We refer to a lot of foods as “super foods, ” but most of them do not deserve that name. Coconut oil is one of only a few foods to earn that name.
There are many health benefits of coconut oil, including weight loss, skin and hair health, improvements to brain health, and several others.
This article is an overview of 10 health benefits of coconut oil.
1. Coconut oil contains healthy fatty acids with medicinal benefits.
Coconut oil used to have a bad reputation for its high levels of saturated fat.
About 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil is saturated fat. This makes it one of the best sources of saturated fats (a).
Recent studies reveal that saturated fats are not as harmful as previously thought. Some studies have found that there is no link between heart diseases and saturated fats (b).
Also, the saturated fats in coconut oil are not like those in steak or cheese.
The fatty acids in coconut oil are of the MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) variety.
Most fatty acids in our meals are long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil contains MCTs, which the body uses differently to long-chain fatty acids.
MCTs go direct to the liver instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver converts MCTs into an instant energy source for the body or turned into ketones. Ketones have benefits for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
Conclusion: The saturated fats in coconut oil are mostly MCTs, which the body uses differently. They can be converted into ketones which can have benefits for some brain disorders.
2. Communities that consume more coconut oil are healthier than those that do not.
Most of us in developed nations see coconuts as exotic fruits and only eat it as part of a healthy diet.
But coconut is widely eaten in many other parts of the world as a staple food. Some communities have thrived on coconuts for centuries.
The South Pacific territory of Tokelau is one such community.
This community gets about 60% of their calorie needs from coconuts, and are one of the world’s largest consumers of saturated fats.
A study shows that Tokelauans are one of the healthiest people on earth. Finding a Tokelauans with heart problems is rare (c).
The Kitavans of the Pacific Island territory of Kitava is another example of a community that depends on coconuts for a large percentage of their calories (d).
Conclusion: There are communities around the world that depend largely on coconuts for food. Members of these communities are some of the healthiest people in the world.
3. Coconut oil may help with weight loss
The world health organization describes obesity as an escalating global epidemic. It is one of the biggest killers in the world.
Not all calories are created equal. Different foods have different effects on your body’s hormones.
In one study, researchers found that people who consumed about 15 to 30 grams of MCTs per day boosted their fat burning by about 120 calories per day (g).
Conclusion: Coconut oil is loaded with MCTs, which may boost fat burning and cause you to lose weight.
4. Coconut Oil may help fight Harmful Pathogens
About half of the fatty acids in coconut oil is Lauric Acid.
Lauric Acid turns into monolaurin in the body.
Lauric Acid and monolaurin are known to possess potent antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties (h).
Conclusion: Coconut oil contains substances that can kill dangerous pathogens and may, therefore, help fight infections.
5. Coconut Oil can help suppress hunger, reducing your calorie intake.
One of the benefits of coconut oil, to weight loss, is that it can feel you up, reducing hunger and making you eat fewer calories.
Its ability to reduce hunger may be down to how the body uses MCTs. The body converts some of the MCTs into ketones, which is known to have appetite suppression properties (k).
In a study on 6 men, they were fed varying amounts of MCTs and LCTs. The group of men that consumed the most MCTs lowered their daily calorie consumption by as much as 256 calories (l).
The studies mentioned above involved a small sample of people over a short period of time. However, the results show that MCTs can cause significant weight loss over an extended period of time.
Conclusion: The MCTs in coconut oil have appetite suppressing properties, which can lead to significant weight loss over a long period of time.
6. MCTs in coconut oil is converted into ketones, which can lower the risk of seizures.
Researchers are studying a diet called ketogenic diet (which is an extremely low-carb, extremely high-fat diet) for its medicinal benefits on several disorders.
So far, this diet is known to be very effective in treating drug-resistance epilepsy in children (m).
The diet aims to consume plenty of fats and very little carbohydrates, which increases the number of ketones in the blood.
For reasons yet unknown, ketones seem to reduce the occurrences of seizures in children with epilepsy. It even works for children that do not respond positively to epilepsy drugs.
Conclusion: Coconut oil may help produce more ketones in the blood, which can help treat children with epilepsy.
7. It may help lower the level of cholesterols in the blood
There is a high level of healthy fats in coconut oil.
The MCTs in coconut oil may raise the levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in the body and may help convert LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) into other forms that do not cause much harm.
Coconut oil may also protect against heart diseases by improving other risk factors.
A study involving about 40 women found that coconut oil led to a reduction in the Total and LDL cholesterol, but an increase in the good HDL cholesterol when compared to soybean oil (p).
A couple of other studies involving rodents show that coconut oil can lower the levels of triglycerides and LDL and Total cholesterol, and improve factors that lead to blood coagulation. It also improved antioxidant factors (q, r).
Conclusion: Human and animal studies concluded that coconut oil may lead to improvements in some risk factors like LDL, Total and HDL cholesterol. This may lower your risk of heart illnesses.
8. Coconut oil may improve hair and skin health and also act as sunscreen
Beauty product manufacturers often add coconut oil to skin and hair products.
Some studies show that coconut oil may improve the appearance of dry skin. It serves as a moisturizer to restore the skin (s).
Conclusion: Coconut oil has properties that can be harnessed to fight dry skin, hair loss, the sun’s ultraviolet rays and bad breath.
9. MCTs in coconut oil can help improve Brain activity in people who have Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease common in the elderly population and is the most common cause of dementia.
Alzheimer’s patients seem to lose the ability to convert carbs into energy for use in some parts of the brain.
According to some scientists, ketones may provide energy for these brain cells and, therefore, reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s (y).
There was a study that found that patients suffering from less severe forms of Alzheimer’s saw an immediate improvement in their brain functions from regular intake of MCTs (z).
Conclusion: A few studies show that MCTs in coconut oil can boost the presence of ketones in the blood. Ketones can act as an alternative energy source for brain cells in people with Alzheimer’s, which can reduce the symptoms of the disease.
10. Coconut Oil can help you get rid of abdominal fat
We’ve learned that coconut oil has appetite suppressing properties. It should, therefore, not come as a surprise that it can help you lose weight.
Coconut oil is found to particularly effective in getting rid of belly fat. Belly fat is one of the worst kinds of fats when it comes to your health.
There is a link between belly fat and many chronic illnesses.
One study gave about 40 women 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day over a 3-month period. The subjects saw their BMI and waist size reduce significantly (c1).
In a different study, 20 obese men were given 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day over a 4-week period. On average, the men saw their waist circumference decrease by 1.1 inches over the 4-week period (d1).
Although these figures may not look very impressive, bear in mind that the subjects in the trials were not taking part in any other weight management activities. The results are from just consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day.
If you want to read a comprehensive article about the effects of coconut oil on weight, you should read this article.
Get The Right Coconut Oil
If you want to get the full health benefits of coconut oil, you must get the right type. Buy organic, unrefined virgin coconut oil.
I recommend that you use coconut oil to cook almost every meal that requires oil. You’ll reap the many health benefits.