Coconut Oil: The Surprising Benefits
After researching coconut oil for several months I have found that there is quite a bit of controversy concerning this oil. Some websites would have you believe it's a miracle oil. I hope this article will help you make an informed decision about adding it to your diet.
The simple, brown coconut actually contains a vast array of health benefits and is a nutritious source of milk, juice and oil. In the Asian and Pacific countries, where it grows naturally, coconut oil is considered to be a cure for many illnesses.
While the coconut has an abundance of health benefits due to its fiber, vitamins and nutritional content, it seems that it's the oil that makes it such a remarkable food and an effective natural medicine.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which many in the medical field consider an unhealthy fat. The fact is that recent studies show that coconut oil is a different sort of saturated fat that may react differently in our bodies.
Fatty acids are a common topic in the health industry. You've probably heard about omega 3 fatty acids and long-chain fatty acids....well now we are going to talk about medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), aka, medium-chain tryglycerides (MCT).
Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids. Most of the saturated and unsaturated fats found in our daily diet consist of the long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). MCFAs are very different from LCFAs. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and actually help to prevent heart disease.
Medium-chain tryglycerides resemble carbohydrates more than they do fats. They are more water soluble. Because of this they don't require bile to break down, and they are broken down more quickly. They enter the blood stream faster and are taken directly to the liver, where they are used as an immediate source of energy. Less MCTs are converted to fat than long-chain fatty acids. MCTs are also found in milk fat and palm oil.
Although this tropical oil has received bad press in the past, research is showing that it is actually good for your heart. It contains about fifty percent lauric acid, which helps to prevent various heart-related problems such as high LDL cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
It also contains high levels of antioxidants that protect the body form free radicals preventing degenerative diseases and premature aging!
The following topics will discuss several benefits related to coconut oil and also some cautionary advice.
Coconut oil may help boost energy levels and endurance. It isn't stored in the body like other fats. It actually breaks down much quicker in the liver and is used like a carbohydrate. Athletes and bodybuilders often use it as a natural supplement in sports drinks and smoothies.
It can also give your metabolism a boost which, when used along with a healthy diet, could help with weight loss. Now the boost in energy you get from coconut isn't like the kick you get from caffeine, it's more subtle than that, but it's longer lasting. Unlike caffeine, the effects of the oil can last for many hours and you don't develop a dependence or addiction to it.
Who doesn't want a little more energy in their day, right? You can add a little to a cup of warm herbal tea, cocoa, juice, a smoothie, or oatmeal to boost your energy each morning.
Coconut oil can help in improving the digestive system and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, minerals, and amino acids helping to prevent various stomach and digestion related problems including irritable bowel syndrome.
The saturated fats present in the oil have antimicrobial properties and help your system deal with bacteria, fungi, and parasites that cause indigestion and other digestive illnesses.
Population studies of societies that consume much of their calories from the saturated fats of coconut oil show that diabetes is very rare. A study done in India in 1998 showed that when Indians abandoned traditional fats like ghee and coconut oil, and started using polyunsaturated fats like sunflower or safflower oils, that the rates of diabetes became alarmingly high.
Studies carried out in many South Pacific Island countries have revealed the same thing: when the traditional diet high in this oil is abandoned in favor of more modern foods that are highly processed, including polyunsaturated vegetable oils, there is a direct increase in the rate of diabetes and other western diseases.
Diabetics have used it to reduce their symptoms and regular use in your cooking may reduce the risk of getting diabetes.
There is actually a review from a person who used coconut oil for diabetes on Amamzon.com. When you read the section below about where to purchase the Nature's Way brand, click the link and read through the reviews.
Skin and Hair Care
Coconut oil is a great massage oil for the skin. It is an effective moisturizer for all types of skin including very dry skin. I have read some very sincere and positive reviews for skin care.
The benefits of this oil on the skin are comparable to mineral oil, without any adverse side effects. It's a safe solution for preventing dry, flaky skin. It may also help in delaying wrinkles and sagging that become prominent with age.
Another exciting skin benefit is the treatment of various skin problems including acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and others. That's one reason it sometimes forms the basic ingredient of various body care products such as soaps, lotions, and creams.
Since this oil is anti-inflammatory it can promote healing to itching skin and I have read that it can be used as a salve to speed healing of bruises, strains, and sore muscles.
