Coconut oil is a naturally produced, abundant, and sustainable food source that can potentially benefit our health in all manner of ways.
It is far healthier than other common oils most people cook with, it can be used as a treatment for diseases and other health conditions, and is great for our skin and hair.
All-in-all, its uses and health benefits are as varied as they are significant.
In This Article:
- 1 The Rise Of Coconut Oil
- 2 Virgin Coconut Oil
- 3 Health Benefits
- 3.1 A Healthy Saturated Fat
- 3.2 Infections
- 3.3 Heart Health
- 3.4 Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease
- 3.5 Improved Digestive System
- 3.6 Diabetes
- 3.7 Antioxidants
- 3.8 Energy Boost
- 3.9 Recommended Reading:
- 3.10 Skin Care
- 3.11 Acne Treatment
- 3.12 Anti-Itch Cream
- 3.13 Healing Balm
- 3.14 For Your Hair and Scalp
- 3.15 Mosquito Repellent
- 4 Cooking With Coconut Oil
- 5 Adding Coconut Oil to Your Daily Diet
- 6 Side Effects of Coconut Oil
- 7 What Coconut Oil Should I Buy?
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 Coconut Oil FAQ’s
The Rise Of Coconut Oil
Big pharmaceutical companies do not like ‘natural,’ cheap-to-produce products, that can help treat and prevent medical conditions.
There’s less profit in it, and it’s open to competition.
Up until recently, little money has been made available for to properly research coconut oil’s health properties.
The good news is, this delicious tasting oil is now starting to make some serious health claims – backed up by independent scientific studies.
Mainstream health organizations are forced to acknowledge these findings.
This has naturally resulted in increased public demand, and coconut oil has moved from being found only in specialist health shops, to being widely sold in major food stores.
If you go to the cooking oil aisle, you’re now almost guaranteed to see coconut oil on the shelf.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is what most of us are used to seeing on the label when we buy it.
It is made from fresh coconuts, as opposed to the dried ones or ‘copra’ as it is known.
The meat from fresh coconuts is removed (cold pressed) either mechanically or by hand. ‘Cold pressed’ simply means the oil is produced without heating it first.
Heat turns the oil into a hydrogenated fat in order to make it solid at room temperature.
Hydrogenated fat should be avoided because it turns unsaturated fat to saturated, but more importantly it may also contain unhealthy trans-fats.
Cold pressing is a more labor intensive process and therefore costs more to buy.
However, this is how the nutrients are retained, as no heat, chemical refining, bleaching or deodorizing is necessary.
According to the standards set by Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines (the worlds largest exporter of coconuts), the best quality virgin coconut oil must be:
“colorless, sediment-free with natural fresh coconut scent and free from rancid odors or tastes.”
Virgin coconut oil is regarded as the highest quality coconut oil and should be used in cooking, eating and home medicinal use.
If it is labeled ‘certified organic’, it means the whole process from growth to production, is done organically.
If you want to use the oil for your hair or skin, then the less expensive coconut oil products are fine to use.
Virgin vs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Don’t be misled into thinking there is an even better coconut oil available – usually labeled as ‘extra’ virgin coconut oil.
This is just a marketing ploy that was originally used in the olive oil industry.
Virgin coconut oil is as good as it can get and there is no other ‘standard’ to produce a better result.
For many years Pacific Islanders have considered coconut oil to be the ‘cure for all illnesses’.
This bold claim is not without substance.
Scientists have recently discovered various healing properties of coconut oil and how it can be used in modern medicine to treat a variety of conditions.
A Healthy Saturated Fat
For generations coconut oil has been effectively used to feed, fuel, and treat a large percentage of the world’s population, especially in the Asian and Pacific countries.
People from these countries consume over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world.
Despite the bad press in the 80’s about tropical oils and saturated fat, studies have shown there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect (including heart disease) in these populations.
While the coconut flesh possesses many nutrients, it is the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food, and medicine.
All tropical oils, and especially coconut oil, used to be regarded as ‘bad’ oil.
But research has shown that coconut oil is a different sort of saturated fat which reacts differently in our bodies.
It’s all to do with the type of fat molecule that is present in the oil.
The majority of saturated and unsaturated fats found in our daily diet consist of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA).
Most oils we cook with, and processed foods we eat, contain LCFA’s.
LCFAs are absorbed into our body and transformed into low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the “less desirable” cholesterol.
This is what gets stored in your body’s fat cells, making you fat.
