There’s been a lot of hype lately about coconut oil, as its many health benefits have become more evident. After being stuck with a negative reputation a few decades ago, coconut oil has finally taken back its rightful place in our cabinets. But what makes it so good for us and how should we incorporate it into our diets?
History: Coconut oil has nourished healthy nations for thousands of years. This tropical oil was highly regarded for its flavor, and its antibacterial and immunity properties. During the last few decades, however, coconut oil has been vilified mainly due its high saturated fat content. Over the last 60 years, health officials have been telling us that consuming saturated fat would result in negative health consequences including elevated cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc. Interestingly enough, over those same last 60 years, instances of heart disease, obesity, and cancer have only increased in the American population. Meanwhile, modern-day primitive societies who have continued to use saturated fat as a staple in their diets have seen few instances of heart disease, obesity, or cancer.
Considerations: One thing health officials have failed to mention about saturated fats is that they’re not all created equal. Naturally occurring saturated fats (including those found in coconut oil) are beneficial to health. Those that have been manipulated, such as hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils, are what pose serious health risks.
A 1981 study of two different Polynesian populations found that the majority of the members in both populations had good cardiovascular health and very few health problems, despite consuming coconut as a dietary staple. There is actually no scientific evidence that indicates coconut oil is bad for health. To the contrary, everything indicates that coconut and coconut oil are health-promoting foods.
Nutritional breakdown: Coconut oil (and its saturated fat) has many health benefits, including:
- Promoting heart health
- Promoting weight loss
- Supporting the immune system
- Supporting a healthy metabolism
- Promoting healthy and youthful looking skin
- Supporting thyroid gland function
Coconut oil is composed of a particular type of fatty acid, called lauric acid, which contributes to the oil’s list of health properties. Lauric acid is a powerful antivirus and antibacterial , and there is not a single food source on earth that contains more lauric acid than coconut oil.
Additionally, coconut oil is recognized for its high content of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), also known as medium-chain fatty acids or MCFAs. MCTs are so magical because they can easily be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. MCTs are sent directly to the liver and converted into energy. This makes coconut oil a good source for immediate energy with little chance of it being stored as fat on your body. By contrast, most common vegetables and seeds are comprised of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which put more strain on the pancreas, liver, and entire digestive system.
Because coconut oil has such a high level of saturated fat, it can withstand very high heat, making it one of the healthiest cooking oils. Frying destroys the antioxidants in most vegetable oils and causes oxidation. Oxidation results in cross-linking, cyclization, double-bond shifts, fragmentation, and polymerization of oils that can cause far more damage than trans-fats. Vegetable oils (canola, soy, vegetable, corn) should be avoided at all costs and should be substituted with coconut oil or ghee, especially for frying. Even olive oil cannot withstand the high temperatures of cooking like coconut oil without being incurring oxidative damage.
The takeaway: Although coconut oil has been regarded as unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, new findings prove the exact opposite: it’s actually the saturated fat in coconut oil that contributes to heart health, immunity, metabolism, beautiful skin, and healthy thyroid function. If the scientific evidence isn’t enough, anecdotal evidence for thousands of years, coconut oil was a staple in nourishing many healthy populations.
Shopping for coconut oil has become rather complicated due to the tropical oil’s growing reputation in the health market. Be aware of marketing schemes. When shopping for coconut oil look for organic, cold-pressed, unrefined virgin coconut oil (VCO).
Uses & Recipes: Coconut oil has various uses from skin moisturizer to roasting sweet potatoes (recipe below) to baking. You can even add it to smoothies, hot tea, or coffee for an extra boost of energy. Coconut oil’s uses are just as numerous as the health benefits.
Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons organic, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil; 2 pounds organic sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks; ½ teaspoon fine sea salt; ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon grated lime zest (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper together in a large bowl until evenly coated. Spread potatoes in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and toss with lime zest.
Originally posted 2013-07-14 06:56:10.