Coconut oil’s popularity is a seemingly new trend, but it has actually been a staple in various tropical regions around the world for many years.
Even though many Americans were not consuming coconut oil during the majority of the 20th century, many of its unique properties were too beneficial for the healthy community to ignore.
Lily Nichols, RD, CLT, owner of a private nutrition business in Los Angeles, states “Turns out, coconut oil is a great natural source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), making it a perfect choice for patients with compromised fat digestion issues or sensitive gastrointestinal tracts.”
Just like any other oil, coconut oil is comprised of 100% fat. However, the specific type of fat it contains makes it highly beneficial in a way that surpasses other oils.
Dietitians and nutritionists are aware of its high concentrations of saturated fats; these fats represent more than 85% of coconut oil’s fatty acid levels.
One of its most fascinating characteristics is roughly 65% of its fats are in the form of medium-chain fatty acids, instead of long-chain fatty acids found in many other food sources of fats.
Medium-chain fatty acids do not need to be converted into single fatty acids in order to be absorbed by the body. Instead, they make their way straight to the liver where they are assimilated easily.
There are many uses for coconut oil and coconut derived products. Below, we will discuss several uses for a few of these products, and how they can benefit your skin, hair and overall health.
1. The healthiest oil for high-heat cooking
Although many experts claim that olive oil is the healthiest oil to consume, this does not extend to cooking.
When consuming olive oil, it is best to add it to foods in its non-heated form, such as salads and drizzling it over fish.
When olive oil is heated to over 200°, it oxidizes, causing detrimental health effects. Because it is almost a complete saturated fat, coconut oil does not oxidize at high temperatures, making it the overall healthiest oil for high-heat cooking.
2. Healthier skin and hair with coconut oil
Whereas commercially produced lotions and moisturizers may make your skin feel softer upon initial application, they may actually cause excessive dryness later on.
These products usually contain high amounts of water, which gives the illusion of hydration when first applied.
Once the water evaporates, your skin is left feeling dry again. Coconut oil has been proven to penetrate the top layers of the skin to truly moisturize on a deeper level.
Because of its intense moisturizing properties, coconut oil is terrific for taming dry, frizzy hair. It is also effective in combating dandruff when small amounts are massaged into the scalp on a daily basis.
Coconut oil has also been shown to help reduce protein loss in hair, which keeps it looking full, thick and resistant to breakage.
There are many coconut oil products available for skin and hair care, such as lotions, shampoos and conditioners. When purchasing these products, make sure they come from organic sources and do not contain long lists of unhealthy chemicals and artificial ingredients.
3. Coconut water to combat dehydration
There seems to be mounting hype regarding coconut water and dehydration.
Whereas coconut water is rich in potassium and fairly low in calories, the evidence to support its claims of being a better hydrator than water is lacking.
In comparison to standard sports drinks, coconut water has less sodium, fewer calories and higher amounts of potassium.
Coconut water also has less sugar than sports drinks, and also has much less sugar than fruit juices or regular sodas, making it the healthiest choice of the three.
Although coconut water can be ideal for dieters who are looking for a plain water alternative that has fewer calories than juice or soda, it still does contain some calories, which can add up.
Lilian Cheung of the Harvard School of Public Health explains that because 11 ounces of coconut water contains roughly 60 calorie moderation is encouraged. She also states it is important to consume plain coconut water and avoid those with added sugar or fruit juices, due to them having a higher calorie count.
A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that coconut water helps to replace body fluids just as well as a sports drink and a little more efficiently than water.
However, when interviewing athletes, it was discovered that they preferred the taste of sports drinks to that of the coconut water.
Related studies have shown that consuming coconut water with a small amount of added sodium is best for rehydrating after intense exercise.
4. Losing Weight
Although it may sound counterintuitive to consume fat in order to lose fat, coconut oil eaten in moderation can be a healthy part of a well-balanced diet.
Although it may not seem like a large difference, coconut oil contains 2.6% fewer calories than other fats gram for gram.
Over the long-term, this small difference can add up to big changes.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a group of researchers had studied 49 overweight women and men who had adopted a calorie-restricted diet and included a daily serving of either olive oil or coconut oil for a 16-week period.
Although both of these groups lost weight, the participants who consumed coconut oil experienced greater weight loss than the individuals who consumed olive oil, who lost 3 pounds on average.
Those who consumed coconut oil lost seven pounds more.
When shopping for coconut oil, always make sure to purchase a high-quality, organically derived oil. If the oil is going to be used for cooking, a refined virgin oli may be your best choice in order to reduce the actual coconut flavor.
For hair and skincare applications where flavor does not matter, an extra-virgin variety is recommended.
Leave a comment below, let us know your experience using coconut oil. Do you use it for cooking? what other ways do you use coconut oil?
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- "Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 17 July 2015.
- "Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2015.