Last week, a reader asked the question… “Is coconut oil good for me to be using?” I am so happy that someone asked this question because it is a bit of a tricky one. According to my basic nutrition course textbooks, the answer is no. However as I got deeper into my education, this topic became one that my instructors would often say things such as “but we will discuss this deeper at a later time” or “I don’t love the science on this so let’s look at in another chapter”. Very quickly, it became clear to me that the topic of coconut oil concerning our health was one that is both confusing and misunderstood.
From a basic nutritional perspective coconut oil is a tropical oil (just like palm) that is high in saturated fat. The approximate stats on coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat and 3% polyunsaturated fat. The common knowledge about fat is that saturated contains triglycerides which can be harmful to our health. However when you look at the chains of the fatty acid in coconut oil, something very different and somewhat rare is seen. Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that are metabolized in the liver and are able to be converted to energy immediately. Unlike long-chain fatty acids which get stored as fat, coconut oil is a form of energy that can be immediately used by our body. Therefor, the triglycerides found in coconut oil do not get stored as fat but are instead used as energy.
Aside from its energy abilities, coconut oil has many other benefits as well. Coconut oil is an anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-viral. Coconut oil can be used on the skin to treat and prevent rashes that are the result of viruses, bacteria and fungus, due to a property found in it called lauric acid. Coconut oil also aids in supporting our immune system, improves the production and release of insulin and is an anti-inflammatory food. Coconut oil is helpful in promoting healing of the bodies organelles and cells, it hydrates, is an antioxidant and improved the overall health of hair, skin and nails.
Many studies have shown that the properties and the benefits of coconut oil is very similar to those found in breast milk.
In terms of buying coconut oil, things can get confusing with so many terms on the labels. Below is a graphic that shows what the best type of coconut oil is based on the way in which the coconut oil is processed.
The key when buying coconut oil is to make sure your coconut oil is NOT hydrogenated. Extra-Virgin is the purest form followed by cold pressed, which is pressed from the coconut at a higher heat, and finally expeller pressed which is the highest heat coconut oil pressed naturally. Expeller pressed is the cheapest option to buy and is most definitely a fine choice if you are just starting to implement coconut oil into your diet and lifestyle.
I hope this post has cleared up any questions or confusing you have concerning coconut oil. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.