Food Freedom Friday Edition 15
Wonders of Coconut Oil
The coconut is a nutritional superfood, possessing a wide variety of health benefits, but it is the oil specifically that makes the coconut such a remarkable source of food and medicine. Coconut oil has definitely earned its reputation as being the healthiest oil on the planet despite the fact that it was once falsely claimed to be unhealthy due to its high saturated fat content.
Coconut oil is derived and extracted from the meat of matured coconuts. Throughout the tropics the coconut has long been a primary source of. It has numerous industrial and cosmetic applications and has thus become very viable commodity. Coconut oil is heat stable, making it suitable for cooking at high temperatures. It is slow to oxidize, resists rancidity and has a shelf life of approximately two years or more. Virgin coconut crème which is created through a wet-milling process has an indefinite shelf life.
What makes coconut oil special?
Oils and fats are composed of molecules known as fatty acids or triglycerides. These are classified according to their saturation (how many double hydrogen bonds exist on each carbon chain of the fat) and/or determined by the length of the molecule and size of the carbon chain within each fatty acid. Although many fats and oils contain more than one type, they are names according to the majority of the type of fatty acids they contain.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are examples of saturation – having one or more double hydrogen bonds respectively. The second classification is an expression of the molecular size or length of the carbon chain. Long chains of carbon atoms consist of each fatty acid with an attached hydrogen atom. There are short chain fatty acids known (SCFA), medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) such as coconut oil and long chain fatty acids (LCFA). The majority of fats and oils commonly consumed are comprised of LCFA in both saturated and unsaturated forms. There are only few dietary sources of MCFA, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.
Coconut oil is predominantly medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) and the effects of the MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from the LCFA found in other foods. Both the saturated and unsaturated fat in common foods such as eggs, meat, dairy products and even in plants and most plant based crop oils are made of LCFA. This is significant because the body responds to and metabolizes each type of fatty acid differently. The MCFA found in coconut oil makes it especially beneficial as these fatty acids do not have a negative effect on cardiac health. To the contrary, they have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Furthermore, the liver and gall bladder do not need to digest and emulsify MCFA, resulting in instant energy, increased metabolic rate and subsequently more heat production as well as increased circulation. Anyone with an impaired fat digestion or a compromised or removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil due to its ease of digestion and assimilation.
The many health benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to its high concentration of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them.
Monolaurin is effective for treating candida albicans, fungal infections and athlete's foot. It also targets bacterial infections and viruses like measles, influenza, hepatitis C and even HIV. Current research is even exploring the effectiveness of lauric acid against the HIV/AIDS virus due to its strong anti-viral properties. Lauric acid is non-toxic to the body, making it a far superior alternative to the modern anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial drugs that are typically prescribed and often create a myriad od sode effects and toxicity during and after taking.
The body is only able to produce monolaurin in the presence of lauric acid. Breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which serves as a possible explanation for the lesser incidents of infections with breast-fed infants. Regular coconut oil consumption has been shown to both boost immunity and reduce the incidence of illness.
The health benefits of coconut oil
Some of the many fabulous attributes of cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil include:
· Antibacterial—halts the growth and reproduction of the bacteria that cause gum disease, throat infections, urinary tract infections and ulcers.
· Anti-carcinogenic—keeps dangerous cancer cells from spreading while boosting immunity
· Antifungal—destroys infection-promoting fungus and yeast.
· Anti-inflammatory—suppresses inflammation and assists in tissue repair.
· Antimicrobial—inactivates harmful microbes and fights infection.
· Antioxidant—protects from free radical damage.
· Anti-parasitic—can help rid the body of tapeworms and other parasites.
· Anti-protozoa—destroys protozoan infection in the digestive tract.
· Antiviral—helps to kill dangerous viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis to name a few.
Furthermore, regular consumption and use of coconut oil has been shown to:
1. Assist in bone health
Research has found that regular consumption of coconut oil aids in the the nutrient absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These are important minerals to support bone health and fight osteoporosis.
2. Improve metabolism and prevent fatigue
The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil produce energy rather than body fat, thereby improving metabolism and preventing fatigue. The oil has also been shown to destroy organisms in the body that sap its strength and contribute to the condition of chronic fatigue.
3. Strengthen brain health and aids in the prevention of degenerative brain diseases.
When the body metabolizes the MCFA’s from coconut oil, ketones are produced. These molecules provide fuel for the cells and are the preferred fuel source of brain tissue. Ketones do not have the oxidative qualities of glucose molecules and can thus support the regeneration of neural cells, thus supporting in the prevention of degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple sclerosis. Studies have shown that the consumption of MCFA can both prevent and reverse plaque build-up in the brain
4. Aid in weight management
The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can improve metabolic rate better than long-chain fatty acids due to the fact that they are easily digested and converted into energy. Studies have reported medium-chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids, leading researchers to conclude that effective weight loss can be achieved by replacing long-chain fatty acids with medium- chain fatty acids.
