demand to various health claims associated with it. Some of the health benefits are:
There have been assertions that the saturated fats in coconut oil, particularly lauric acid, may have a neutral or even positive effect on heart health by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Coconut oil has linkages with improved cognitive function, and some proponents suggest it may help prevent neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. When the body metabolises MCTs, it leads to the production of ketones, which may provide an alternative energy source for the brain.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil boost metabolism and reduce appetite, potentially aiding weight loss. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil promote the burning of calories and increase satiety.
Coconut oil has moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a popular natural remedy for skin conditions. Research shows that topically applying coconut oil to the skin can improve hydration and reduce symptoms of eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Coconut oil demonstrates a significant reduction in protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair when used before and after washing. In a comparative study, sunflower and mineral oils exhibited no discernible effect in mitigating protein loss from the hair. On the other hand, coconut oil, primarily composed of lauric acid as a triglyceride, possesses a strong affinity for hair proteins. Its low molecular weight and linear molecular structure facilitate deep penetration into the hair shaft.
The lauric acid in coconut oil contributes to its antimicrobial properties. Research indicates that coconut oil may be effective against various types of fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
Coconut oil has emerged as a promising immune-nutritive activity with potential benefits for various aspects of health and industry. It contains lauric acid, which offers antimicrobial and antiviral qualities, helping to fend off infections.
Coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties can promote a healthy gut microbiome by combating harmful gut bacteria. Coconut oil stops the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. In an animal-based study, rats with liver disease consumed a high-glucose diet ( with and without coconut oil). Those who had coconut oil had improved liver health after four weeks.
Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil help preserve insulin sensitivity. However, it’s important to note that the review mentioned in the text highlighted the specific benefits of MCT oil, not coconut oil itself. Studies also show coconut oil increases satiety, which means it will reduce cravings for high-sugar snacks.
Virgin coconut oil, known for its potential antioxidant properties, was tested in a rodent study to assess its impact on stress induced by exercise and chronic cold exposure. The findings suggested that virgin coconut oil could be beneficial in addressing specific forms of stress and depression.
It’s important to note that while these studies provide evidence of potential benefits, more research can help fully understand the extent of coconut oil’s effects on health. Also, individual responses to coconut oil can vary, and moderation in consumption is ideal due to its high saturated fat content.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil may provide an alternative energy source for the brain. MCTs may improve cognitive performance in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Coconut oil also contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Because of its possible antioxidant qualities, virgin coconut oil may help with some types of stress and depression. Additionally, coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) support the maintenance of insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, the antibacterial qualities of coconut oil can support healthy gut flora and fight against dangerous gut bacteria. Coconut oil applied topically is beneficial to the health of the skin and hair.
Coconut oil is an ingredient that one can incorporate in their daily routine in several ways:
Add one or two spoonfuls of coconut oil to any smoothie for a creamy texture and flavour.
Try “bulletproof coffee” by blending a teaspoon of coconut oil with your morning coffee for great skin and an energising drink.
Create homemade salad dressings by combining coconut oil with vinegar or citrus juices for a unique and healthy vinaigrette.
Drizzle melted coconut oil over freshly popped popcorn, then season with your favourite spices for a tasty and aromatic snack.
Add coconut oil to stir-fries and curries to enhance the flavour and provide a hint of coconut aroma.
Spread a layer of coconut oil on whole-grain toast instead of butter or margarine.
Make coconut butter by blending coconut oil with shredded coconut and a touch of sweetener for a delicious spread.
Create homemade energy bars by mixing coconut oil with dates, a choice of nuts, healthy seeds, and dried fruits for a nutritious energy bar.
Dip apple slices or carrot sticks in a mixture of coconut oil and nut butter for a satisfying and energising snack.
Apply coconut oil topically as a moisturiser for the skin, hair conditioner, or a soothing after-sun treatment.
A traditional Yogic method where one swishes their mouth with a teaspoon or two of coconut oil for about 15-20 minutes as a part of an oil-pulling routine to promote oral hygiene.
Consider coconut oil supplements in the form of capsules for a convenient way to obtain their potential health benefits.
