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Coconut
Pic Courtesy: Robert Wetzlmayr

 

I use coconut oil a lot when I am making my desserts.

It’s a great substitute for butter in my gluten free banana cake, I use it as a base for my raw chocolate and as a binding agent for my Homemade Nutella.

I have briefly talked about the benefits of coconut oil before here, but thought I would go into it in more detail as many people think it isn’t good for you due to the high saturated fat content.

We have been told for years that saturated fats are bad for you (mainly at the behest of the vegetable oil and corn oil lobbies) however research is now showing that in fact saturated fat can be beneficial to health.

Take for example the Tokelauans, a Polynesian community that traditionally obtained half of their calories from eating Coconut making them possibly one of the highest consumers of saturated fat in the world. However incidences of heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes were relatively unknown until they started migrating to New Zealand and cut their saturated fat content significantly whereupon the rates of diabetes and heart disease increased. (A great post on this study can be found here)

It is interesting too that in India where traditionally fats such as coconut oil and Ghee have been used for cooking, the rates of diabetes and heart disease are soaring as people have switched to so called “heart friendly” oils like sunflower and safflower (see here). These are low in saturated fats but high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) particularly the Omega 6 fatty acids, excessive consumption of which contributes to inflammation, depressed immunity and high blood pressure.

Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat with over 85% of the fatty acids it contains being saturated. This in comparison to butter which is about 63% saturated fat. The fatty acids in Coconut oil are medium chain fatty acids (MCFA).

You will also hear the term Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). Three fatty acids joined together make up a triglyceride.

Most of the fats and oils we eat, are composed of long-chain triglycerides (LCT) whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from an animal or a plant. However the uniqueness of coconut oil is that it is mainly composed of medium chain triglycerides.

Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT) found in milk, eggs and meat and vegetable oils , are stored as fat in the body, while MCTs go straight to the liver where they are used by the body as a fuel source and very little is converted to body fat.
MCT’s are more easily digested by the body and easily converted into an energy source.

Another rich source of MCT’s is Human breast milk so this should give a clue as to how important they are to the human body. Now I don’t suggest you all go out and start drinking breast milk but supplementing your diet with coconut oil is an easy option.

Because the MCT’s in Coconut oil are easily oxidized in the liver, it stimulates thermogenesis which is when the body increases it’s metabolic fat burning rate to generate energy. In simple terms, what this means is that consumption of coconut oil does help you to lose weight.

Studies have also found that consumption of Coconut oil can delay hunger and reduce appetite which will also contribute to weight loss when used in place of oils containing LCT’s.

The main fatty acids in Coconut milk are Lauric Acid, Caprylic acid and Capric acid. These three acids have antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, and are also found in Human breast milk. This is Nature’s way of helping to build the baby’s immune system safely.
Lauric acid makes up almost 50% of the acids and has been found to be effective against viruses such as measles, herpes and even HIV.
Bacteria that the fatty acids in Coconut oil have been found to combat include listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.
They have also been found to be a very effective treatment for Candida. Candida is an excessive overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans and can cause symptoms that include infection in the genitals, urinary tract and bladder, stomach & intestines, ear, nose and throat, itchy and dry skin, inflammations in internal organs and skin.
The anti-microbial and anti-fungal elements of coconut oil’s fatty acids are very effective in killing the yeast overgrowth.

Consumption of coconut oil also has beneficial effects on your cholesterol, raising the good cholesterol HDL while not increasing the bad cholesterol LDL. Again this is the Lauric Acid in coconut oil at work.

The following infographic from coconutoil.com lists the many benefits:

The benefits of Coconut Oil

Many Hollywood Celebrities as well as sportsmen and women swear by the benefits of consuming coconut oil, probably the most well-known advocate being the supermodel Miranda Kerr who attributes her post pregnancy weight loss to her habit of consuming 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil every day.

So what type of coconut oil should you use? I would recommend that you only use cold pressed virgin coconut oil. It is a little more expensive but the cheaper copra based refined varieties are often bleached, deodorized and processed using chemicals.
By the way there is no such thing as extra-virgin. Virgin is virgin, you can’t be more virgin. “Extra” is just a marketing term.

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