health benefits coconut oil
Education, Food, Food Truth, Macronutrients, Nutrient Basics, Nutrition Tips

Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

“The drugstore in a bottle” is how coconut oil is now called in the Philippines where virgin oil has been creating literally an “explosion” of the sick and not so sick treating every imaginable disease with this oil – and achieving, unbelievably rapid relief and cures”

– Conrado S. Dayrit, MD, FACC, FPCC, FPCP, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology, University of the Philippines, College of Medicine

is coconut oil healthy

Since coconut oil landed itself on the Dr. Oz show, it has been all the rage in the health industry. Barely keeping itself stocked on the shelves, coconut oil is finally getting the attention that it deserves.

Revered by health enthusiasts worldwide, this once vilified saturated fat, has now proven itself worthy it be called a staple to any healthy diet, and one of my key recommendations to anyone looking to improve their health through diet. Coconut oil not only has a robust list of benefits through its internal use, it also proves to be just as beneficial through external use. Versatility, love that! So let’s delve in a bit to see exactly what is so magical about this new tropical oil.

 

Why Coconut Oil all of a Sudden?

Coconut oil has actually been researched for quite awhile, starting with the health pioneer and dentist, Weston A. Price. In the 1930’s, Dr. Price studied the diets of native people in the South Pacific, and found that a main source of their diet came from coconut products, and yet they were extremely healthy and trim, despite their high intake of saturated fat. This conclusion was a gross contradiction of the Western thought process at the time, and therefore was much overlooked. But fortunately Dr. Price’s research was corroborated by results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1981, that demonstrated the health benefits of high saturated fat intake through coconut oil, and its positive effects on vascular health. So it seems as though these two studies really opened the door for the re-evaluation of saturated fat, especially through coconuts and its health benefits.

Coconut Oil by mealmakeovermoms

How is the Fat from Coconut Oil Different?

Coconut oil is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA’s), compared to vegetable/seed oils (safflower, corn, soy, cottonseed, canola) that are compromised of long-chain fatty acids. MCFA’s have been found to be healthy due to the following:

  • They are smaller, and therefore permeate cell membranes easily. This is important because they do not require lipoproteins or enzymes to be properly utilized by the body. This means they are more efficiently used and can actually help with weight loss.
  • Because MCFAs are more efficiently used, there is less strain on your digestive system. This is important because it reduces the chance of having digestive disorders, weight gain, gallbladder dysfunction and cardiovascular issues.
  • MCFAs are sent directly to your liver where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. This is crucial since fat is a fantastic source of slow-burning fuel, especially for athletes.
In comparison, long-chain fatty acids from vegetable and seed oil have found to have the following effect:
  • Are stressful on the digestive and cardiovascular system as well as the gallbladder, pancreas and liver, because they require lipoproteins, carrier proteins and enzymes for transport.
  • They are predominately stored as fat when the body is not immediately utilizing them.
  • They can be deposited in arteries causing stress on the cardiovascular system.

 

Coconut Sand by Robin S Photography

Is Coconut Oil Healthy? What are its other health components?

It sure does! Coconut oil has also been found to be 50% Lauric Acid, which is a rare MCFA found in mother’s milk. Lauric Acid is vital because it supports a healthy metabolism and has shown to have anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Therefore, it may strengthen your immune system and fight harmful bacteria and illnesses. Furthermore, Lauric Acid has been thought to be an effective way to treat candida albicans, athlete’s foot, measles, influenza, hepatitis C and even HIV.  In fact, researchers from the Philippines are studying the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS due to its strong anti-viral properties. Moreover, lauric acid is non-toxic, making it a better alternative to modern drugs that are typically prescribed for viruses as well as fungal and bacterial infections.