It is also used in natural mosquito repellants. Even consuming it is said to help! You can easily concoct a natural insect repellent by combining 5 parts coconut oil with 1 part peppermint oil.
It's is often used topically as natural nutrition for hair. It can help in the healthy growth of hair and add shine. It is an excellent conditioner and helps with the re-growth of damaged hair.
The thing I noticed first when I began using it on my skin? My cuticles became so much healthier!
Coconut oil may also help in the prevention of diseases, viruses, and infections.
- Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections: It is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Center, the oil can kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, and more.
It's also effective on fungi and yeast that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, and diaper rash.
- Kidneys: Coconut oil may help in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases, and it also in dissolving kidney stones.
- Osteoporosis: As mentioned earlier, it improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium which are necessary for development of bones. therefore, it may be very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.
- Oral Health: Calcium is an important element present in teeth. Since it facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in getting strong teeth.
If you have gums that are tender, red and sore in a few spots, try gently rubbing them with coconut oil and don't be surprised to find quick relief.
I have even read that a simple blend of this oil and baking soda will give you clean teeth, fresh breath and healthy gums.
- Heart Disease, Cancer, Liver Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, and HIV/AIDS: These are some of the serious health concerns that may benefit from this oil's addition to your daily diet.
Benefits to the Liver
The medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids may aid in preventing liver diseases as these substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver. This will help in reducing the work load on the liver and preventing accumulation of fat.
Since the coconut oil is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal your liver may be free to deal with other issues, such as improving your metabolism. Medium chain fatty acids abundantly present in the oil may assist in maintaining your liver’s health by destroying microbes and minimizing free radical formation.
Studies have also shown that the MCFAs may prevent alcohol-induced liver damage by suppressing free radical development. Possibly this nutritious oil can shoulder some of your liver’s work and provide it with a constant supply of energy.
MCFAs may even aid in keeping the liver from clogging up with cholesterol!
The major adverse effect noted by beginning users of coconut oil is nausea and gastric discomfort. This can be minimized or eliminated by starting with very small doses (i.e., about 1/4 teaspoon several times daily), and increasing the dose as tolerated.
Before long, you should be able to consume it by the tablespoonful.
The key, just like everything else, is moderation. It offers many benefits but don't overdo it! Also, if you are allergic to coconut, avoid it.
Be aware that there is still much research to be done on this oil and many medical experts are not yet convinced of it's benefits.
How Do I Use It?
Coconut oil can be used as a salad dressing, and as a cooking oil. Since it does become solid you may want to mix with extra virgin olive oil when using as a salad dressing.
Many people simply consume it by the teaspoon or tablespoon just as they would take any other daily supplement.
You can spread it on toasted breads like butter, or mix it into your morning oatmeal. It's also a great addition to your protein shake, fruit smoothie, herbal teas, or cocoa.
You can bake, fry, stir-fry, or saute' with this oil. Just be sure to experiment with a small portion when you're trying something new as some people complain about the taste it may give certain foods. It's really a matter of personal taste. What one person dislikes, another may love.
You can apply it directly to your skin and hair. People often brush it through their hair at night and rinse in the morning with wonderful results.
Their are numerous uses for this oil. You could spend alot of time reading about all of the suggested uses on the web.
It's good stuff, but it's not a miracle oil, so be cautious in purchasing and using this unusual oil.
What Kind of Coconut Oil Should I Use?
Organic virgin (or some companies call it extra-virgin) coconut oil should be your choice.
- Certified organic by USDA standards
- No refining
- No chemicals added (including hexane)
- No bleaching
- No deodorization
- No hydrogenation
- Made from traditional coconut palms only, no hybrid or genetically modified (GMO) varieties
- Made from fresh coconuts, not the dried "copra" used in cheap oils
- Made without heat processing
Where Do I Purchase The Oil?
There are many retailers for coconut oil. You can purchase it online or at most health food stores. The important thing is to be sure you are getting the quality listed above.
If you want to give this stuff a try, Live Superfoods carries two sizes, and they also have a great selection of other healthy coconut products such as flour, sugar, butter and books. Click on the link below to check out their products!
Oh, and I love that the site provides good information on each product along with customer reviews:)
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