Coconut Oil:  Good or Bad?

by Olivia Thomas

There are many types of oils out on the market these days.  Olive, canola, vegetable, grape seed, peanut, sunflower, sesame, flax….overwhelmed yet?  Now, all oils have their purpose and situations when they work the best, but there is one in particular being placed on a pedestal in the media recently: coconut oil.

I’m sure each of us has heard something on TV or read an article that boasts the health benefits of this tropical oil.  Or on the flip side, maybe you’ve even heard some negative comments about it being a saturated fat, and all saturated fats are bad, right?  Actually, that’s very wrong.  What we need to focus on is the fact that if saturated fats are CREATED, then they are created by man in a process of hydrogenation and those are the ones you don’t want to consume.  But coconut oil is a naturally occurring saturated fat, which places it into an entirely different category than its unhealthy counter parts, with impressively opposite health benefits as well.

So what is it about coconut oil that is causing such an immediate positive reaction?  To start off, coconut oil contains lauric acid.  Lauric acid is rarely found in nature with the exception of coconut oil.  When it is found in the body, it converts to monolaurin, which is known for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-protozoa and anti-fungal properties.  Monolaurin has a tendency to reduce sickness in the body.  The only other natural source of high lauric acid content is breast milk, and how many studies have shown the benefits of breast milk for infants?  Quite a few.

Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s).  Most other common vegetable or seed oils consist of long chain fatty acids (LCFA’s), which are not nearly as beneficial to your health as the ones of medium length.  Take a look:

LCFA’s (other oils) are difficult for your body to breakdown and require a special enzyme in order to be digested.  They also put a strain on your pancreas, liver and digestive system.

MCFA’s (coconut oil) are smaller, and permeate cell membranes easily, so need no special enzyme to be digested.  This in turn, puts less strain on our digestive systems.

LCFA’s (other oils) are predominantly stored as body fat.

MCFA’s (coconut oil) are sent directly to the liver which immediately converts them into energy rather than stored as fat.

LCFA’s(other oils)  can be deposited into arteries as cholesterol.

MCFA’s (coconut oil) may help stimulate metabolism, leading to weight loss.

So as you can see, the medium chain fatty acids completely dominate the long chain as far as health benefits.

Coconut oil is also an excellent source of quick energy without the insulin spike that certain other types of foods can produce, which is especially helpful for those trying to lose weight or fight diabetes.  Studies have shown that it tends to help how our bodies handle blood sugars, as well.  And speaking of weight loss, back in the 1940’s, farmers tried giving coconut oil to their cattle to fatten them up because it was less expensive.  What happened, however, was the cattle became more active, lean and hungry, proving that the oil had a definite effect on their metabolism.  Bad for farmers trying to plump up their cattle, but good for us humans trying to get to or maintain a healthy weight!

Beyond all of this, there are several ways to use coconut oil as beauty and household products as well.  Anything from a skin and hair moisturizer, makeup remover or toothpaste to being able to remove gum from virtually anything and clean soap scum from your shower.  It seems to be quite the versatile, miracle product.  When it comes to cooking, it’s also a good choice because it can withstand higher temperatures than other oils can before breaking down.

So, those are the facts on coconut oil.  Hopefully this information helps you decide if it’s something you want to add to your daily regimen, whether it is for nutrition, cleaning, or any of the many other purposes this oil fulfills.  If you’re still uncertain, the best option may be to give it a trial run and measure your own results.  It may just be a winner for you!