 

health benefits coconut oil

Photo credit: Epicurrence

 

Cliff Notes or The Run Down

  • Weight Loss: Yep, we are using fat to burn fat. MCFAs have been found to be 3x as effective in speeding up our metabolism than LCFAs, and have shown to help people with weight loss.
  • Cardiovascular Health, Cholesterol and Diabetes: Coconut Oil has shown to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease while lowering cholesterol levels. But that is not it! It even has shown to increase HDL while lowering LDL levels. Amazing.
  • Osteoporosis, Calcium and Magnesium Absorption: Research has found coconut oil to prevent osteoporosis because it increases calcium and magnesium absorption in the body.
  • Pneumonia: A study from the American College of Chest Physicians from Oct 29th, 2008, showed that coconut oil offered pneumonia patients faster and more complete relief from symptoms.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Anecdotal evidence shows that using high doses of coconut oil may improve cognitive function in those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  • Neuropathy, Nerve and Brain Health: MCFAs are crucial to the myelin sheath, the protective cover of nerves, and has shown to be an important adjunct to those with neuropathy or other nerve conditions.
  • Blood Sugar: Coconut oil may improve blood sugar levels through its ability to improve the secretion of insulin and the utilization of glucose.
  • Thyroid Health: Coconut oil is now one of the leading alternative remedies for poor thyroid function and is now recognized as an integral part of therapy.

Coconuts in Color by HashimMK™ Vapi

Coconut Oil is the Ideal Cooking Oil

Did you know that most oils that you use to cook actually get damaged in the process, therefore turning into an unhealthy, pro-oxidant (substances that damage cells and tissues)? All oils and fats have a smoke point, and once they reach that point the fats become rancid. Rancid oils are extremely dangerous to the body and can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and other chronic diseases. Therefore, by using oil with a high smoke point, such as coconut oil; you can cook on relatively high heat without the risk of damaging its nutrient content. To learn more, read my article: “Cooking with Oils: Inside Guide.”

Soft, Healthy and Youthful Skin – not to mention UV Protection!

If you have been following me for a while, you will know that using coconut oil as my moisturizer is one of my favorite tricks. Coconut oil actually has the ability to penetrate deep into the dermis and act as a protective barrier against environmental and free radical damage, making it ideal for anti-aging and skin cancer prevention. Not to mention, the oil provides sun protection by screening 20% of ultraviolet exposure. Furthermore, coconut oil contains vitamin E, the antioxidant revered for its ability to heal skin abrasions, burns and reduce scar tissue development.

Coconut Sunlight by Ralph Combs

How Much is Enough?

Researchers have determined that 3 tbs is a good dose for therapeutic use and 1-2 tbs for general health.

How do I use it?

Fortunately coconut oil is very versatile and easy to use. You can use it as an olive oil or vegetable oil replacement when cooking, or even as a substitute for salad dressings, potatoes or any baking. In addition, there is also coconut butter, which can be used in desserts, protein bars or even on toast. Oh right, and smoothies….amazing in smoothies and hot cacao! Get creative!

What Quality am I looking for?

Since coconut oil has become so popular, it is now important to make sure you are purchasing an oil of high quality that contains all of its nutritional components in tack. Therefore, make sure to read the label and use the following checklist as a guideline:

  • Certified organic by USDA standards
  • No refining
  • No chemicals added (including hexane)
  • No bleaching
  • No deodorization
  • No hydrogenation
  • Made from traditional coconut palms only, no hybrid or genetically modified (GMO) varieties
  • Made from fresh coconuts, not the dried “copra” used in cheap oils
  • Made without heat processing, raw

coconut in ocean by soa2002

A few of my Favorite Brands

Like I mentioned before there a quite a few companies producing coconut oil and coconut butter and to be honest, many of them are good in different ways. So to be honest, I actually have a few different companies that I use.

Artisana: Coconut Butter, raw – This is the BEST coconut butter. I use this for all my raw treats, smoothies, hot cacao and for sprouted toast. Amazing!

Ojio: Coconut Oil – This coconut oil has a light and soft smell so I use this for my body and face moisturizer. There is no lotion better.

 

Tropical Traditions by Chiot’s Run

 

“He who plants a coconut tree plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a home for himself and a heritage for his children”

♥ To the Addition of Something Delectable and Health Promoting!

L

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32 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer August 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Do you know if the Trader Joe’s brand is a good one? It says nothing about whether it is refined or bleached or anything. It just says organic virgin coconut oil.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Hi Jennifer, I actually just bought a jar of that to look into it. Trader Joes is difficult because they dont necessary disclose all of their product information, and since they have such a great perception of health, sometimes its hard to know what is what. I will see what I can dig up.