Here are two easy recipes to try:
As with any dietary trend, it’s essential to approach it with caution and consider individual health and nutritional needs. Consulting with a nutritionist can provide personalised guidance on the role of coconut oil in one’s diet and its potential benefits and risks. The key to a healthy diet is often moderation, variety, and a balanced approach that includes a wide range of foods and ingredients.
It’s important to proceed cautiously and take into account each person’s unique health and nutritional requirements while implementing any dietary trend. Coconut oil’s high-calorie content may outweigh any possible advantages for weight control, and its usage in weight loss is still confusing. Lauric acid comprises mainly of saturated fats, which might raise LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease, even if it has antibacterial characteristics.
Coconut oil’s health benefits are mainly attributed to its high content of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are unique due to their chemical structure and how the body processes them. They are rapidly absorbed in the gut, quickly entering the bloodstream and heading directly to the liver, making their processing much more efficient compared to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). This efficiency contributes to the health benefits of coconut oil.
Coconut oil has health benefits, but its high saturated fat content can adversely affect heart health if consumed in excess. Moderation is crucial, especially for those with heart conditions. While it shows promise in health and beauty, individual responses vary, and not all studies are consistent. Consider it as part of a balanced lifestyle, using it alongside other nutritious foods and skincare products. Its use should align with individual health and dietary goals, weighing potential benefits and saturated fat content.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.
A: Coconut oil is an edible oil derived from coconut kernels, meat, and milk. It exists as a white viscous liquid in colder regions and a clear, thin oil in warmer climates. It is known for its high levels of saturated fats and medium-chain fatty acids, offering various potential health benefits.
A: Yes, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can boost metabolism and reduce appetite, potentially aiding weight loss. MCTs promote calorie burning and increase satiety, helping with fat burning and weight management.
A: Coconut oil’s saturated fat content, primarily lauric acid, has mixed effects on heart health. It may raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is considered suitable for heart health. However, its high saturated fat content can potentially increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is less favourable. Therefore, moderation is essential, especially for individuals with existing heart conditions.
A: Coconut oil’s impact on cholesterol levels is complex. While some suggest it may increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, it can also raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol due to its high saturated fat content. Managing cholesterol with coconut oil should be done cautiously and in moderation.
A: Coconut oil has moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a popular natural remedy for skin conditions. It can improve hydration and reduce symptoms of skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis. For hair, coconut oil may reduce protein loss and improve overall hair health.
A: Coconut oil contains primarily saturated fats, including lauric acid. While it may offer certain health benefits, it is not a source of healthy unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil or fatty fish.
A: Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial and antiviral properties. It may offer support to the immune system by helping fend off infections, but its role in overall immune system function is just one aspect to consider.
A: Coconut oil has some anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for skin conditions and potentially other inflammatory issues. However, it should not be relied upon as the sole treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions.
A: Coconut oil can be used for oil pulling, a traditional oral hygiene method. Swishing a teaspoon or two of coconut oil in the mouth for 15-20 minutes may promote oral hygiene. Still, its teeth-whitening effects are limited and not as effective as commercial whitening products.
A: Coconut oil contains antioxidants, particularly virgin coconut oil, which may help combat oxidative stress and protect against certain types of stress and depression. However, it should not replace a diet rich in diverse antioxidant sources.
A: Coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties may promote a healthy gut microbiome by combating harmful gut bacteria. It has the potential to support digestive health, but it should be part of a balanced diet.
A: Yes, coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties, making it a natural remedy for skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis. It can improve hydration and reduce symptoms when applied topically.
A: Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that may provide an alternative energy source for the brain. Some studies suggest MCTs could improve cognitive performance, but further research is needed for conclusive evidence.
A: Coconut oil can be used in various ways in cooking, such as sautéing, frying, baking, and as a substitute for other oils or butter. One can also add it to smoothies, coffee, salad dressings, popcorn, stir-fries, and as a spread or topping. Including coconut oil in recipes can add a delightful coconut flavour and potential health benefits to dishes.