Coconut oil is one of the most beneficial foods on the planet, and it is certainly a healthy substitute for vegetable and other oils.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut Oil is extracted from coconuts. It is made up of 100% fat, however do not think that this is a bad thing.
It is primarily made up of MCTs (Medium chain triglycerides, or medium chain fatty acids), which are very healthy for you and are difficult for our bodies to store as fat.
LCTs (Long chain triglycerides, or long chain fatty acids) are most commonly found in animal products, and are more difficult for the body to burn off immediately as energy. They are therefore more likely to be stored as fat in the body.
Coconut oil does not contain many, if any, LCTs, which makes it a very healthy option for cooking and baking.
It is quite extraordinary that something so high in fat can be so healthy for you!
The benefit of all of the saturated fats, is that they are almost entirely medium chain triglycerides (MCTs, or medium chain fatty acids).
This high fat oil primarily contains the following MCTs:
- Lauric Acid – this makes up 40-50% of the total fat composition, making it one of the most dense sources in nature of this healthy fat. The body creates a substance called monolaurin when digesting lauric acid, which is extremely beneficial for the immune system.
- Capric Acid – this is another healthy fat found in coconut oil, and has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.
- Caprylic Acid – another immune boosting fat, the body converts this to monocaprin for use in fighting infection.
The primary benefits of MCTs are their immune system and energy boosting properties, but they also have a few other unique health benefits:
- They are smaller than the long chain fatty acids (LCTs) we normally consume, and therefore easier to digest. They only go through a 3 step digestion process, as opposed to a 26 step digestion process required for LCTs!
- MCTs are not easily stored in the body as fat.
- They are processed by the liver, giving immediate energy.
- The smaller size of MCTs allows easier cell permeability for a quicker energy boost.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has health benefits, from hair and beauty, right the way along the spectrum to cancer prevention and treatment!
Balances Levels of Good and Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol in our bodies is essential for every day functioning. There are 2 types that must be in balance. HDL is healthy cholesterol, and LDL is is bad cholesterol.
With the increase in processed foods in our diets, we often have an incorrect balance of cholesterol in our bodies.
Coconut oil increases levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and helps to convert LDLs (bad cholesterols) into good ones.
In turn, having increased levels of HDL promotes heart health and decreases the risk of heart diseases.
Reduces Inflammation and Arthritis
The concentration of anti-oxidants in coconut oil had been known to ease inflammation and arthritis.
Processed foods and the wrong types of fat can cause havok for the hormones in our bodies.
The MCTs and healthy fats found in coconut oil are fantastic at supporting natural hormone production, and restoring balance to the endocrine system.
Supports the Immune System
As discussed previously, MCTs have natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, giving them the power to support your immune system.
Grains and sugar feed bad bacteria, which is often the cause of most illness today. Replace these with coconut oil as your natural fuel source to give you the healthy boost you are looking for!
Gives You a Mental Boost
Some research suggests that MCTs may contribute to focus and mental performance.
Speaking from personal experience, I have definitely noticed this when I eat Spelt Cookies! They contain coconut oil, and are a super healthy (and super tasty!) snack that is quick and easy to make. Check out the recipe here.
A Great Source of Healthy Fats
As mentioned previously, one of the healthy fats found in abundance in coconut oil is Lauric Acid.
This is one of the essential fats found in breast milk, and coconut oil is the second richest source of it (after breast milk of course!).
The concentration of healthy fats means that it aids digestion. The anti-microbial properties also help to fight any irritation and infection that may be caused by Candida.
May Help in Cancer Prevention and Treatment
There are 2 major factors which contribute to coconut oil being great at preventing, and in some cases, treating cancer.
Firstly, when it is digested, Ketones are produced. Tumours cannot access the energy in ketones, as they are sugar dependant. This makes coconut oil a great way to sweeten your food without the adverse effects of sugar.
Secondly, MCTs digest the lipid walls of bacteria, meaning that they can kill the helicobacter pylori bacteria, which has been known for increasing the risk of stomach cancer.
A Great Fat for Cooking
Some oils and fats become unstable at high temperatures (like olive oil), and release harmful toxins and chemicals as they break down.
Coconut oil is quite the opposite – its structure means that it is very stable at high temperatures and safe to cook with.
