A Villain No More! The Incredible Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Summer is almost here in Pennsylvania, so I admit to having all things tropical on my mind! The energizing scent of the salty sea breeze, the sand beneath my toes, tropical flavors like mango and coconut … For many reasons, this imagined scene is a recipe for excellent health. There is one edible offshoot of the tropics, in particular, that really stands out for all of its health-boosting qualities. I am referring to coconut oil – a saturated fat that used to have a rather bad reputation but now has taken the health world by storm!
A bit about coconut oil . . .
For those of you who aren’t familiar with coconut oil, while slightly less dense in texture, its appearance is similar to that of shortening or lard. Because the melting point is on the higher side (about 75 degrees F.), it is usually in solid form until heated. It has sort of a nutty vanilla flavor, slightly richer than butter with none of the bitterness of olive oil.
No more negative hype about coconut oil!
It wasn’t too long ago when this saturated fat was considered so villainous that even movie theaters were being criticized for selling popcorn freshly popped in coconut oil. In fact, I was sure I’d signed myself up for a guaranteed heart attack if I ate the stuff! We now know, however, that this heart-stopping (literally) fear over coconut oil was unfounded. Why? Because all of the negative hype actually resulted from original coconut oil studies using the hydrogenated variety rather than the pure virgin variety and there is a BIG difference between the two. Very simply, hydrogenated coconut oil has a detrimental effect on your body due to the fact that it has been altered to eliminate essential fatty acids – a special part of this oil and the very source of its incredible health benefits.
What makes coconut oil healthy?
Pure virgin coconut oil is comprised of what are called “medium-chain” saturated fatty acids. Smaller than the “long-chain” saturated fatty acids that are found in meat, milk, eggs, and other oils, their size allows them to be digested very quickly without the need for pancreatic enzymes to break them down. In fact, the medium-chain fatty acids are completely broken down as soon as they enter the intestinal tract and then are immediately absorbed into the portal vein and sent directly to the liver where they are used as fuel for energy. This can’t be said for the long-chain saturated fatty acids, as they do need digestive enzymes to break them down and then they actually circulate in the bloodstream where they supply the fat that collects in fat cells and artery walls. It is this small difference in the metabolism of long-chain saturated fatty acids that leads to potentially detrimental effects on health compared to the energy-boosting positive effects of medium-chain fatty acids like coconut oil.
Health benefits of coconut oil.
Besides doing a great job of boosting energy, coconut oil possesses many protective qualities that lower your risk of infection and boost overall immunity. For one, this oil contains “lauric acid” which the body uses to make a disease-fighting fatty acid derivative known as “monolaurin.” Interestingly, monolaurin is the same compound that infants make from breast-milk which prevents viral, bacterial and fungal infections. With this in mind, it is no wonder that coconut oil has been known to completely kill or stop the growth of influenza, pneumonia, herpes, measles, urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, diaper rash and hepatitis C, among others.
Coconut oil supports thyroid function, which in its own right, leads to direct benefits for all systems of the body! It has been shown to increase metabolism, inhibit the liver’s formation of fat, lower the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease, support healthy cholesterol levels, boost immunity and help support the proper balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in your gut. A healthy balance of gut bacteria means that nutrients will be absorbed more efficiently – once again resulting in disease-preventing properties. The immediate manner in which it turns to fuel in the liver results in a lowered risk of diabetes through improved insulin secretion and healthy blood glucose utilization and therefore helps with maintenance of a healthy weight.
Definitely worthy of mention here is some recent research pointing toward the use of coconut oil for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. This research suggests that this disease may stem from a brain’s inability to process glucose, which leads to cell death. The only other fuel that the brain can use are ketones, which are produced by the body from medium-chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil. Actually, these fatty acids derived from coconut and palm kernel oil are proving to be the most promising experimental Alzheimer’s drugs currently being tested! And get this – apparently a Florida doctor reversed her husband’s Alzheimer’s Disease by giving him four teaspoons of coconut oil per day. After only a one year period, he was once again able to exercise and care for himself, as his brain ceased to atrophy. Now that is impressive!
(See http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/ for a more comprehensive listing of the proven benefits of coconut oil.)
How to best use coconut oil.
Wondering how to put this magical oil to good use? I’ll often use it as a tasty substitute for olive oil or vegetable oil in sautes or even as a substitute for butter, shortening or other oils in baked goods. If you’re a smoothie drinker, a tablespoon of coconut oil added to any fruit smoothie provides a very healthy, tropical flair! In addition to adding it to your diet, you can give your skin a healthy glow by using coconut oil as a daily moisturizer or specifically to combat wrinkles and protect from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The bottom line is that you absolutely can’t go wrong by adding coconut oil to your life in one way or another! And even if you don’t go through a jar of the stuff very quickly, it’ll take more than a year stored at room temperature to go rancid, unlike most other oils. You can find it along with the other oils in the organic section of almost any grocery store, Whole Foods Market, or locally owned health food store. You can also purchase it online via my VIRTUAL DISPENSARY. I personally use Nutiva brand Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, however, there are many other high-quality brands out there. Just be sure that it is Certified Organic and Extra Virgin. If you decide to give it a try, be sure to let me know what you think!
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