Coconut Oil is one of those clean-eating obsessives right now. Everyone is talking about it, stocks are flying out of stores, coconut water is the new ‘cool’ drink to be seen with! Everyone is tapping in to this new craze… but why? What are the health benefits of coconut? Why is it so good for us… or is it so good for us?

Coconut Oil claims to have a lengthy list of health benefits for both internal and external parts of our bodies: This includes hair care, skin care, stress relief, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism. It also claims to provide relief from various organ problems such as kidney problems, heart diseases, and diabetes and even improving dental quality and bone strength. Sounds almost too good to be true! Coconut oil is used extensively in tropical countries; especially throughout India and Asia as coconuts are easily grown in these climates. Unlike most other oils, it has a high melting point so therefore is solid at room temperature. Don’t keep it in your refrigerator!

The mass benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to its content of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. These acids are found in adundance in coconuts and have been proven to have amazing benefits for human health due to their antioxidant, anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities.

Let’s explore these acids and what they do exactly when we ingest them…

Lauric Acid

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin. Monolaurin claims to be helpful in dealing with viruses and bacteria that cause various serious diseases such as herpes, influenza and even HIV. It also helps in fighting nasty bacteria that we are exposed to day by day in our toxic environments.

Capric Acid

Capric Acid is a medium chain fatty acid (a Saturated Fat) present in coconut oil that contains antiviral and antifungal properties. This is the same fatty acid present in breast milk which is known to protect the baby from various infections. In the body; Capric Acid reacts with certain enzymes secreted by other bacteria and is converted into a powerful antimicrobial agent. Through Capric Acid specifically, coconut oil is used as a treatment for Candida as Capric Acid is very effective in killing yeast!

Candida, also known as Systemic Candidiasis, is an awful disease caused from excessive and uncontrolled growth of yeast in the stomach. This yeast, is more or less present in everyone’s stomach, spirals out of control due to the imbalance of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria in the gut. Symptoms of candida include infections in the genitals, urinary tract and bladder, stomach and intestines and inflammations in internal organs and skin. Also digestive disorders and peeling off of skin. Candida is very common in Europe and America due to the processed, awful foods we eat. A large percentage of processed food (eg: bread, cheese, all wine and alcohol) are processed with yeast or fermented which can lead to this imbalance of bacteria in the gut and overproduction of yeast. But the good news is coconut oil (combined with the right diet of course!) can help with this disease!

Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid is an eight-carbon saturated fatty acid which helps fight infection such as fungi and yeast, aids in the optimal function of the digestive system, reduces inflammation in internal organs (especially the intestines and gut). Also, according to recent research at Chiba University in Japan, Caprylic in coconut oil suppresses the secretion of IL-8 which is a commonly present gene in the intestines of Chron’s disease patients.

Composition of Coconut Oil:

Over 90% of Coconut Oil is comprised of saturated fats (Don’t panic! That’s NOT a bad thing!), along with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids. It also contains Vitamin E, K and various minerals such as iron.

So what are the health benefits of this incredible oil….

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil (External):

  • Hair care

    Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrients for your hair. It helps in growth and gives shine! It is also highly effective in reducing protein loss in your hair! Try using it as a conditioner (and if your hair is really dry even leave it in there for a day or two). It is excellent at improving dry, damaged hair as it provides the essential proteins required for nourishing and healing damaged hair.

  • Skin care

    It’s also great for the skin! It acts as an effective moisturizer; preventing dryness and flaking. It also delays the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin and helps in treating various skin problems including eczema. Coconut oil also helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases because of it’s amazing antioxidant properties.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil (Internal):

  • Immunity

    Coconut oil strengthens the immune system through the use of its content of; lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

  • Digestion

    It helps to improve the digestive system and aids in the prevention of various digestive disorders; including Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties help us to fight off various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. It also helps us to absorb nutrients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids from our food.

  • Healing and infections

    When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer that protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and viruses. It’s amazingly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues (seriously…. Try it!). Due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, it kills of external (and internal) viruses, bacteria, fungi and yeast if used effectively and in combination with a good diet.

  • Heart diseases

    There is a vicious rumour going around that this magical oil is not good for heart health because of it’s high saturated fat content when in reality, coconut oil is actually BENEFICIAL for heart health. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful at all. Actually, quite the opposite… they reduce the incidence of injury and damage to arteries!!

  • Weight loss

    Coconut oil is also a well-known aid for weight loss. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. Its easy to digest and it helps the thyroid and endocrine systems to function effectively. On top of this, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas!

Other

Using coconut oils has been shown to mildly help the following: Liver, Kidneys, Pancreas, Stress Relief, Diabetes and Hair, Skin and Bone Health. Finally, it is also often used by athletes, body builders and by those who are dieting because it contains less calories than other oils and its fat content is easily converted to energy.

Using Coconut Oil

When using coconut oil for external purposes (hair & skin): melt the oil (if it’s solid) by soaking it in warm water or leaving it in the sun. Do NOT use the microwave as this turns the oil carcinogenic.

When using it for cooking, just use it the same as you would other oils or butter in the pan. Put it in, let it melt and then stick your food in there to cook!

So Many Choices!!!

There really are so many varieties of coconut oil you will find on the market. Pure coconut oil, refined coconut oil, organic coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, organic virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil.

Pure Coconut Oil: This oil is most well-known. It is extracted from dried coconut kernels and is crude, unrefined and without any additives.

Refined Coconut Oil: This form of oil is refined, bleached & deodorized coconut oil. It is obtained by mechanically and chemically refining, bleaching and deodorizing the crude coconut oil; making it thin, colorless, and odorless and basically stripping all the goodness out of it so only saturated fat is left. Not ideal!

Virgin Coconut Oil: Derived from the milk of the coconut either fermentation, separation or enzyme action. Care is taken to use very little heat so that the goodness of the oil remains. This oil tastes and smells the best and is bursting with all the natural antioxidants, fatty acids, anti-microbial properties and nutrients. This is a good one!

Organic Coconut Oil: Has been extracted from coconut palms raised only on organic lands/manures. The production of this oil involves no chemicals during extraction or processing so this is also a good one!

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: This type of oil is just virgin coconut oil produced from the organic coconuts, in an organic way. This is definitely the best type to go for, if you can find it!

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: This is a questionable variety. The name doesn’t make sense, it just sounds appealing to the public who want to be healthy! This oil has no standards to meet also so don’t be fooled by the seemingly healthy-sounding name!

Buying Coconut Oil…

Read the contents carefully and check the manufacturing date (although coconut oil has a long shelf life, fresher is still better). The price really depends on many factors such as availability, demand, variety (the refined one costing the least), brand, and quantity (buying in bulk for instance will be a little cheaper!). You only need to buy as much you can consume in few months because although it has a long shelf life, fresher is still always better!

Storing the oil once bought: Keep it sealed/lidded and in a cold-ish, room temperature climate (not in the fridge!).

Be smart, eat smart!

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/25/coconut-oil-benefits_n_4164278.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/332260-coconut-oil-benefits-and-risks/

Megan O'Neill

Megan O'Neill is a musician, psychologist, nutrition advisor and an absolute health-nut! She currently resides in London, but - as you may have guessed from the name - is originally from Ireland. Six years ago, following an incredible trip to Asia, she suddenly became very ill with IBS, food intolerances and chronic fatigue. No-one could have predicted how that fateful trip would... Read More

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