Several years ago, I read an article about coconut oil as a weight loss aid. That made my ears perk up because it went against everything I ever heard about coconut oil, a saturated fat. How could that help weight loss? I had always believed coconut oil was bad for your cholesterol and artery clogging. Well, I did some more digging, and it turns out that coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil, is not only good for weight loss, it also has a myriad of other health benefits including being an antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, digestive aid, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, free radical blocker, metabolism booster, skin and hair booster, natural sunscreen, and it actually helps reduce cholesterol and heart disease, plus much more. For a full list of benefits and the many studies of coconut oil benefits, please read my links below. It will astound you.
How did the coconut, which has been used for centuries as a source of food in Asian and Pacific Island cultures (amongst the healthiest people in the world), acquire such a nasty reputation? As it turns out, the bad press was the result of an unscientific, orchestrated campaign by soybean farmers in the U.S. back in the 1980s. It was the soybean industry who started and perpetrated a belief that ALL saturated fats, including coconut oil, was unhealthy in an attempt to boost sales of soybean oil. As explained by Bruce Fife, CN/ND, coconut enthusiast, expert, and nutritionist:
“The reason people think of heart disease when anyone mentions coconut oil doesn’t have anything to do with science, and doesn’t have anything to do with fact, but has everything to do with marketing and money. Back in the early and mid-1980s, people were concerned that saturated fats could raise cholesterol levels. The soybean industry realized this was a perfect opportunity to make a profit. They reasoned that if they could convince people that all saturated fats were bad and caused heart disease people would eat more vegetable oil. So the soybean industry spent millions in an anti-saturated fat and anti-tropical oils publicity campaign. Special interest groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest joined in and started producing alarming news stories about the dangers of saturated fats. They invented the term “artery clogging fat” in reference to coconut oil. Because of the media blitz it didn’t take long before everyone believed coconut oil was an artery clogging fat. People are still duped by the soybean industry’s attack on coconut oil. Many authors, too lazy to do their own research, still parrot the biased viewpoints produced by these groups. I’m trying to change this by providing accurate information so that people can know the truth.
What Makes Coconut Oil Different?
All fats, whether monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated are composed of fatty acid molecules. Some fatty acids are smaller than others and are processed and metabolized differently by the body as a result. Most of the plant and animal fats we consume are long-chain fatty acids. What makes coconut oil unique is that it is a medium-chain fatty acid. The fact that it is smaller, allows it to digested and absorbed directly into the blood via the intestinal wall and travel directly to the portal vein of the liver, just as other nutrients do. This is not true of the long-chain fatty acids. They are too large to be immediately absorbed by the intestinal capillaries and must be absorbed into the fatty walls of the intestinal villi and converted into triglycerides. Triglycerides are coated with cholesterol. If the body does not use up the triglycerides in producing energy, it accumulates, causing the artery clogging and cholesterol elevations that some saturated fats such as lard and beef tallow are well known for. Thus, small and medium-chain fatty acids, such as coconut and palm oils, do not have the same negative health consequences as their long-chain cousins do because they are quickly metabolized and processed through the liver and kidneys instead of converting to fat and triglycerides. Coconut oil is also superior to long-chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower, and canola for the same reason that they aren’t as readily digested. In addition, they are highly refined and can turn rancid very easily. Another consideration is that such vegetable oils are more likely to come from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), especially canola, soybean and corn oils, and the long-term health implications of using GMOs are unknown. Compared to coconut oil and olive oil, these oils have few if any health benefits, could be harmful, and should be avoided if possible.
How to Incorporate Coconut Oil in Your Life
The benefits of the various forms of coconut, including coconut oil, sugar, milk, water, flour are just now becoming widely known. You should have no problem finding all these coconut products in places like Whole Foods and even some grocery stores.
Virgin organic unrefined coconut oil is the best form to take for health benefits internally, but it does have a coconut flavor. You can take 2 or 3 tablespoons a day straight, or added to a hot beverage like coffee or tea. It will be oily appearing though. If you can’t stomach drinking coconut oil straight, use it for cooking. You may not want the coconut taste in all your food and for those occasions, you can use a semi-refined or refined coconut oil. Lou Ana sells a refined coconut oil in a jar for about $5, and it has no coconut taste. I use that for some of my cooking and frying, in place of canola and olive oil now. It takes high temperatures very well, and you can even deep fry with it, although it is pricey for that use. The downside of coconut oil is that, being a saturated fat, it will harden if the room temperature is cool. But it will become a liquid if the temperature is kept warm enough (above 76 degrees F). So, you can’t use it in marinades, cold dishes or salads, because it will harden and not look or taste good. Stick with olive oil in those cases. You can also apply unrefined coconut oil topically as a body treatment and to your hair for a conditioner.
Do comparison shopping for coconut oil and other coconut products. Some online places like Amazon and Iherb.com offer coconut products for better prices than your local grocery store or Whole Foods.
Coconut Palm Sugar for Healthy Sweetening
Another great product is coconut palm sugar. This is sugar produced from the nectar of the coconut palm blossoms. It has a light brown appearance, much like light brown sugar. In fact, it tastes a little like brown sugar. The many benefits of this sugar over other sugars and sugar substitutes make it #1 on my list for sweetening. I never buy regular sugar or artificial sweeteners anymore. Coconut palm sugar has an extremely low glycemic index and less fructose than Agave nectar, without the aftertaste of stevia. Its glycemic index is 35; anything under 55 is considered low. As a comparison of glycemic levels, refined table sugar is 80; high fructose corn syrup is 87. In addition, coconut palm sugar is full of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. This is the ideal sugar for glucose intolerant people and diabetics. As a healthy option to add sweetness to dishes and baked items, it is unbeatable. Remember that glycation, caused by excess blood glucose in the bloodstream, is a major factor in aging. The less glucose in your blood, the better for your health and skin. So, if you must use sugar at all, use coconut palm sugar.
I substitute palm sugar for regular sugar at the same ratio for cooking and baking with no problem. It is just as sweet as regular sugar. However, it does has a slight molasses taste, so you may find Agave nectar a good 2nd choice if you don’t want that flavor in your food or drink. I use it in my coffee and love the taste actually. You can find coconut palm sugar in many grocery stores, but again, comparison shop. You may find online sources cheaper in bulk. It costs about $4 for a 16 oz package of Sweet Tree Organic Palm Sugar (the brand I use). True, it’s not cheap, but that will force you to limit your sugar intake, which is a good thing anyway.