Coconut oil was once widely used in cakes, cookies and every kind of baked product. Manufacturers of seed oils, however, began a campaign to persuade consumers to use their polyunsaturated oils instead. They publicized the healthy nature of polyunsaturated oils such as corn oil, sunflower and safflower oils, and stressed the fact that coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, is a saturated fat – and therefore unhealthy. By the mid 1970’s, seed-oils had almost completely replaced coconut oil in cakes and candies.
photo by Robert Wetzlmayr (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)
Only recently the news has spread that the idea that seed-oils are healthier than coconut oil simply isn’t true. Here are some of the benefits of coconut oil over polyunsaturated oils.
BENEFITS OF USING COCONUT OIL
1. Coconut oil helps the immune system
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has anti-viral qualities. In the body, it is transformed into a chemical called monolaurin. This has the ability to dissolve the walls of lipid coated (fat-coated) viruses. The flu virus, the measles virus and HIV come in this category. Monolaurin cannot enter the cell itself, however – it cannot pass through the cell wall. It acts in the intercellular spaces i.e. the area around your body cells.
In practice, this prevents the viruses multiplying as much as they otherwise would do. You should consume coconut oil or cream in the first few days of an infection, before the symptoms have fully developed. It takes the body 3-4 days to create antibodies to fight new viruses, and the coconut oil will help keep the numbers of viruses from rocketing during this time. In the 80’s and 90’s, before effective drugs for HIV were developed, many people with HIV used regular consumption of coconut oil to keep down their viral load.
Lauric acid also helps the heart by lowering cholesterol and helps keep blood pressure in check. Coconut oil can also help fight some bacteria, such as helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers, and gets rid of giardia, a protozoa which causes serious digestive problems. Apart from lauric acid, it also contains capric and caprylic acid, which can eliminate harmful bacteria and fungi.
Polyunsaturated oils, conversely, suppress the function of the immune system. For this reason they are used in hospitals in the liquid food given to people who have recently had organ transplants, to help prevent rejection by a too-active immune system.
2. Coconut oil can help you maintain a healthy weight
Coconut oil is a natural way to increase your metabolic rate. Farmers wanting to increase the size of their cattle once decided to add coconut oil to their feed. To the farmers’ surprise and puzzlement, the cattle grew leaner, not fatter. The fat disappeared whilst the amount of muscle increased. Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, which are so easy to digest that the fat quickly turns to energy. Polyunsaturated oils mainly consist of long-chain fatty acids, and these are digested much more slowly and are more likely to be stored as fat. Research has shown that coconut oil can increase your metabolic rate by 48% or more. Coconut oil also slows down your digestion, making you feel full for longer, and keeping your blood sugar more stable.
3. Coconut oil does not turn into trans-fats
Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable, especially when heated. When used for frying, they quickly break down and form trans-fats which are extremely unhealthy and have been linked to heart disease and a host of other health conditions. Trans-fats can take the place of healthy fats in the body, but cannot perform the functions of healthy fats, and so can damage health in a number of ways. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is very stable. It can be used for deep-frying without producing trans-fats and can be kept in a cool room for over a year without turning rancid.
4. Coconut oil helps prevent osteoporosis
Coconut oil helps your bones by increasing the rate at which your body absorbs minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from food. This is especially useful for women as they reach the menopause and risk losing bone density. It also contains vitamin K, which is useful to the bones as well as the co-agulation of the blood.
5. Coconut oil is good for your skin
Using coconut oil on your skin can be very beneficial. It is a solid, white fat but melts on contact with your skin. It forms a protective barrier, while being absorbed by the skin and, unless used in excessive quantities, will not cause the skin to become greasy. Its ability to eradicate bacteria and fungi can help prevent blemishes from developing. Many people also use it as a conditioner for the hair.
In this video Dr Mercola clarifies some of the misunderstandings about coconut oil that are only now being shown to be groundless.
Professionals in the fields of health and nutrition are now recommending that everyone should consume coconut oil. Once available widely and cheaply, it is now rarer and more expensive. To gain the health benefits, however, you need to consume only a couple of teaspoons per day.
The important thing is to buy a quality, natural product, such as virgin organic coconut oil. Never buy the hard coconut cream that is sold in the form of a slab – it is hydrogenated. Hydrogenated fats are oils which have chemically reacted with hydrogen – they can no longer be involved in the chemical reactions the body needs fats for and they are definitely harmful to health. Nor should you buy fat-reduced coconut cream, as the benefits are contained in the fat. You can buy coconut oil now from health food stores, from supermarkets and from ethnic grocery stores. Once you’ve tried it, you will never look back.