It also stockpiles in artery walls, obstructing your arteries and potentially causing heart disease.
Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).
MCFA’s found in coconut oil are very different from LCFA’s.
Unlike other fats, MCFA’s are not stored in the body (which can lead to cardiovascular problems).
They are processed in the liver and immediately used for fuel/energy, or turned into so-called ketone bodies, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
There are only a very few good dietary sources of MCFA and by far the best sources come from coconut and palm-kernel oils.
RELATED: The Truth About Fat
Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, making it very effective against infections.
It kills viruses that have a lipid (fatty) coating, such as herpes, HIV, hepatitis C, the flu, and mononucleosis.
It kills the bacteria that cause pneumonia, sore throats, dental cavities, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, food poisoning, pneumonia, and many more bacterial infections.
It also kills the fungus/yeast infections that cause Candida, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, jock itch, diaper rash and more.
Coconut oil isn’t a cure in itself, but it does contain these properties that fight, and indeed protect against such ailments.
It has been widely droned into us for a long time now that diets high in saturated fat can cause heart disease.
This is true of popular cooking oil, margarines and many ‘fast’ and processed foods.
Although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, scientists are discovering that this form of saturated fat is actually good for your heart, despite the bad press it has received over the years.
It contains about 50% lauric acid, and has shown not to increase so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels that other saturated fats do.
For optimal heart health it is recommended we have a healthy balance of saturated, poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fat.
Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that affects around 1 in 8 people over the age of 65 and is the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
Currently there is no recognized cure for Alzheimer’s or even a way to prevent it, and I’m not suggesting that coconut oil is the answer
However there is a medical food called Axona that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is coconut based.
There has been much talk about the connection between coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease, and I have found a growing number of cases where coconut oil has seemed to slow and/or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.
The cause of Alzheimer’s is still a mystery, although one theory has described it as a type of diabetes for the brain, in that you develop a problem with insulin.
It is believed that the brain cells somehow become starved of glucose and start dying.
Research from the neonatal intensive care unit of Spring Hill Regional Hospital, Florida concludes with this theory and further suggests that compounds known as ketones are readily accepted by the brains cells, and can supply them with an alternative glucose energy source.
Ketones are metabolized in the liver after consuming medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) and are found in coconut oil.
Ketones are the active ingredient found in Axona.
One Woman’s Crusade
In conjunction with this research, Dr Mary Newport M.D. (seen here with her husband Steve) who heads the neonatal clinic in Florida, embarked on a live experiment, with her husband as the patient.
She was determined to help her husband when classic tests for dementia showed he was at risk of developing severe Alzheimer’s disease.
She added coconut oil to his diet every day, and within just 2 weeks there was a remarkable improvement in the same tests he took earlier.
It is important to add that the coconut oil she used was pure, virgin non-hydrogenated coconut oil (hydrogenated is similar to dangerous trans-fat).
Over the following weeks and months, her husband improved in all aspects of his life including emotionally and physically, as well as intellectually.
Here’s the amazing video from that report:
Dr. Newport went on to write a book; “Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?” and judging by the amount of ‘thank you’ letters she received after publishing the book, it seems to have helped a lot of people.
Virtually every customer review on the Amazon site is extremely positive and in many cases inspirational.
Obviously there will be sceptics about this theory, especially when a book is produced on the back of it.
However, the science behind it seems very plausible, and the FDA has passed a medicine that contains ketones as a valid treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Hopefully more money will be made available to conduct wider research on the link between coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease.
The cynic in me feels that ‘Big Pharma’ is reluctant to research the coconut oil theory further because if it does prove correct, they will lose a lot of revenue on expensive dementia drugs.
Dr. Newport may well have uncovered a wonderful, natural and cheap treatment for a terrible disease that affects so many people. I really hope it is the case.
Improved Digestive System
Coconut oil helps in improving the digestive system and absorption of fat soluble vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
This helps to prevent various stomach and digestion related problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
The saturated fats present in coconut oil have anti-microbial properties that help prevent or treat bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc. that cause indigestion.
Type 2 diabetics use it in helping to control their blood sugar levels. Coconut oil helps in, and improves the secretion of insulin.
A study involving mice and rats demonstrates that a diet rich in medium chain fatty acids (as found in coconut oil) can help protect against ‘insulin resistance’ (an impaired ability of cells to respond to insulin) in muscle and fat.
The diet also avoids the accumulation of body fat caused by other high fat diets of similar calorie content.
