Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat Is Good For You
You’ve no doubt noticed that for about the last 60 years, the majority of health care officials and the media have been telling you saturated fats are bad for your health and lead to a host of negative consequences, including high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Meanwhile during this same 60 years, the American levels of heart disease, obesity, elevated serum cholesterol and Alzheimer’s have skyrocketed.
Did you know that multiple studies on Pacific Island populations who get 30-60 percent of their total caloric intake from fully saturated coconut oil have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease? (1)
The fact is, all saturated fats are not created equal.
The operative word here is “created,” because some saturated fats occur naturally, while other fats are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation.
Hydrogenation manipulates vegetable and seed oils by adding hydrogen atoms while heating the oil, producing a rancid, thickened substance that really only benefits processed food shelf life and corporate profits — just about all experts now agree, hydrogenation does nothing good for your health.
These manipulated saturated fats are also called trans-fats — and you should avoid them like the plague. But if one form of saturated fat is bad for you, does that mean all saturated fat is bad for you?
The Tropics’ Best Kept Secret
The truth about coconut oil is obvious to anyone who has studied the health of those who live in native tropical cultures, where coconut has been a primary dietary staple for thousands of years.
Back in the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price found South Pacific Islanders whose diets were high in coconut to be healthy and trim, despite high dietary fat, and heart disease was virtually non-existent. Similarly, in 1981, researchers studying two Polynesian communities for whom coconut was the primary caloric energy source found them to have excellent cardiovascular health and fitness. (2)
Where were all the clogged arteries and heart attacks from eating all of this “evil” saturated fat?
Obviously, coconut oil was doing nothing to harm the health of these islanders.
It may be surprising for you to learn that the naturally occurring saturated fat in coconut oil is actually good for you and provides a number of profound health benefits, such as:
Coconut oil even benefits your skin when applied topically and has been found to have anti-aging, regenerative effects.
So, what are coconut oil’s secrets to success?
How Coconut Oil Works Wonders in Your Body
Nearly 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is of a type rarely found in nature called lauric acid, a “miracle” compound because of its unique health promoting properties. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties. (6)
Coconut oil is also nature’s richest source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. By contrast, most common vegetable or seed oils are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), also known as long-chain triglycerides or LCTs.
LCTs are large molecules, so they are difficult for your body to break down and are predominantly stored as fat.
But MCTs (7) , being smaller, are easily digested and immediately burned by your liver for energy — like carbohydrates, but without the insulin spike. MCTs actually boost your metabolism and help your body use fat for energy, as opposed to storing it, so it can actually help you become leaner.
Back in the 1940s, farmers discovered this effect accidentally when they tried using inexpensive coconut oil to fatten their livestock.
It didn’t work!
Instead, coconut oil made the animals lean, active and hungry.
Coconut oil has actually been shown to help optimize body weight, which can dramatically reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (8). Besides weight loss, boosting your metabolic rate will improve your energy, accelerate healing and improve your overall immune function.
And several studies have now shown that MCTs can enhance physical or athletic performance.(9)
And finally, as we have already discussed, coconut oil is incedibly good for your heart. The truth is this: it is unsaturated fats that are primarily involved in heart disease and too much sugar and processed foods, not the naturally occurring saturated fats, as you have been led to believe. (10)
Coconut Oil in Your Kitchen
Personally, I use only two oils in my food preparation.
The first, extra-virgin olive oil is the best monounsaturated fat and works great as a salad dressing. However, olive oil should not be used for cooking. Due to its chemical structure, heat makes olive oil susceptible to oxidative damage. So for cooking, I use coconut oil exclusively.
And polyunsaturated fats, which include common vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola, are absolutely the worst oils to cook with.
Three primary reasons:
1) Cooking your food in omega-6 vegetable oils produces a variety of very toxic chemicals, as well as forming trans-fats. Frying destroys the antioxidants in oil, actually oxidizing the oil, which causes even worse problems for your body than trans-fats.
2) Most vegetable oils are GM (genetically modified), including more than 90 percent of soy, corn and canola oils.
3) Vegetable oils contribute to the overabundance of damaged omega-6 fats in your diet, throwing offyour omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Nearly everyone in Western society consumes far too many omega-6 fats — about 100 times more than a century ago — and insufficient omega 3 fats, which contributes to numerous chronic degenerative diseases.
There is only one oil that is stable enough to withstand the heat of cooking, and that’s coconut oil. So, do yourself a favor and ditch all those “healthy oil wannabes,” and replace them with a large jar of fresh, organic, heart-supporting coconut oil.
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(1) Kaunitz H, Dayrit CS. Coconut oil consumption and coronary heart disease. Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine, 1992;30:165-171
(2) Prior IA, Davidson F, Salmond CE, Czochanska Z. Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: The Pukapuka and Tokelau Island studies, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981;34:1552-1561
(3) Raymond Peat Newsletter, Coconut Oil, reprinted at http://www.heall.com. http://www.heall.com/body/healthupdates/food/coconutoil.html An Interview With Dr. Raymond Peat, A Renowned Nutritional Counselor Offers His Thoughts About Thyroid Disease
(4) Baba, N 1982.Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium-chain triglycerides, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 35:379
(5) Dr. Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., F.A.C.N. Source: Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century
(6) Isaacs CE, Litov RE, Marie P, Thormar H. Addition of lipases to infant formulas produces antiviral and antibacterial activity, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 1992;3:304-308.
Isaacs CE, Schneidman K. Enveloped Viruses in Human and Bovine Milk are Inactivated by Added Fatty Acids(FAs) and Monoglycerides(MGs), FASEB Journal, 1991;5: Abstract 5325, p.A1288.
Mitsuto Matsumoto, Takeru Kobayashi, Akio Takenakaand Hisao Itabashi. Defaunation Effects of Medium Chain Fatty Acids and Their Derivatives on Goat Rumen Protozoa, The Journal of General Applied Microbiology, Vol. 37, No. 5 (1991) pp.439-445.
(7) St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue, International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 2003 Dec;27(12):1565-71. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12975635
(8) Geliebter, A 1980. Overfeeding with a diet of medium-chain triglycerides impedes accumulation of body fat, Clinical Nutrition, 28:595
(9) Fushiki, T and Matsumoto, K Swimming endurance capacity of mice is increased by consumption of medium-chain triglycerides, Journal of Nutrition, 1995;125:531. http://www.coconut-connections.com/hypothyroidism.htm
(10) Barry Groves, PhD. Second Opinions: Exposing Dietary Misinformation: The Cholesterol Myth, parts 1 and 2