Coconut oil, a highly saturated fat, has been used in native diets for thousands of years in tropical climates. Natives have long known the health benefits of coconut oil. In a study published in 1981, two south pacific islands were examined for a long period of time beginning in the 1960s, before a standard western diet was introduced. The goal of the study was to investigate how dietary saturated fat affected serum cholesterol levels. Interestingly enough, with 60% of the caloric intake coming from saturated fat from coconut oil, the people were lean, healthy, and free of modern diseases (Read more about this study and others here). Obesity included. This should give us pause when we hear doctors and the media give all saturated fat and specifically coconut oil a bad rap.
Up until recently, for the past thirty years or so, the health benefits of coconut oil were dismissed because it was thought to be a “bad” fat. Saturated fats received a bad rap because they were thought to increase cholesterol, which is in turn thought to clog arteries. And, artery damage ultimately results in heart disease. There have been a lot of studies challenging these claims. Dr. Uffe Ravnskoff, an MD with a PhD in Chemistry, has written an entire book titled The Cholesterol Myth in which he examines the original studies done that apparently showed the danger of high cholesterol.
So, what are the health benefits of coconut oil? To begin, a reasonable amount of fat is good for you. It acts as a signal to tell you when you have had enough to eat, pads your organs, and is extremely important for reproduction.
Additionally, coconut oil specifically is a rich source for good fatty acids. Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) which serve primarily to provide energy to the body, as opposed to the long-chain fatty acids which are stored in your body as fat (as found in olive oil). MCTs also have healing properties! The three dominant fatty acids in coconut oil include Capric Acid (7%), Caprylic Acid (8%), and Lauric Acid (48%). Listen to this amazing research find regarding fatty acids in coconut oil:
“Never before in the history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of Lauric Oils. The medium-chain fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother’s milk and have similar nutriceutical effects. These health effects were recognized centuries ago…. The medium chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found primarily in coconut oil and mother’s milk have miraculous healing power.” Outside of a human mother’s breast milk, coconut oil is nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids. (1)
Here are some other health benefits of coconut oil:
- Useful in treating digestive problems
- Strengthens the immune system; the MCTs help kill viruses.
- Functions as an antioxidant
- Protects against cancer, heart disease, diabetes
- Can be used as conditioner on hair
- When used for diaper rashes, it soothes and helps the skin recover due to its antimicrobial properties
- Useful for eczema may help prevent infection when the skin is broken
- Can help those with Candida-related problems
- The list is nearly endless! Read Bruce Fife’s Book, The Coconut Oil Miracle (Previously published as The Healing Miracle of Coconut Oil), for more on the benefits of coconut oil.
So, with the health benefits of coconut oil in mind, are you wondering how to practically implement it into your diet? It’s easy! The first step is to make sure you are using unrefined, food grade coconut oil. Specifically, look for “virgin coconut oil.” You will know the difference between the two in the taste. If you are not using food grade coconut oil, it will be bitter. Food grade coconut oil should have the wonderful aroma of coconuts.
The second step to enjoying the amazing benefits of coconut oil, try some of these suggestions and recipes to get started:
- Add 1 T of coconut oil to oatmeal (see here for a wonderful basic oatmeal recipe)
- Add 1T to green smoothies (see here for tasty, kid-friendly green smoothie recipes)
- Use virgin coconut oil in place of other oils when you bake bread, muffins, or cakes.
- Try this delicious recipe for granola that has become a staple at our house!
- Try this delicious recipe for Baked Oatmeal. It is one my personal favorites
- Begin making your own Coconut Oil Deodorant ( and save money on this everyday product in the meantime!)
What about the cost? You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy the health benefits of coconut oil, though it can be costly. You can use small amounts and still reap benefits! There are many brands available, most of which are reputable and fine to use. I currently use Spectrum Naturals’ Coconut Oil, but I have happily used Garden of Life’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil also. And, I would also recommend ordering from Tropical Traditions. When you use it on your skin, a little goes a long way; too much and you feel like a greased pig!
Note: Shortly after I began using coconut oil, I noticed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and Virgin Coconut Oil. I began researching to learn if there was a difference and I concluded that there is not a difference, as there is no production standard differentiating the two. If you want to learn more, read this excellent article on the matter.
I hope this helps answer your questions about the health benefits of coconut oil. I think you’ll find that it will become a staple in your diet once you begin using it!
Do you consume or use coconut oil topically? Have you noticed specific health benefits of coconut oil from your own use? If so, feel free to share your favorite recipe, use, or experience with us!