Five health benefits of coconut oil

Protein World nutritionist Hannah Pendlebury talks us through five health benefits of coconut oil

What are the health benefits of coconut oil? Photo: Veganbaking.net

Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil derived from the ‘meat’ inside the hard shelled fruit of the coconut palm – Cocos nucifera.

The majority of coconut oil (65 per cent) is primarily made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are triglycerides and fatty acids of a medium length chain.

It is solid at room temperature and has a long shelf life, which makes it attractive for cooking and baking with.

Coconut oil has been demonised in the past due to being a rich source of saturated fat which was believed to be the main cause of heart disease by raising the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood.

In fact, proponents of coconut oil argue that the saturated fat are not harmful to your heart.

The saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in coconut oil do not appear to be significantly worse than other fatty acids. Each fatty acid has its unique actions, but SFAs ‘harm’ is mostly misplaced from the harm in excess fast food.

Studies are now showing that the SFAs in coconut oil is in fact among one of the healthiest fats to consume. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently from other saturated fats. They’re rarely stored as body fat; rather, the body would prefer to use them as an energy source.

Coconut oil is most effective when around 5-10g of medium chain triglycerides are included in the diet. This is approximately 7.7 – 15g of coconut oil. This can be used for frying, roasting, baking or simply as a spread.

Tip: The only coconut oil worth your time and money is an unrefined coconut oil typically labelled ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’ coconut oil as it is resistant to oxidation and spoiling. This is processed in a way which helps preserve its healthy fat content and nutrients.

Five health benefits of coconut oil

1) Studies suggest that replacing calories with MCTs without exceeding daily caloric requirements may temporarily increase metabolic rate, however, this is very short lived (not being present by 2 weeks).

2) The unique fatty acids in coconut oil can help reduce appetite and may assist with weight control, particularly when used as a replacement for other oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil. However, this appears to be more significant in overweight individuals.

3) Coconut oil is one of the best oils to cook with due to its high smoking temperature of 450° F, and a low degree of oxidation, meaning it negates oxidative damage of free radicals. This is one of the many advantages of using saturated fats for cooking: They don’t damage nearly as easily as vegetable oils do.

4) Ingestion of coconut oil, relative to other dietary fatty acids, has been be associated with anti-inflammatory effects due to the lauric acid. In addition, coconut oil ingestion appears to improve cholesterol levels. HDL-C appears to be increased following coconut oil inclusion in the diet as does LDL-C

5) Medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil are digested efficiently, thus can potentially enhance the absorption of nutrients from your food, particularly vitamins A, B,D, E, K, beta-carotene, lycopene, CoQ10, and other fat soluble nutrients, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and some amino acids.

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BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge

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This article was last updated on February 20, 2018.
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