5. Lower the risk of type II diabetes and heart disease
A study on women ranging from 20 to 40 years old instructed half of the subjects to take a 30 ml soybean oil supplement while the other half were instructed to take a 30ml coconut oil supplement while maintaining moderate exercise routine over a 12-week period. Results of the study showed that although both group of women had a decrease in body mass index (BMI), only the women who were taking coconut oil showed a notable decease in waist circumference. This measurement is a significant risk indicator for the development of conditions like type II diabetes and heart disease.
This study further revealed that the subject taking the coconut oil experienced an improvement in their cholesterol profile along with higher HDL levels and higher HDL: LDL as compared to the soybean oil subjects whose results reflected a higher total cholesterol as well as higher LDL cholesterol lower, lower HDL cholesterol and a lower HDL: LDL ratio.
6. Improve and maintain oral health
The benefits of oil pulling (rinsing the mouth with coconut oil for up to 20 minutes daily) have long been touted by Ayurvedic practitioners and the process is beginning to gain mainstream acceptance. Although oil pulling can be done with a variety of oils, when coconut oil is used, benefits to oral health are significant and include
· Overall strengthening of teeth, gums and jaw
· Plaque prevention
· Prevention of halitosis (bad breath)
· Prevention of cavities and diseases such as gingivitis
· Prevention of lip, mouth and throat dryness
· Possible remedy for jaw soreness and TMJ
7. Support pneumonia recovery
In a study presented before The American College of Chest Physicians on October 29, 2008, coconut oil was found to offer pneumonia patients quicker and more complete relief from symptoms. This could become an inexpensive, side-effect free addition/supplement to traditional anti-biotic treatment as well as create reduced time spent in hospitals, lower medical expenses and lower exposure for the patient to a hospital environment.
8. Provide natural alternatives for skin and hair care
The MCT’s found in coconut oil are also an excellent skin conditioner as these naturally occurring fats deeply penetrate and moisturize the skin, acting as a protective barrier against environmental and free radical damage. The oil also provides sun protection by screening 20 percent of ultraviolet exposure.
Coconut oil is rich in anti-oxidants and bursting with the natural anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agents caphrylic and capric acids. . Due to its ease of absorption, the oil is able to infuse the skin with anti-oxidants, making it a perfect and cost effective anti-aging moisturizer. Coconut oil further contains vitamin E, another anti-oxidant popular for hastening the recovery of skin abrasions, burns and other trauma.
The unique fatty acids found in coconut oil have a small molecular structure and pass freely into the cell membrane of hair, thus penetrating the shaft and allowing for deep conditioning from within the hair itself compared to other conditioners that need to work from the outside in.
Massaging the oil into the scalp can also offer relief from dandruff. Dandruff is caused by dry skin or an internal fungal condition that reached the scalp. With regular use, coconut oil can kill the fungus and eliminate dandruff issues.
Coconut oil has also been beneficial in
- Pain and inflammation reduction
- Supporting normal kidney function
- Strengthening the liver and protects against degeneration
- Supporting detoxification pathways in the body
- Relief from sinus congestion and migraine headaches
- Correcting hormonal imbalances
- Reduction in incidences of epileptic seizures
- Easing acid reflux and aiding in proper bowel function
- Healing and relieving intestinal concerns
- Lowering the incidence of hemorrhoids
- Dealing with symptoms connected to prostate enlargement
- Reducing joint and muscle inflammation
- Protecting against cancer and HIV and other infectious diseases
- Killing bacteria and parasites like tape worm and liver flukes
- Soothing earaches
- Easing neuropathies and itching from diabetes.
- Eczema relief
- Improving vision
- Helping with insomnia
To enjoy the benefits of coconut oil, researchers have recommended that the average adult should consume about 3 ½ Tbsp. of coconut oil per day. The nutritional benefits of coconut oil come from its medium chain fatty acids and this amount is approximately equal to the amount of MCFA a nursing infant would receive on a daily basis. Human breast milk is the best comparison in nature to MCFA consumption in the diet. This amount would also provide adequate amounts of lauric, caphrylic and capric acids to take advantage of the many other numerous advantages a diet rich in coconut oil can provide. For those unaccustomed to including coconut oil in their daily routine, it is best to start out with a smaller amount and slowly build up the consumption.
Coconut oil has no known side effects. A common adverse reaction for those who have been following a low-fat diet would be diarrhea. Again, in this situation it is not advisable to start with a large amount right away. Distributing the recommended amount over the course of one day and building up to a larger dose can help to avoid unwanted effects.