Nourishing for Your Hair
Coconut Oil is extremely nourishing, and it’s unique fat composition is beneficial for your hair.
It can be used in homemade hair products, as a hair mask or as a hot oil treatment.
A Natural Moisturiser for Your Skin
The same nourishing properties that make this oil beneficial for your hair also make it beneficial for your skin. The anti-oxidant properties help to stop skin irritation and reduce wrinkles too.
Types of Coconut Oil
There are 4 types, or variations, of this oil that you can buy, and I have listed them below with their health benefits and or side effects.
Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil
This is considered the best coconut oil that you can buy.
The extraction process (called wet-milled fermentation) used to create this type of oil preserves and protects the health benefits of coconut oil as far as possible, which gives this type of oil the highest levels of anti-oxidants, along with almost all of the benefits listed above.
Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil
This is considered the gold standard for olive oil, but not for coconut oil.
The extraction process does not preserve the anti-oxidants to the same degree as it’s unrefined counterpart.
Refined Coconut Oils
During the extraction process, the coconut meat is often bleached and deoderised first, making it devoid of smell and taste.
Although this may have the benefit of not tasting of coconut (if you are not a fan of the taste!), it does not carry nearly as many of the health benefits as the unrefined oil.
Healthy options are available, but the unrefined version will always be more beneficial.
Fractioned Oil, or MCT Oil
This is actually slightly different to coconut oil…
It is almost entirely made of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides/medium chain fatty acids), which means that it has extremely good brain boosting properties.
It is also different in that it is a liquid, rather than a solid, at room temperature.
MCT oil does not hold all of the health benefits of coconut oil, however if you specifically require more MCTs and brain boosting fats in your diet, it could be a good option for you.
The Difference Between Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter
Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter both come from coconuts, and are both a solid at room temperature.
The difference is that Coconut Oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut, whereas Coconut Butter is made from the meat of the coconut, and actually contains pieces of coconut meat.
They do differ slightly nutrtionally. The oil is pretty much just 100% fat, and the butter contains fiber and protein as well (mainly because it contains some coconut meat).
Where to Source Coconut Oil
There are a number of different brands of coconut oil available on the market, and below I have outlined 3 of them – the best that there is (from the US, so shipping is expensive for those outside of the US), a good alternative if the shipping costs are too high for that one, and a more economical version all together, but still has many of the health benefits.
It is important to check where your coconut oil comes from. For example, the brands below use local farmers that are in the rural areas of the Phillipines. This means that the coconuts used to make the oil are far away from any pollutants that may damage the organic quality of the oil.
It is possible to buy all of these products in bulk also, and they can then be stored until required. Depending on the processing method, coconut oil can last up to 18 months. Always check with the manufacturer for the shelf-life of a specific brand.
Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil
This is some seriously good stuff!
One of the highest quality coconut oils produced on the planet, it comes from the Philippines and is made by local, rural farmers using traditional methods.
These traditional methods keep all of the goodness from the coconut in the oil, giving it a superior taste and maintaining most, if not all, of the health benefits.
The only slight downside (and only if you like outside the US!), is that being a US company, shipping outside of the US is a little expensive, simply due to the weight of the product.
The Gold Label version is their best quality coconut oil, but take a look around their website, and you will see that they have other versions too, which are slightly more economical.
If you are looking for the best, then this is the perfect option for you.Click To Find Out More
Tiana Fairtrade Organics Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
If you are outside the US and don’t want to pay high shipping fees, this could be a great option for you.
Although this oil is cold-pressed during production, it is one of the highest quality cold-pressed oils on the market.
We hunted high and low for a non-cold-pressed, unrefined oil available easily and economically to the UK and European market, but couldn’t find one.
So we picked the next best thing. This oil is still organic, it still has most of the major health benefits, and it’s fair trade too. Fair trade is great, because you know that the local farmers in the Philippines are benefitting as they should.
If you are looking for a high quality oil, without paying shipping costs from the US, then this would be a good option for you.Click To Find Out More
Tiana Faitrade Pure Organic Coconut Cooking Butter
This is similar to the previous products, except that it is produced in an economical way, making it is slightly cheaper.
It is not as high quality as the above products, however it still has a lot of the essential nutrients and many of the major health benefits listed in this article.
If you are looking for something to get you started, this is a great way to test it without spending too much. This is the product that we use the most in our household.Click To Find Out More