Why is coconut oil good for you? Isn’t it a saturated fat?
You are right. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. However, it is a type of saturated fat that consists largely of short and medium chained fatty acids. The short and medium chain lengths make it more efficient for the body to use as instant energy. This process can actually increase your metabolism and lead to weight loss. There are a lot of misconceptions about saturated fat in general. I am not going to focus on that debate in this article, but if you would like to read an article that reviews that topic, click here.
Another important property of coconut oil is that it has a high percentage of saturation. This allows it to stay very stable at room temperature and it does not go rancid. This is very important since the intake of rancid oil can create free radical damage in the body.
If coconut oil is so good why has it gotten such a bad rap?
The reputation of coconut oil and other saturated fats started to be questioned in early1980’s when the media was influenced by the American Soybean Association (ASA) to relay the message that saturated fats, like coconut oil, caused heart disease. (Fife, 9) This was the beginning of the elimination of saturated fats and the introduction of cheap fats like trans fats and polyunsaturated oil in the American food supply. Considering that soy and corn are some of the largest crops grown in this country the ASA was very happy to be selling more corn and soy for oil. This is a sad fact considering it put the health of the American citizens in jeopardy. Coconut oil is making a comeback because the science and truth is coming out about the harmful affects of trans and polyunsaturated fats.
How much should I use?
I usually recommend consuming 2-4 TB of coconut oil per day. I have found that it is best to start out slowly. If you take too much at once it can have a laxative affect for some people. Some clients will start with 1 tsp and work up from there. On a day to day basis I use about 2-3 TB.
How should I use it?
Coconut oil is a great oil to cook with since it does not go rancid when it is heated. Remember that it is solid at room temperature and needs to be melted before use. Here are some ideas:
-Cook anything with it on the stove top (meat, eggs, veggies, etc.)
-Add it to hot liquids (tea, coffee, broth, soup)
-Melt it and add to smoothies or yogurt (one of my brilliant clients had the idea to use a candle warmer to keep her coconut oil in a liquid form for easy use)
-Soften and mix it with a tiny bit of pure maple syrup and dip apples
-Consume as a supplement by the spoonful
What are the benefits?
Following is a list of coconut oil benefits:
-Contains lauric acid which is antibacterial and antiviral
-The medium chain fatty acids help to increase metabolism
-Acts as an anti-oxidant in the body
-It is very stable and does not oxidize (turn rancid easily)
-Aids in healing irritated, dry, chapped, and other skin conditions ( I no longer have to use chap stick)
-Can relieve digestive issues, such as constipation, yeast overgrowth, and hemorrhoids
Where can I buy it?
I have found that people are more likely to have an allergic reaction to the brands that taste or smell like coconut. The aroma and taste of coconut also limits it versatility – who wants coconut eggs every morning? I would encourage you to try different brands until you find one that works well for you. I personally use and love the expeller pressed version from Tropical Traditions. By using this link for your first time purchase at Tropical Traditions you will receive a FREE coconut oil book with great recipes and information.
Can coconut oil help me lose weight?
Below is an excerpt from an article by Ray Peat who has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oregon with specialization in physiology and women’s nutrition for the last 30 years.
In the l940s, farmers attempted to use cheap coconut oil for fattening their animals, but they found that it made them lean, active and hungry. For a few years, an anti-thyroid drug was found to make the livestock get fat while eating less food, but then it was found to be a strong carcinogen, and it also probably produced hypothyroidism in the people who ate the meat. By the late l940s, it was found that the same anti-thyroid effect, causing animals to get fat without eating much food, could be achieved by using soy beans and corn as feed.
I like to use this story to illustrate that adding the right types of fat to your diet can actually help you lose weight. I have seen many times, in both my clients and myself, the positive metabolic affects coconut oil can have on the body.
Are there certain people coconut oil is not good for?
Yes. Some people have severe allergies to coconut products. Also, people that have very sensitive digestive systems have to be careful what types of coconut products they use. Coconut flours, meats, and aromatic oils seem to be the most problematic.
Enig, Mary and Sally Fallon. Eat Fat, Lose Fat. Penguin Group: NY, 2005.
Fife, Bruce. The Coconut Oil Miracle. Penguin Group: NY, 2004.
Plank, Nina. Real Food – What to Eat and Why. Bloomsbury: NY, 2006.