  • Reply Joani Taylor August 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Great article. Thanks for this information.

  • Reply Lisa @ The Raw Serenity August 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Because we have been brained washed into believing ALL saturated fats are bad for us, its hard to retrain our brains.

    I use coconut oil on my body as well. Its amazing!

    Great article x

  • Reply Annemarie August 7, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Thought I would share this info about the Trader Joe’s coconut oil since I recently purchased and looked into it myself:

    http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=554

    From their info on it, sounds like it’s pretty good stuff and the price is great! I’ve been using it instead of lotion (Lauren, you’re right – it’s the best moisturizer!) and also as an ingredient in homemade deodorant.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Oh fabulous! Great news! Trader Joes also has a great price so I will have to see how the taste compares. Thanks for the research!

      • Reply Jennifer August 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm

        Thank you all for the info on Trader Joe’s. I am going to stock up b/c it is a great deal!

        • Reply Annemarie August 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

          THANK YOU for this site. I discovered The Holy Kale a few weeks ago and I have read nearly every post! Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge to educate others. I thought you should know that the information you provide has really changed my life. I have been vegetarian for several years and recently went vegan. I relied heavily on soy for so long. Thanks to you, I have learned to clean up my act and I’m ditching the soy, birth control pills, coffee, microwave, toxic supplements and so much more. I have started using organic raw local honey, bee pollen, kombucha, and am looking forward to purchasing a Vitamix and juicer. With my handy THK Kitchen guide, I am totally cleaning out my cabinets. Thank you, Lauren for this site! You should write a book! I would be the 1st to buy it! 🙂

          • lauren
            lauren August 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm

            Thank you so much Annemarie! Gratitude is always very welcome here and it truly makes such a difference to hear how you have been able to impact people. Thank you for sharing, as so many people choose to hold back in life, and this is a GREAT reminder to always extend love and gratitude. If you feel it, share it! I look forward to hearing about your progress!

  • Reply julia August 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

    do you keep your coconut oil in the fridge or on the shelf? it takes me a long time to get through a big jar. once when i kept a jar on the shelf, it went rancid after a few months. when i keep it in the fridge, it’s so hard to chip out chunks of the oil to use for cooking, etc. any advice?

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Julia, Coconut oil/butter is a little high maintenance sometimes as it completely changes with the weather. In the summer it is liquid, in the winter it is hard. I always leave mine out in the cupboard, away from light, but not refrigerated. But then again I go through mine quite quickly, but they should keep for at least 1 month or so if closed properly. As for making it more usable when hard, you can either put it in a toaster or convection oven on low for a few minutes until it softens, or you can put the jar in hot water as well. Both techniques work well.

  • Reply Stacey August 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I would suggest decanting some into a smaller jar, and keeping the rest in the fridge / freezer if you want it to maintain a good usable consistency without any waste when you aren’t going through it very quickly.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 9, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Great suggestion Stacey. Haven’t ever thought of that…. but I guess that is because I use them so much!

  • Reply Juli Keene, CN August 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Love your Blog Lauren! And your Website! will be reposting if you don’t mind. You know I have always been a big fan of coconut oil for me and my nutrition clients. I am so excited to see how far you have come and how many people you are helping. I love to see dreams come true!! KUDOS to you! Juli Keene, CN

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Thank you Juli! We should catch up sometime 🙂

  • Reply Jen August 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Lauren! Great article. What is the differences between virgin, extra-virgin, and regular coconut oil. Is it the same as olive oil – and should go for the extra virgin?
    Thanks!
    Jen

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Virgin Coconut Oil: Virgin coconut oil a product pressed from fresh coconut meat by purely mechanical means. In comparison, non-virgin oils may come from dried coconut meat, extracted with chemicals and then bleached to sanitize the oils. The bleaching becomes necessary because the dried meat, or copra, may be stored in poor conditions.
      Extra Virgin: Some retailers and manufacturers of Virgin Coconut Oils, referring to one of the processes mentioned above, call their coconut oil “Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.” But there are no other processes used to make coconut oil other than the ones mentioned above, so this classification is simply arbitrary. There is no official classification or difference between “virgin” and “extra virgin” as there is in the olive oil industry, since the two oils are completely different in fatty acid composition, harvesting procedures, and terminology.

