The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
A perfect example of a healthy food that has been demonized by mainstream nutrition professionals is coconut oil.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
It has mainly gotten a bad rap because it is very high in saturated fat.
But as we know, saturated fat is not so bad and what we’re left with is a perfectly healthy cooking oil.
Coconut Oil Got a Bad Rap in The Past
Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat you can find, with around 90 percent of calories as saturated fat.
Saturated fat was unfairly demonized a few decades ago by a few biased but highly influential scientists. However, new studies show that there is no association between saturated fat and heart disease.
The initial studies on coconut oil that supposedly demonstrated that it was unhealthy used refined and hydrogenated coconut oil that contained trans fats.
These studies have no relevance to the unrefined, organic, virgin coconut oil that is commonly found in health food stores today… which is the subject of this article.
Populations That Eat a lot of Coconut Are Healthy
If coconut fat were bad for you, then we should see some very sick people in populations that eat a lot of it.
But we don’t. Populations who eat a large percentage of calories from coconuts are much healthier than Western nations.
The Tokelauans ate more than 50 percent of calories as coconut and were the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world [in addition to the country's commitment to renewable energy]. The Kitavans ate up to 17 percent of calories as saturated fat, mostly from coconut.
Bottom Line: Populations that eat a lot of coconut are in excellent health.
Coconut Oil Has a Unique Composition of Fatty Acids
Coconut oil is very different from most other cooking oils and contains a unique composition of fatty acids.
The fatty acids are about 90 percent saturated.
This makes coconut oil highly resistant to oxidation at high heats. For this reason, it is the perfect oil for high-heat cooking methods like frying.
Additionally, coconut oil consists almost entirely of Medium Chain Triglycerides.
These fatty acids go straight from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are likely to be turned into ketone bodies and provide a quick source of energy.
Bottom Line: Coconut oil is rich in saturated medium chain fatty acids. They are resistant to high heat and can easily turn into ketone bodies in the liver.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Coconut Oil is Rich in Lauric Acid
The most abundant fatty acid in coconut oil is the 12-carbon Lauric Acid, which is broken down into a compound called monolaurin in the body.
Lauric acid and monolaurin are both very interesting due to the fact that they can kill microbes like bacteria, fungi and viruses.
For this reason, coconut oil can be protective against various infections.
Bottom Line: The main fatty acid in coconut is an efficient killer of pathogens.
Coconut Oil, Blood Lipids and Cardiovascular Disease
Unrefined coconut oil actually improves blood lipid profiles.
In two separate rat studies, virgin coconut oil was compared against copra oil (refined coconut oil) and corn oil.
The virgin coconut oil significantly reduced Total and LDL cholesterol, oxidized LDL, triglycerides and increased HDL (the good) cholesterol.
It also had favorable effects on blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status.
In a study of women with abdominal obesity, coconut oil increased HDL and lowered the LDL:HDL ratio, while soybean oil increased Total and LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL.
Medium chain triglycerides (the fats in coconut oil) have also been shown to reduce blood triglycerides compared to long chain fats.
Coconut oil may be protective against heart disease, not the other way around.
Bottom Line: Coconut oil improves blood lipids in both animals and humans.
Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Weight
There is considerable evidence that coconut oil can help you lose weight.
In a study of 40 women with abdominal obesity, coconut oil reduced waist circumference compared to soybean oil while also improving health markers (see above).
Medium chain triglycerides have also been consistently shown to promote weight loss in both animal and human studies:
- They increase energy expenditure compared to long chain fats.
- They lead to greater satiety.
- They lead to a greater proportion of the weight lost come from fat, indicating that they may be muscle sparing.
Substituting other calorie sources for coconut oil is likely to help you lose weight.
Bottom Line: The fatty acids in coconut oil can increase energy expenditure, improve satiety and help you lose weight.
Coconut Oil Has Other Amazing Health Benefits
Like I mentioned above, coconut oil is likely to turn into ketone bodies in the liver.
Ketone bodies can provide energy for the brain. They are particularly useful against epilepsy and may also improve various other disorders.
To top it all off, coconut oil goes with almost any food and tastes awesome.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."