Phu Thinh Co, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Coconut oil is a highly controversial food. While the media portrays it as something that has a lot of benefits to offer but the scientists say that it does not live up to its hype. However, several studies have been conducted on the benefits of cooking with coconut oil and some have come out to be true. So, let’s dig a bit deeper and discuss how cooking with coconut oil benefits our bodies.
History of Coconut Oil Consumption
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It’s been centuries since humans discovered coconut oil and its uses. Back in the day, people consumed a huge amount and also used it for several other purposes. However, you do not see any health scares amongst those who consumed coconut oil on a daily basis.
Studies have shown that populations of indigenous people received a large percentage of calorie intake from coconuts and turned up much healthier as compared to the people in the West. In fact, the Tokelauans were the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world and got more than 50% of their calories from coconuts.
In addition to that, the Kitavans received almost 17% of their calories from saturated fats mostly from coconuts. Despite the high consumption, these populations are not known for suffering from any health concerns.
However, it needs to be mentioned that these people followed a healthy lifestyle, which did not consist of processed foods. Nevertheless, these observational studies state that coconut oil consumption hardly raises any serious health concerns, provided that you follow a healthy lifestyle.
Therefore, even if you were to opt for the best coconut oil for your daily intake, you will have to ensure that you exercise and follow a healthy routine to reap the benefits.
Coconut Oil Features a Unique Combination of Fatty Acids
Coconut oil is quite different from other oil types and features a unique combination of fatty acids that is hardly found in any other food item. Even though the fatty acids are about 90% saturated but it is known for its high content of saturated fat lauric acid. It makes around 40% of its total fat content.
As a result, coconut oils are highly resistant to oxidation at high heat. This makes it the perfect option for cooking at high temperatures such as frying. In addition to that, coconut oil contains a relatively rich amount of medium-chain fatty acids that include 7% caprylic acid and 5% capric acid.
On the other hand, epileptic patients use fats while on their ketogenic diet to induce ketosis. However, coconut oil is not suited for the purpose as it has a relatively poor ketogenic effect. With that said, it is important that users refer to a proper guide to cooking oils to avoid any serious health concerns in the future.
Coconut Oil is Rich in Lauric Acid
Amongst the important benefits of coconut oil, one is that it contains a healthy amount of lauric acid, which is around 40%. When compared to other oil types, coconut oil has the highest amount while others just contain traces. However, palm kernel oil tends to be an exception with a 47% lauric acid amount.
Lauric acid acts as an intermediate between the long-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. At the same time, lauric acid is also considered medium-chain but is metabolized and digested differently from the true medium-chain fatty acids and tends to have more in common with the long-chain fatty acids.
Studies show that lauric acid increases cholesterol blood levels but that is mostly due to high-density lipoproteins. An increase in high-density lipoproteins, relative to total cholesterol tends to reduce the risks of heart diseases.
Coconut Oil May Improve Blood Lipids
Several studies highlight that the regular consumption of coconut oil improves the levels of lipids in the blood, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. When compared to butter or extra-virgin olive oil, the coconut oil diet is proven to increase the “good” HDL cholesterol.
At the same time, while the extra-virgin olive oil tends to increase “bad” cholesterol, coconut oil does not help with the increase. Combining the studies conducted on coconut oil benefits, the results show that it does have protective qualities against heart diseases.
Coconut Oil May Help You Lose Weight
There is some evidence that coconut oil may help you reduce weight. A study conducted on 40 women with abdominal obesity found that coconut oil reduces waist circumference when compared to soya bean oil.
In addition to that, another study found that virgin coconut oil helped reduce appetite when compared to extra-virgin olive oil. Studies suggest that these benefits are most likely due to medium-chain fatty acids. These help with a modest decrease in body weight.
However, despite some promising evidence, scientists are still trying to find answers surrounding the actual weight loss benefits of coconut oil.
May Boost Skin Health
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Apart from using coconut oil for cooking, it is also used by many to boost skin health. People believe that coconut oil helps improve the appearance of the skin as well as the texture. Studies have shown that coconut oil helps increase the dry skin’s moisture content.
Additionally, it might also help improve the function of the skin and prevent excess water loss along with protecting the skin from external factors such as chemicals and allergens, etc. Infact, a recent study concluded that applying 6-8 drops of coconut oil on your hands and leaving it overnight can help prevent dry skin due to regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Is Coconut Oil Safe for Everyone?
Although coconut oil is safe for most people but some tend to be allergic to coconut or other members of the same plant family. If you intend to use coconut oil for weight loss or heart health, you might need to think again. Even though MCFAs are less likely to be stored in the body as fat and more readily used as a source of energy, this is not the same case with coconut oil.
The reason is that coconut oils contain lauric acid as mentioned previously that acts somewhere between the useful MCFAs and the not so useful long-chain triglycerides. Until we can come across some solid evidence suggesting the health benefits of coconut oil, it should be made sure that it is consumed in moderate amounts.
Coconut oil has several benefits to offer and it has been used for centuries for different purposes. However, be sure that you consume it in moderation. Excess of everything is bad. At the same time, follow a healthy diet and exercise daily to keep your physical and mental state balanced.