Understanding Coconut Oil
Let’s break it down…
Pure virgin coconut oil, containing no hydrogenation (the process of adding hydrogen to make a liquid fat hard), contains about 92% saturated fat — the highest amount of saturated fat of any fat. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, are found in animal products (meat, dairy, poultry with skin, and beef fat), and contain cholesterol. Unlike animal fats, tropical oils — palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils — are saturated fats that are called oils but depending on room temperature can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid, and do not contain cholesterol.
Like all fats, coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids. Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%) acids. It is this unusual composition that may offer some health benefits.
Most of the fatty acids in the diet are so-called long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently. They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy or turned into so-called ketone bodies, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Lauric Acid is proven to be antimicrobial. It can kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and candida. Lauric acid is a saturated fat that also raises blood cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This may create a more favourable blood cholesterol profile, although it is unclear whether coconut oil may promote atherosclerosis through other pathways. Because much of the saturated fat of coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, coconut oil may be a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are required. As previously mentioned, virgin coconut oil (VCO) is composed mainly of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fatty acids of a medium length and may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats.
Although research is still being conducted, some individuals postulate coconut oil can also positively affect our hormones for thyroid and blood-sugar control. People who ingest coconut oil also tend to have improvements in how they handle blood sugar since coconut can help improve insulin use within the body. Coconut oil may also boost thyroid function helping to increase metabolism, energy, and endurance. Further, it increases digestion and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
As for calories, all fats have the same number of calories per gram. One tablespoon of coconut oils contains 117 calories, 14 grams fat, 12 g saturated fat, and no vitamins or minerals.
Coconut oil can serve various purposes that have nothing to do with eating it. For example, I was checking out the internet and came across a website called “wellnessmama.com.” She claims 101 uses for coconut oil!! Click here to check it out
Many people are using it for cosmetic purposes and to improve the health and appearance of their skin and hair. Recent studies on individuals with dry skin show that coconut oil can improve the moisture and lipid content of the skin. Coconut oil can also be very protective against hair damage and one study shows effectiveness as sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Another application is using it like mouthwash in a process called oil pulling. Due to the high content of Lauric acid, coconut oil can kill some of the harmful bacteria (Streptococcus Mutans) in the mouth, thereby improving dental health and reducing halitosis (bad breath.) Streptococcus Mutans is the main culprit behind plaque buildup, gingivitis and cavities. Another possible benefit is that oil pulling may lead to a brighter, whiter smile. Basically, you take a tablespoon of liquid coconut oil (melt your oil however you see fit– you can chew it solid until it melts, or melt it on the stovetop or microwave) and swirl it around your mouth for 15 minutes. Spit it out, rinse, and then brush your teeth. I actually attempted this myself yesterday when deciding to prepare this blog. My smile was instantly brighter- so much so I had to FaceTime with my Mom to show her!!
Lastly, because of its high saturated fat content coconut oil is slow to oxidize. This reaction causes it to be resistant to rancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling.
Hope this helps!
Dr. Crysta Serné
Chiropractor and owner of Vitality Clinic