12 December 2013 Cuckoo for Coconut Oil?

It does us good to take each health claim for every gizmo, gadget and food product deeper than face value. The “weight loss market” is now up to $61 billion annually, so one can imagine with that type of cash flowing there might be one or two things out there that don't live up to the hype, but there are other products that can and do help people reach their weight loss goals.

In this post, we take a look at coconut oil. This oil has recently seen a spike of notoriety, thanks in part to diets and eating plans like “paleo,” “primal eating,” and the Ketogenic diet, which all emphasize high protein intake, low carbs, and moderate to higher fat intake, particularly from coconut oil. Without inference to the pros and cons of these eating plans and lifestyles (that's for a future post), let's look at the benefits of coconut oil.

Coconut oil is extracted from ripe coconuts, and it has been a staple in African and Polynesian diets for centuries. It is a multi-functional oil, used internally and externally. Coconut oil once had a bad rap because it was high in saturated fat. Newer research suggests that saturated fats are not as bad as people thought. However, older versions of coconut oil were often hydrogenated, which can be bad for cholesterol. Today, it's best to look for “virgin” or “refined” coconut oils.

Coconut oil contains about 12 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, but what makes coconut oil stand apart from the rest, especially EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil, a popular oil for healthy eaters), is its triglycerides. EVOO has long-chain triglycerides (LCT), while coconut oil has medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Researchers say that MCTs are more readily and easily used as energy sources by our bodies than LCTs. Moreover, coconut oil contains a MCT, lauric acid, which is a type of saturated fat that is found in breast milk and that has been used for treating malnourished children.

When used for cooking, coconut oil is very versatile. It has a unique solid-to-liquid characteristic, and its smoke point is 450F (for refined coconut oil), while EVOO's smoke point is 375F. What's important about that? If oils are heated beyond their smoke point it can change their flavor, and worse, create unhealthy chemicals like acrylides, which cause oxidative stress. FYI, an oil with a much higher smoke point is avocado oil (520F), in case you're looking for high heat cooking alternatives.

Coconut oil can be used not only in place of other oils. It is commonly used in place of butter, thrown in with smoothies, and even mixed into your morning coffee!

For its weight loss benefits, researchers point to coconut oil's MCT (again), which has been linked to helping with satiety, burns slower than carbs, and decreases carbohydrate cravings. One study from a decade ago found that oils with more MCTs improve thermogenesis and increase our body's ability to burn fat for calories.

Topically, coconut oil has shown to contain many antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-yeast properties. It can be used as a moisturizer in place of petroleum-based ones.

So what do you think? Are you cuckoo for coconut oil, or just curious about it? What do you use it for?

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Oils

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