  • Reply Marie August 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Hey Lauren, it’s me again with some questions about using oil haha 🙂 What is your take on this article? http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Newsletter/Entries/2008/4/10_Marketing_Junk_Food__Dont_Go_Cuckoo_Over_Coconut_Oil.html // It seems like everything I look up, there is another article saying the exact opposite! I’m pretty confused and would love to know your opinion! Thanks so much!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Marie, you must go back to read about the basics of fats and why they are essential to the body. Coconut oil is not revered as a health food because it contains vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, but because it is a vital and essential fat that is utilized by the body. Fats are extremely necessary to a multitude of functions including the development of cellular membranes, especially for the nerves and brain cells, they are needed to make hormones, etc. Healthy fats are present in so many beneficial foods including nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, fish etc. and without them the body cannot function properly. For example, the Mediterranean diet is so healthy because of the fat content, so please go back and do more research on why fats are needed in the body. I hope that helps to clear things up!

  • Reply carolyn August 21, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Hi! I have just come across this wonderful site, and am putting it on my Favourites!
    I was wondering if you had an opinion about Nutiva Organic ‘Extra’ virgin oil? Thats what I’ve been using for cooking, and everything actually, for about a year. I thought it was a good one, and I get it as an instant order from Amazon once a month. I had never looked at the TJ’s oil, and will definitely look at that. But what do you think of Nutiva? I was so surprised that it wasn’t mentioned, I thought it was a popular one? I am very interested to know anything about it that may not be so great, as I thought it was one of the best, and I only want the best, but I also have a budget :)!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Carolyn, I believe Nutiva is a good option, I just personally do not prefer its taste. But go ahead and try TJ’s, its actually really good!

  • Reply Laura March 4, 2013 at 3:47 am

    Hi Lauren,
    I was wondering if you could cite the studies from which you draw your conclusions about the benefits of coconut oil. I would really like to see the raw science since I’ve been seeing a lot of conflicting evidence about the healthfulness of coconut.
    Thanks!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Hi Laura – what in particular are you interested in? Are you concerned about saturated fats?

  • Reply Janice April 14, 2013 at 4:03 am

    Do you have any research on shrinking brain tumors?

    • lauren
      Reply lauren April 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Hmmm… I don’t think I have any, but I would suggest purchasing the books about coconut oil and its healing properties. That would give you references.

  • Reply Ojio May 7, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Hello! Just checking back in to this wonderful article with an update:

    Our Coconut Oil was nominated by the Vegetarian Times for a Foodie Award! Our small office staff is certain hard work and your public support have helped alot, a million thanks you’s aren’t enough!
    Of course this is the part where I have ask you to vote for us (bats eyelashes) and for all the other great product nominees. You can go to the VT Times or c/p this link to your browser, I didn’t want to http: on you. bit.ly/vote-ojio

    • lauren
      Reply lauren May 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Absolutely!!! I LOVE your product and think it has such a clean and pure taste compared to a lot of other brands. Ill head over and vote 🙂

      • Reply Ojio May 11, 2013 at 12:16 am

        Thank you so much Lauren! If you see some red letters that say backordered on the smaller sizes give it a moment and it should clear up as we are carefully releasing stock so everyone can get some. We are a pretty intimate company and were caught in a tidal wave of great interest! I am glad you enjoy our products, we certainly put a lot of hard work into them!

  • Reply debbie May 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    i buy louanna coconut oil from walmart to cook with is that ok also i use organic soy molk because i cant find organic almond milk is that a no no

    • lauren
      Reply lauren June 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      I do not know that brand of coconut oil but it may be okay. You can always order it online. As for soy, I never recommend that. I would make my own almond by blending 1 cup of raw almonds with 3 cups of purified water and a tsp of vanilla. Blend on high and then pour through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth.

  • Reply Carrie July 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Hi, just wondering if it is ok for children? My little one is nearly two, can she have as much as an adult or should it be limited for any reason? Thanks so much

    • lauren
      Reply lauren July 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Carrie, there are no contraindications for giving children coconut oil. It is a healthy fat that would be a great addition to their diet. Awesome as a butter replacement 🙂

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