Together these findings are important because obesity and insulin resistance are major factors leading to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
More research is needed, particularly involving humans, but it’s a promising discovery.
Coconut oil, in particular virgin coconut oil, contains high levels of antioxidants which help to protect the body from free radicals and prevent degenerative diseases, cancer and premature aging.
Coconut oil is able to boost energy levels and endurance.
It is not stored in the body’s cells like other fats and actually breaks down much quicker within the liver and used like a carbohydrate.
Athletes and bodybuilders use it as a natural supplement in sports drinks, or as an alternative drink in its own right.
It also increases your metabolism which is great for anyone wanting to lose weight.
There is a whole industry devoted to losing weight through coconut oil products and recipes.
If you want to go into a lot more depth regarding how coconut oil can be used to help treat and prevent the conditions mentioned above, I highly recommend Coconut Cures written by Bruce Fife N.D.
Coconut oil can be used as an excellent massage oil.
It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skin, including dry skin.
It is comparable to that of mineral oil. But unlike mineral oil, there is little chance of having any adverse reactions.
Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.
It forms the basic ingredient of various body-care products such as soaps, lotions, creams, etc.
Having pimples, acne, blackheads, spots etc. is a problem that nearly everyone has experienced to some degree, at some point in their lives.
For many people, severe acne is a terribly debilitating condition that affects almost every aspect of their life.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which have antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
Applying it to your face, in order to help reduce acne, however, is another thing.
After extensive research it seems there is a divide between those that have seen clear benefits and those that have had more breakouts.
A very good website that contains predominantly visitors experiences – successes and failures with treating acne is: www.Acne.org. It has a section devoted purely to coconut oil as a treatment for acne.
Reading many of the comments, (100+ and growing) it seems that coconut oil does indeed work for the majority.
There are some that it hasn’t worked for and others that have made their condition worse.
Here’s just two of the many visitors comments:
“Miraculous product. Initially terrified to put oil on my face for acne treatment. Cheap and EFFECTIVE (with the right amount) for acne and healthy hair.
“If you use too much your face will be oily. The trick is to use a TINY amount.
Bottom Line: If you suffer from acne, the chances are you will try almost anything to see if it works.
Start off by applying just a small amount to your skin once a day to see how you react.
Increase the amount and apply twice a day once you are happy that you aren’t allergic to it, or have any obvious, negative reaction.
Coconut oil may, or may not work for you, but I can’t see the problem with giving it a try.
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, so it’s possible it would bring some relief from bug bites, as it promotes healing.
Since it is anti-inflammatory, coconut oil might be useful as a salve to speed healing of bruises, strains, and sore muscles.
For Your Hair and Scalp
Coconut oil provides essential proteins needed for nourishing damaged hair and makes an excellent shampoo or conditioner.
It contains no additives or chemicals, and produces results equal to, or better than the leading man-made hair products.
Coconut oil retains a high amount of moisture; much greater than synthetic man-made products that are popular in our stores.
This moisture retaining capacity keeps the hair moistened and soft much longer, and prevents damage and breakage of the hair.
Use coconut oil in the same way you use other conditioners.
Rub the oil into your hands to warm it up and soften it. Then simply rub it through your hair and scalp to obtain a complete covering.
Leave it for a couple of hours and rinse out. Your hair will feel alive and glossy and your scalp will benefit from the nutrients you massage in.
If you ever visit coastal parts of India, like West Bengal, Kerala, Coastal Tamil Nadu etc, you will be surprised to see how many men and women, in their 70s and 80s, still having shiny, jet black hair.
Not only does it soften the hair, giving it a shiny, healthy glow, it also conditions the scalp which helps protect against dandruff.
Coconut oil is used in various mosquito repellents as a natural product, rather than using Deet.
Just by eating it or using it as a shampoo or face cream etc., can ward of mosquitoes.
Cooking With Coconut Oil
Today we have a vast choice of oils to cook with, including olive oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, coconut oil, etc.
We are bombarded with advertising that suggests vegetable oil is the healthiest oil to cook with.
It sounds like it should be, right? After all isn’t it a ‘natural’ oil that comes from plants? It must be healthy, right?
Not a chance!
All vegetable oils undergo a refinement process involving high heats, pressure and industrial solvents.
This is needed to be done in order to extract the oil from the plants, but in doing so any nutrients are removed.
The result is a processed, polyunsaturated fat that contains mostly omega-6 fatty acids, which we consume far too much of already.
