Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

7 Health Reasons to Include Coconut Oil in Your Daily Diet


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4. Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Weight

A lot of people would shun coconut oil as a weight loss aid. After all, oils are fat, right?

Coconut oil has a few interesting techniques for fighting fat and helping people be more efficient at fighting body fat development. This idea first came under speculation when farmers in the early half of the century, using coconut oil which was inexpensive at the time, attempted to fatten their livestock. Instead, they found the coconut oil actually made the animals appear healthier and more active. It had sped up their metabolisms!

While it took years to finally study the effects of this peculiarity, it is now known why coconut oil boosts metabolism in many people. A lot of Americans are overweight and much of this obesity is caused by unhealthy overconsumption of fats, particularly LCFAs (long-chain fatty acids). If you'll remember, coconut oil contains mostly MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids), which are much better for you.

Replacing LCFAs with MCFAs typically decreases body weight, limits fat deposition and boosts metabolism. MCFAs are much easier digested and leave extra energy in your metabolic process for digestion and absorption of other nutrients.

An increased metabolism also tends to heighten the thyroid's activity. Obesity can be caused by an underactive thyroid gland, so stimulation of it may offer even more assistance losing weight. An enhanced metabolism also bolsters your immune system.

Coconut oil does some impressive work on your body's fat-fighting ability and can be extremely beneficial for those looking to lose weight.

5. Coconut Oil Helps Skin Look Young and Fresh

Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in many massage rooms and spas. You can reap the same benefits at home with ordinary coconut oil. It does a few different things for skin.

  • Coconut oil can heal skin conditions like eczema, dandruff and psoriasis. Its effects as a moisturizer are what make it so commonly used in shampoos that prevent dandruff. Eczema and psoriasis can be caused by infectious fungi and coconut oil is an effective anti-fungal. When used against these skin conditions, it will ward them off and can prevent them from developing at all.
  • Coconut oil protects your skin from free radicals and is actually considered by some biochemists to be an antioxidant for this reason. Free radicals cause severe oxidation in the cells of the body and are responsible for what gives skin the look of aging. So strong is its ability to prevent the skin's oxidation that this doctor believes that it limits our need for the potent antioxidant, vitamin E.
  • Coconut oil slows the growth of wrinkles. This keeps your skin looking younger. Coconut oil is a very good moisturizer and effectively absorbs into the skin. Upon absorption, it sinks into connective tissues and helps strengthen them by improving their elasticity. It also cleans the epidermis (the top layer of skin) of dead cells. This exfoliation and strengthening thin the lines of wrinkles.

6. Coconut Oil Can Eliminate Dangerous Microorganisms, Both Internally and Externally

Coconut oil is also an antimicrobial that can fight infections caused by microorganisms. Lauric acid is metabolized into a compound known as monolaurin. Both of these compounds are known to kill microorganisms that can harm you and cause bacterial, viral or fungal infections.

Of particular note, these compounds are effective at destroying Candida, a common yeast that leads to the most common fungal infections in the world. Candida is a part of our intestinal flora and is typically harmless, but can attack and cause disease if our immune system is weakened. Candida flourishes when a diet high in sugar is consumed, like those eaten by diabetics. If someone can't cut sugar and carbohydrates out of their diet, they might consider adding an antimicrobial like coconut oil to their diet.

Supplementing as much as one tablespoon of coconut oil, three times daily has been shown to be effective at fighting candida and other yeast infections.

Coconut oil, unlike many other healthy foods that share antimicrobial properties, is just as effective externally. Coconut oil doesn't need to be digested to release its antioxidants; it simply acts as one itself. This means it can directly attack skin conditions caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. This makes it a good weapon against psoriasis, staph infection and any other dermal viral or fungal infections.

7. Coconut Oil Can Fight Against Neurodegenerative Disease

A new branch of studying has proved that the brain has a backup source of energy that's entirely different than the backup energy the rest of the body uses.

