Although coconut oil is made up of 100% fat, it differs structurally from the traditional long-chain fatty acids or saturated fat often found in animal products. Coconut oil has an unusually high amount (65%) of medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCFAs or MCTs), which are harder for our bodies to convert into stored fat and easier for them to burn off than long-chain fatty acids or triglycerides (LCFAs or LCTs). When compared with other fats, coconut oil contains 2.6% fewer calories.
Virgin coconut oil (as opposed to partially hydrogenated or refined – which can be as harmful as other highly processed oils/fats), is extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals, is considered unrefined and is purporting many health benefits – both when ingested and also applied to the skin and hair!
At its most basic level, virgin coconut oil has potential antioxidant properties due to certain plant nutrients it contains called phenolic compounds. In addition to these are the following possible health and disease prevention benefits of consuming coconut oil:
Increases HDL (good cholesterol) relative to LDL cholesterol and thereby may help reduce/prevent cardiovascular disease.
The high in MCTs in coconut oil have been shown to increase glucose tolerance and reduce body fat accumulation. Coconut oil may also improve insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes.
Substituting oils high in medium chain triglycerides for those with long chain triglycerides may be beneficial for weight loss in healthy individuals (though all high-fat foods and oils are calorically dense).
There are also studies showing benefits for hyperthyroidism and Alzheimer’s.
Coconut oil has a lightly sweet flavour and has some great culinary uses:
– substitutes well for butter in baking
– in home made toasted granola
– added to black coffee with a shake of cinnamon
– in stir fries and warm salad dressings
But coconut oil is super versatile and equally can be used topically. It is a great moisturiser and when applied to the skin can be beneficial in treating eczema symptoms and in reducing candida infections such as in athletes foot; it can also fight the yeast causing the skin blotching in tinea versicolour and dandruff.
All hail coconut oil!