The problem with processed polyunsaturated fat is it becomes easily oxidized when exposed to light and heat (i.e when cooked with).
The more oxidized food you eat, the more damaging free radicals the body produces.
Free radicals are responsible for premature ageing, cancer and disease, as well as inflammation, which cause you to get fatter.
This is why we are encouraged to eat foods and drinks that are rich in antioxidants, to help eliminate the free radicals.
Polyunsaturated fat which hasn’t been processed and exposed to heat (such as coconut oil) is actually a healthy fat that we should be eating.
Whole foods such as nuts and seeds are also good sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and contain a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
All of the vegetable oils we believe to be healthy cooking oils, are actually not, and they include:
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Safflower oil
Some oils are less heavily processed than others, but it just makes them a little less unhealthy.
Any of the above oils have already been heated through processing and then you heat them again to cook with. This just compounds the oxidization problem.
Virgin Olive Oil v Coconut Oil
First of all, virgin olive oil is excellent oil with significant health benefits if consumed in moderation. It’s still a fat at the end of the day, with a lot of calories.
Just like coconut oil, it is processed using a ‘cold-press’ method and so not exposed to oxidization.
However, olive oil has a fairly low smoke point at high temperatures and will produce harmful substances if heated too much.
Despite some labels suggesting cooking at certain temperatures may be fine, it is recommended not to use olive oil for cooking.
Add it to salads as a delicious dressing or cooked foods like vegetables or soups.
Here’s a great, short video that actually shows you what happens to olive oil when heated:
So although virgin olive oil is a good source of fat, it should not be used for cooking.
The Healthiest Cooking Oils
The order in which oil or fat is best suited for cooking with (most stable under heat) is:
1. Saturated fat
2. Monounsaturated fat
3. Polyunsaturated fat
The healthiest oils that are available for us to use are:
1. Coconut Oil
2. Avocado Oil
3. Grape seed Oil
4. Virgin Olive Oil (if at low temperatures)
Adding Coconut Oil to Your Daily Diet
Coconut oil is such a versatile oil. You can add it to your diet in a whole manner of ways including:
- Replace your regular (unhealthy) cooking oil with coconut oil as a 1 for 1 replacement.
- Substitute butter or margarine with coconut oil for spreading on bread or toast – or for baking.
- Add coconut oil to smoothies. Many sports drinks already incorporate coconut oil into their products to give an extra energy boost.
- Use coconut oil as a natural sweetener to hot drinks or to add to cereals.
- Eat it as is, straight from the jar. Delicious!
Side Effects of Coconut Oil
Unless you have some sort of allergic reaction to oil or fat, coconut oil shouldn’t give you any problems.
Using coconut oil on the skin might cause a reaction for some people, (as could any cream or liquid), but again this is highly unlikely.
Many health organizations still advice people not to consume too much coconut oil because of its high saturated fat content.
Even though research has identified coconut oil as having different compounds to other saturated fat, government regulated health authorities take an age before they will approve a natural product as a health benefit.
What Coconut Oil Should I Buy?
Your local food store should now sell coconut oil, and there are plenty of good online stores that sell it.
The best coconut oil you can buy is organic, virgin and ‘cold pressed’.
Make sure it has these and you’ll be fine.
Viva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is the #1 best-selling coconut oil on Amazon, and I’ve enjoyed this product myself.
It tastes delicious and is great for cooking or to use as a butter substitute.
It has thousands of positive reviews on Amazon and is simply one of the best coconut oil products out there.
Like any oil or fat, coconut oil contains a lot of calories.
So you don’t want to actually increase the amount of oil you consume.
However, coconut oil is without doubt one of the healthiest, natural oils there is.
Certainly use it in place of the unhealthy vegetable oil to cook with.
It’s a far healthier way to cook and tastes much better too. And because it is solid at room temperature, you don’t even need to store it in the refrigerator.
You can even use it to moisturize your skin, or apply it to your hair to keep it looking shiny and healthy.
Coconut Oil FAQ’s
- What’s the Difference Between Coconut Oil, Coconut Milk, and Coconut Water?
- What Is Organic Coconut Oil?
- How Much Coconut Oil Should I Take Daily To Receive Its Health Benefits?
- What Are the Side Effects of Coconut Oil?
- How Long Does Coconut Oil Last?
- What Is The Best Way to Store Coconut Oil?
- Is Coconut Oil Safe for Pregnant Women?
