Many of us have heard that saturated fats are not healthy, and while that is true for most fats (like butter), coconut oil is made up of 50% of medium chain fatty acids, thought to contain super health benefits! Cooking with coconut oil gives food a very faint coconut taste, doesn't affect colour and best of all it's particularly good for frying because it tolerates high temperatures without breaking down into trans fat (the really bad kind). In fact, Dr OZ featured a segment on his popular US show dedicated to this fabulous oil. Let's see what the fuss is all about….
The benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Weight loss!
Women (and men) listen up! In recent years, many studies have been centered on coconut oil for their numerous health benefits. One study in particular found that coconut oil helps to reduce abdominal fat! A 2009 study found that women who ate about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks had lowered amounts of abdominal fat (the fat that increases risk of heart disease). In addition, coconut fats have medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that break down unhealthy healthy fats in the liver for better burning of energy. Coconut oil is also good for assisting thyroid hormones and blood-sugar control and of course if you boost thyroid function it helps increase metabolism, energy and endurance! Coconut oil increases digestion and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, need we say more?
Studies have shown that coconut oil can help our bodies mount resistance to both viruses and bacteria, fight off yeast, fungus and candida. Coconut oil should be added to the diet just for its ability to help the immune system!
Coconut oil has lauric acid. It has been shown that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol, thus improving cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut oil also lowers bad cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is vital to many of the hormones our bodies need. Thyroid hormones that are out of whack can contribute to bad cholesterol increase.
Oils of the coconut have antioxidants that help our body stop the damage to other healthy fats and tissues. Oxidation is considered a major contributor to cardiovascular problems and skin ageing and coconut oil can reduce this process.
5. Skin and hair
Coconut oil is a wonderful, lush moisturizer for skin and hair! It has antioxidant vitamin E, which is very protective. Remember to only use organic coconut oil as the skin absorbs toxins and pesticides - so make sure you use the best quality coconut oil.
New parents may even wish to massage infants with coconut oil after a bath as a 2005 study of 120 babies showed that a coconut oil massage has health benefits. Just be sure to check with your doctor as some children are allergic to nuts and derivatives thereof.
Heart health naturally
Coconut oil is heart healthy and can be added to meals (in moderation) to keep heart disease at bay. 2 tablespoons (daily total) added to meals is recommended. Try it in baked goods (banana bread or muffins) or pair with "bitter" veggies such as kale and green beans. It works perfectly in sauces (especially onion and garlic) as well as in oats for a creamier taste without the cream! Adding heart-healthy foods can lower cholesterol, reduce blood-pressure and improve all round heart health. See our Mediterranean diet article for other healthy oils.
Which Coconut Oil is best?
There are three types of coconut oil:
- Organic (grown using organic manure)
- Virgin (extracted from fresh coconut without using chemicals or high temperatures)
- Refined (made from dried coconut or "copra" that has been bleached and deodorised so not as healthy as Organic and Virgin).
Some makes of coconut oil may be labelled "extra" virgin but there is no such thing. All coconut oil comes in the form of solid white paste that looks like fat and if you store it at room temperature, it will last for years. If you do choose to store it in the fridge, keep in mind it may get too hard and will need to be melted. It is best melted over low heat (never in a microwave). Due to the huh melting point as soon as it comes in contact with cool foods it will start to solidify again (for liquid applications such as salad dressings make sure they are warm dressings served over a hot salads).
Note: If you don't want the coconut flavour, you can buy "expeller pressed" coconut oil, with the scent and flavour of the coconut removed. This process however does lessen the nutritional value of the oil.
Coconut Chicken Salad
Coconut oil is the perfect ingredient to add to a chicken dish to bring out the exotic flavour! It's very handy in healthy dishes to add that extra treat for tastebuds and to add that 'island lifestyle' to your plate… Here's a easy, quick chicken recipe to salivate over!
What you need: Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup coconut flakes
¼ cup crushed almonds
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp organic virgin coconut oil
4 cups mixed greens
What to do: Instructions
- Cut the chicken into strips.
- Dip the chicken strips in the egg and roll in almond-coconut flakes.
- Heat oil in a pan.
- Sauté the chicken strips.
- Serve over a bed of mixed greens with a lemon and olive oil dressing.
Recipe courtesy Crede Oils.
1 Lipids 44: 593, 2009.
2 Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 87: 621, 2008.
3 Nutr. Metab. 6: 31, 2009.
4 Trends Food Sci. Tech. 20: 481, 2009.
5 Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 94: 1451, 2011.