The body stores excess carbohydrates and sugars that we do not ise after eating. Glucose that is not burned is stored for later use as fat and acts as a reserve storage—this energy is only burned during strenuous, drawn-out exercise. It's meant to be stored for when we really need it, which is why it's so difficult to burn fat. The body makes great use of this stored fat, but the brain can't use fatty acids when it's running low on energy.

When the body starts running low on blood sugar, the brain falls back on another source for its backup reserves. Its alternative energy is stored in what is known as a ketone body or a ketone for short. Ketones are produced from fat that's stored in the liver and are made with a single purpose—to deliver energy to the brain in times of need. When blood sugar levels go down, the body amps up its production of ketones so the brain has a constant supply of energy.

If someone has Alzheimer's or another neurodegenerative disease (Parkinson's, Huntington's, to name a couple) the brain doesn't absorb or process glucose properly, despite it being the main source of energy for the brain. The body produces ketones, which are used up quickly, leaving the brain with nothing. Ketones are only produced when the body is running low on blood sugar. They're being used since the brain can't process the sugar it is getting, but the host is likely eating properly and giving the liver no signal to produce extra ketones.

Studies have shown that a high ketone diet can improve symptoms of these diseases. Fortunately, coconut oil is known to produce ketones. In subjects suffering from Alzheimer's, memory responses were shown to dramatically improve after supplementing with coconut oil—an impressive feat, since Alzheimer's is degenerative and doesn't often see symptoms get better. Most often, their development can just be slowed.

How to Select and Store Coconut Oil

You'll probably want to know what to look for in terms of selection and what to do with your coconut oil once you've purchased it. Improper storage can damage coconut oil and certain types should be bought for certain circumstances.

Refined coconut oil often lacks the flavor and smell of the unrefined counterpart. Being refined allows for some culinary benefits; it can be cooked at slightly higher temperatures before smoking and you can use huge amounts of it without overpowering your food with the flavor of coconut.

Of course, they also lack some of health benefits virgin, unrefined coconut oils offer. Their MCFA profile is quite similar, so they are still far healthier than other saturated alternatives. The typical supermarket coconut oil is refined. Look for the term refined or unrefined on the label.

Be careful, as some coconut oils are refined through processes that use harsh chemicals that can severely damage the end product. Some are even hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.

Unrefined coconut oil is also called virgin and extra-virgin, much like unrefined olive oil. These oils are typically made from the first pressing of coconut, prior to adding any chemicals or preservatives. They are often way more flavorful, though the purest, most unprocessed oils that aren't exposed to any heat (heat makes the flavor more intense) will have a fairly light flavor.

Coconut oil, fortunately, is easy to store. You can leave it in a cupboard at room temperature for up to two years. It's actually preferable to store in a cupboard or on the counter, because refrigerated coconut oil gets very hard and is hard to use.

Glass is the preferred storage material for coconut oil, since plastic carries a risk of leaching into the oil which can be very unhealthy.

How to Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has many effective uses for personal hygiene. It's an effective moisturizer that can fight against skin conditions with its anti-fungal properties. It's used in the production of soap, since coconut oil is typically hard at room temperature and it can add a nice scent and lubrication without compromising the soap itself.

Aside from personal use and culinary use, coconut oil has interesting traditional applications. It was used in India as a lamp lighting oil and kept large areas of the country lit. It's also a popular material in commercial industries for a number of applications.

  • Coconut oil can be used to fuel a diesel engine as biodiesel. Applied this way, coconut oil can power generators and transport food and large amounts of product.
  • Coconut oil and fatty acids derived from it can be used in the production of surfactants (compounds that reduce surface tension between liquids and solids; these include detergents, moisteners, etc).

Coconut oil's most common use is in the kitchen, as an additive for salad dressings, as a spread, but most often for frying and sautéing. It adds a nutty, rich flavor to any meal that is cooked with it and is regularly used in tropical areas. Southern Asia uses coconut oil frequently in curries. It also adds a delicious depth to pastries and other baked goods, pairing nicely with sweet goods.

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