When you think about “coconuts”, you readily imagine a tropical island surrounded by sand beaches and you sipping on a freshly opened coconut. But more than just a tasty vacation treat, the world simply loves coconuts for its many uses. In fact, coconut oil has been given its deserved recognition as a superfood by many researchers and with good reason. Coconut oil has become one of the most versatile food substances on earth and the health benefits of coconut oil are not to be ignored. From being a good antiseptic to a natural weight loss supplement, the benefits of coconut oil have all proven to be useful to the human body.
I have to caution; if you are new to using coconut oil, you should gradually introduce this to your body. The majority of coconut oil that my wife and I consume is in our morning coffee. I started off with 2 table spoons of coconut oil and that was way too much for my first experience. Basically I had the jitters and felt like I was having anxiety for almost 12 hours straight. Gradually introduce coconut oil into your body and then you can work up to the recommended 2-3 teaspoons daily. Too much coconut oil and you my also fall victim to GI upset.
Fatty Acid Composition
The benefits of coconut oil are largely due to its unique fatty acid composition. Coconut oil is almost completely made up of medium chain triglycerides or MCTs in contrast to most fats that have long-chain triglycerides or LCTs. When it comes to health benefits, MCTs definitely have an advantage:
- MCTs are much smaller than LCTs. This allows them to easily enter cell membranes and do not require special enzymes to be utilized by the body. LCTs, on the other hand, are much more difficult to break down and therefore hampers its usage.
- MCTs aren’t stored as fat. MCTs get sent directly to the liver and are readily converted to energy while LCTs are initially stored as fat.
- LCTs are harder to digest which puts strain on your liver and pancreas compared to MCTs.
- LCTs can find itself within the arteries in the form of cholesterol.
- MCTs enhance metabolism and promote weight loss.
Based on the above, we can conclude that the benefits of coconut oil can readily be found in its structure alone.
Benefits of Coconut Oil for Weight Loss
Coconut oil is also abundant in MCT or medium chain triglycerides. MCTs are able to go straight to your liver and gets converted to energy before the body has time to store it as fat. This enables the consumer to expend up to 5% more energy in a 24 hour time period.
MCTs are also capable of suppressing hunger and have been attributed to the release of ketone bodies, one of the primary benefits of coconut oil for weight loss. Ketone bodies are released by the liver when you consume coconut oil and have been known to be powerful appetite suppressants.
With those reasons, it’s no wonder many are turning to coconut oil for weight loss. You simply cannot ignore the benefits of coconut oil when it comes to burning calories as well as preventing its excess intake.
Ketogenic Diets and Coconut Oil
A ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet where its main source of energy are ketones produced by the liver. When a person goes on a ketogenic diet, the body is induced into a state known as ketosis. Ketosis is a process the body undergoes when it feels food intake is low and enables the liver to produce ketones from the breakdown of fats.
The MCTs in coconut oil play a major role when it comes to ketogenic diets. As mentioned earlier, not only are they sent directly to the liver but theyare also efficiently broken down and converted to energy. This is because the body readily responds to carbohydrates as a source of energy and how MCTs in coconut oil behave more like a carbohydrate than a fat.
This “shortcut” allows the liver to create lots of ketones (which can be used for fuel) in the process. This is the reason why most ketogenic or low-carb diets make use of coconut oil as their main source of fat.
The Difference Between Coconut Oil vs MCT Oil
The popularity of coconut oil is largely due to its MCTs. This is why health industries have spurred the production of pure MCT oil, a product that isolates medium chain fatty acids from the rest of the oil. MCT oil is produced by extracting the fatty acids through a process called fractionation. The promise is that the benefits of MCT oil will trump the “diluted” benefits of coconut oil as it’s now in a more concentrated form. But not all of this is true.
The primary difference between coconut oil and MCT oil has to do with their composition. As mentioned earlier, coconut oil is composed of medium chain triglycerides. These MCTs are composed of Caproic acid, Caprylic acid, Capric acid, and Lauric acid. Among the four, Lauric acid is the most predominant in coconut oil.
Coconut oil is made up of 50% Lauric acid and is the second largest source in nature with human breast milk being the most abundant. The most sought after benefit of Lauric acid is its ability to enhance the immune system. When consumed, Lauric acid in coconut oil is converted to monolaurin, a substance that shows antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiprotozoal properties. This helps protect the body from infection-related illnesses.
Unfortunately, having a good amount of Lauric acid is not part of the benefits of MCT oil. When MCT oil is made, the most abundant fatty acid would be Caproic acid and the rest, especially Lauric acid, are either absent or in small amounts.
So what are the benefits of MCT oil? Pure MCT oil still shares similar benefits of coconut oil when it comes to weight loss and a study has even confirmed how MCT oil displays improvements in blood sugar regulation. The only real downside is how it doesn’t have all the benefits of coconut oil that are important for the human body. This apparent lack of “function” makes the benefits of MCT oil lackluster compared to the benefits of coconut oil.
This is not to say that the benefits of MCT oil are next to nothing but only to say coconut oil is simply the better option.
Other Benefits Coconut Oil
Besides the healthy benefits of coconut oil to the body when ingested, there are other ways.
The fatty acids in coconut oil are 90% saturated which makes it highly resistant to oxidation even at elevated temperatures. This makes it an ideal oil for high-heat cooking methods such as frying.
One of the many known benefits of coconut oil is how it can protect hair against damage and helps moisturize skin. Applying coconut oil on skin can improve both its moisture and lipid content. Using coconut oil on hair, on the the other hand, can make it act like a sunscreen which blocks around 20% of UV rays.
Remember how the Lauric acid in coconut oil has antimicrobial properties? Some use coconut oil as a mouthwash in a process called oil pulling. Oil pulling with coconut oil benefits the person’s oral health by killing some harmful bacteria, reducing bad breath, and improving overall dental health.
It would be odd to add anti-inflammatory properties to the list of coconut oil benefits but it’s true. Coconut oil has been shown to display anti-inflammatory properties in lab rats which may translate to human applications.
Another lesser known use of coconut oil is on brain function; particularly in Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s patients show a reduced ability to metabolize glucose as a source of energy in certain areas of the brain.
Since coconut oil can help produce ketones as a source of energy, researchers have speculated that perhaps coconut oil benefits Alzheimer’s patients in this area of function. And they have evidence to rightly claim it.
How to Buy Coconut Oil
When purchasing coconut oil make sure it is organic unrefined. Coconut oil that is hydrogenated becomes a trans-fat and trans-fats have been associated with heart disease.
Talk to your doctor before adding coconut oil to your diet. Consult your physician if pregnant/nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition. Keep out of reach of children.
Enjoy the wonderful health benefits of coconut oil. Ease your way into it and Unleash Your Optimal Self!