- Is Coconut Oil Safe for Young Children and Toddlers?
- Can You Get the Same Benefits by Eating Fresh (or Dried) Coconut?
Coconut water is the clear liquid found in young, maturing coconuts.
This water is sweet and can be drunk straight from the nut. It contains a lot of important nutrients and antioxidants especially potassium and magnesium, and is a stable source of drinking water in many parts of the world.
Coconut water is also fat-free and is very low in calories, about 50 calories for one cup. Most of the calories come from its natural sugars.
As the coconut ripens, the water gradually turns into the white, fleshy meat inside the coconut wall.
Coconut milk is produced by grinding up the coconut meat and pressing out the creamy liquid.
When the coconut milk settles, the thicker, creamy milk rises to the surface and can be easily removed. This method produces two types of coconut milk – thick and thin.
Coconut milk contains a lot of fat and calories, approx 550 calories per cup, most of them from fat.
Coconut oil is made using various extraction methods which produce 2 types of coconut oil: Refined coconut oil and ‘virgin’ coconut oil.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is the oil commonly bought in stores and is better for our health.
The oil is extracted from the coconut milk of fresh coconuts without using heat, in order to preserve the health promoting nutrients and compounds.
Virgin coconut oil has a distinct, pleasant taste and smell of fresh coconuts, whereas ordinary refined or semi-refined coconut oil is largely tasteless.
Organic coconut oil means it is oil produced from coconut trees that are grown and harvested without the use of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or hexane.
Most of the top brands of virgin coconut oil are organically produced.
Coconut oil benefits come mainly from the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), otherwise known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).
Dr Bruce Fife C.N.,N.D author of The Coconut Oil Miracle recommends taking “between 1 and 3 tablespoons a day, to enjoy the health benefits from the oil, but actually any amount is better than none at all.”
You can get this amount simply by substituting it with your regular oil or butter.
Incidentally, 3 tablespoons of coconut oil is roughly the same amount of MCFA’s a nursing child would drink each day from mother’s milk.
Unless you are allergic to coconuts, then you are unlikely to experience any side effects from consuming coconut oil.
If anything you may experience some diarrhea when you first start consuming it.
I recommend you start off by taking just 1 tablespoon per day and build up to 3 or 4. Spreading it throughout the day will also help.
If your skin is prone to rashes or is very sensitive, you might try applying some oil to a small area on your skin just to check you don’t react to it.
Other than these common sense approaches, you should not have any concerns with adding coconut oil to your diet or skin/hair.
Coconut oil has the longest shelf life of any plant-based oils.
Coconut oil products will normally carry a ‘use by’ date of around 2 years. However, you will probably still be able to use it much longer than this.
If the oil doesn’t smell or taste rancid then you’re safe to eat it.
The good thing about coconut oil is its natural resistance to heat. You don’t need to store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.
It has a melting point of around 76 degrees F. so in warmer climates it will often be stored in cupboards in liquid form.
In cooler climates, or if stored in the refrigerator, coconut oil will turn to a solid.
The properties and compounds of the oil remain exactly the same whether as a solid or liquid.
I like to keep a jar semi-cold, (in the cupboard) so that it turns into a buttery type of thickness.
This makes it easy to scoop out and use how you like. I like it this way to spread on toast – Delicious!
Coconut oil is a natural food source that contains lauric acid – which is also present in breast milk.
If you have already been drinking coconut oil before becoming pregnant, and have had no adverse reactions to it, then there’s no reason not to continue.
However, a lot of Western diets are now low-fat, and so it’s probably not a good idea to start consuming coconut oil while pregnant if your body is not used to it.
Yes, coconut oil is perfectly safe to give to young children and toddlers. The only reaction they may have to too much oil, is diarrhea.
The best thing to do is slowly add coconut oil to their diets, starting off with just a small teaspoon a day.
After a month or 2 you can build up to a tablespoon a day and should not expect any problems.
Kids actually love the taste of coconut oil and it’s so easy to add to food.
Whole coconut contains little oil and you would not get the same long chain fatty acid benefits from the meat of coconut.
Fresh coconut does provide plenty of nutrients though, especially minerals such as manganese, copper, selium and iron. It also has a good protein value, all of which is not present in coconut oil.
The problem is, to enjoy these health promoting nutrients, you need to eat the coconut meat fresh, and unless you are in a tropical country, coconuts will certainly not be fresh by the time they reach stores and markets around the world.
Any questions or comments, please drop them below.