Coconut oil has been used for centuries both internally and externally. Coconut supplies a lot of nutrients important for good health, fighting various diseases and supporting metabolism. Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is unique.
All fats consist of fatty acids made up of long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. In this system you have short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).
The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids you consume are LCFA.
The size of the fatty acid is extremely important. Our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. So the physiological effects of MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from those of LCFA more commonly found in our foods. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids. Both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, milk, eggs, and plants (including most all vegetable oils) are composed of LCFA.
Coconut oil is effective in reducing body fat and lowering weight because it contains fewer calories than any other fat. For this reason, it has gained the distinction of being the world's only natural, low-calorie fat. When you use coconut oil in your food preparation, you can eat the same types of foods as you normally do yet consume fewer calories. Although coconut oil is saturated, it has no cholesterol and no dangerous trans-fats found in other oils.
The fact that coconut oil contains fewer calories, however, is not the main reason it has gained a reputation as a low-calorie fat. Its advantage in weight management is due primarily to its affect on metabolism. Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are smaller than other fats and, therefore, digest very quickly, so quickly in fact, that the body uses them as an immediate source of fuel rather than pack them away in storage inside our fat cells. MCT are used to produce energy much like carbohydrates and, therefore, they do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats. Coconut fats are processed directly in the liver without putting strain on the digestive system and are highly recommended for those who have difficulty digesting fats.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Lauric acid in coconut is the same as lauric acid found in mother’s milk that is essential for babies developing systems and immunity. Coconut has a long shelf life, resistant to heat and is the safest cooking fat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much coconut oil should I take?
Researchers state that the optimal amount for an adult is between 3 and 4 tablespoons per day. This equates to the amount of medium chain fatty acids a nursing child would consume in one day from mother's milk. It is best to use coconut oil three times a day at meal times. We recommend that you begin with a smaller amount and build up to the recommended dosage if necessary.
Does coconut oil need to be kept in the fridge?
No, it does not need to be kept in the fridge. Indeed, it will become as hard as a brick if you do keep it in the fridge. In tropical climates, the oil is traditionally not refrigerated and is always liquid. In colder climates, at least for most of the year, the oil is solid. It can be made liquid by standing the container in a pan of warm water - never microwave! The natural antioxidants give it a very long shelf life. Store out of direct sunlight.
What happens when coconut oil is heated?
Coconut oil is not destroyed by heat. The medium chain fatty acids are very resistant to heat and even commercial oils heated to very high temperatures retain their MCFA's. Coconut oil is one of the best and safest oils to use in cooking, because it does not turn into a Trans fat on heating like other seed oils (including olive oil).
Will heating coconut oil turn it into hydrogenated oil?
Hydrogenation is not caused by heating coconut oil during cooking. It is an industrial process where hydrogen molecules are introduced into the oil to make it solid at room temperature. It chemically alters the oil and creates harmful trans fatty acids. It is perfectly safe to heat coconut oil for cooking.
What's the best way to use coconut oil?
There are many ways to use coconut oil and incorporate it into one's diet. Since it is a stable cooking oil, one can simply replace unhealthy oils in the diet with it. Since it is a solid most of the time at room temperature, it can be a butter or margarine substitute for spreads or for baking. Any recipe calling for butter, margarine, or any other oil can be substituted with it. Many people simply eat it by the spoonful. Coconut oil can also be massaged into the skin for external applications.
Are coconuts a nut, fruit or vegetable?
The meat of the coconut is usually referred to as fruit, and the coconut itself is the nut (or seed). This will reproduce into a coconut palm tree if allowed to. Coconut oil is classified as a "vegetable oil".
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