We are continuing our discussion of this remarkable oil with today’s post focusing on the special properties of coconut oil. If you missed Part 1, click here.
Coconut oil is currently being hailed as the “new health food of the 21st-century”. There obviously must be something to this food for it to achieve such a status. So what are we waiting for??? Let’s get started…
MEDIUM-CHAIN FATTY ACIDS:
All fats and oils are comprised of fat molecules called fatty acids and vary in size from short-chain, medium-chain, to long-chain. The length of the fatty acid is extremely important because our body responds to and metabolizes each one differently, depending on its size.
The vast majority of fats and oils in the Western diet (between 95% – 100%), are long-chain fatty acids (LCFA), predominantly in the form of vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, safflower, canola, etc.
LCFAs need to be digested by digestive enzymes and bile salts secreted by the gallbladder. As the digestion process continues, they are absorbed into the intestines and then in the bloodstream. During circulation, small particles of fat are released.
In contrast, coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA). The digestion process is very different compared to LCFAs. MCFAs do not require digestive enzymes and bile to digest, making MCFAs digest very quickly. Once in the intestines, they are quickly absorbed into the portal vein and then sent to the liver where used as a source of fuel and burned and metabolized to produce energy.
MCFAs basically bypass the lipo-protein phase and don’t circulate in the bloodstream to the degree that other fats do. This makes it ideal for infants, cystic fibrosis patients, and those with digestive problems.
Coconut oil is 92% saturated and 67 % MCFA. These unique saturated fatty acids are extraordinarily resistant to oxidation (getting rancid) and free-radical production. Because of this stability, coconut oil acts as an antioxidant.
Some additional facts:
- All MCFAs are saturated fats
- Best sources come from coconut and palm kernel oils
- MCFAs in natural, non-hydrogenated coconut oil do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and can protect you from heart disease
The main MCFA in coconut oil is lauric acid – an antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal agent. (Lauric acid is also found in abundance in mother’s milk!)
When converted in your body, it strengthens your immune system by killing disease causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. At the same time, it does not harm friendly gut bacteria or contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Studies have shown the MCFAs in coconut able to:
- destroy bacteria that cause gastric ulcers, dental cavities, pneumonia, sinus infections, urinary tract infections, etc.
- destroy fungus and yeast that cause ring worm, athletes foot and candida
- kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis, hepatitis C, and HIV
Coconut oil has a “thermogenic effect” – meaning, it raises your body temperature, thus boosting your energy and metabolic rate. This effect does not simply last 1-2 hours after a meal however. Studies show metabolism remained elevated for at least 24 hours after eating a single meal containing MCFA!
To restate it another way, when you eat a meal containing MCFAs, it will cause the calories in the food to be burned at a faster rate, effectively reducing the # of calories in the meal that can end up being converted into body fat.
Furthermore, the affect on metabolism is a strong indicator that coconut oil also supports and improves thyroid function.
“Hypothyroidism (thyroid deficiency, resulting in a low metabolic rate), which is characterized by weight gain, lethargy, dry skin, depression, and lack of mental clarity, is on the rise in America, affecting an estimated 12 million people… Hypothyroidism is a serious condition in its own right, but also a precursor to other ailments such as heart disease, breast cancer, and chronic fatigue. While no studies have investigated how coconut oil affects the thyroid gland specifically, the fact that it raises body temperature and causes weight loss indicate that it supports thyroid function. In fact, many dieters report that they are able to reduce or even eliminate their thyroid medications when they add coconut oil to their diet.” – excerpt from Eat Fat, Lose Fat (pg. 63)
In addition to what has already been mentioned, coconut oil is also known to…
- enhance nutrient absorption including minerals, some B vitamins, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, beta carotene) and amino acids
- improve or completely heal a wide variety of skin conditions
- help speed healing of cuts and burns
- be commonly used as a sunscreen
- help prevent vision loss
A more complete list can be found at www.coconutresearchcenter.org
From what we have learned in this 2-part post, coconut oil is truly an AMAZING food and superior oil. However, it is important to keep in mind that as remarkable as coconut oil is, it is not meant to be a “cure-all”. Other factors and principles of natural health still play a major role in our overall health. Nonetheless, we would benefit greatly by incorporating this wonderful food into our diet.
Although I focused more on coconut oil, consuming coconut in other forms is also extremely beneficial.
- coconut water
- coconut milk
- dessicated coconut (dried flakes)
- coconut cream
- coconut sugar
- coconut vinegar
- coconut flour (1)
- coconut butter
When purchasing coconut products, be sure you choose those that are not heated to high temperatures. Here’s are some helpful links to direct you to good quality coconut products:
- How to identify a good quality coconut oil
- Wilderness Family Naturals coconut products
- Tropical Traditions coconut products
- Mountain Rose Herbs coconut oil
I hope you have been encouraged to incorporate this wonderful food into your diet regime, or at least give it a try!
- Coconut Oil: The New Health Food of the 21st Century – audio CD by Dr. Fife
- Eat Fat, Lose Fat – book by Dr. May Enig & Sally Fallon
- Coconut Oil: The weight loss and heart healthy fat
For medical research on many of the claims cited in this post, please go to: www.coconutresearchcenter.org
(1) According to Dr. Bruce Fife, the mineral-binding effect of the phytates in coconut is essentially nonexistent. Therefore, no soaking or phytic-acid neutralizing processes are necessary.