Coconuts have been used as a major food source for thousands of years by millions of people in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Central America. Before these people were introduced to western and modern day foods from across the world, they relied heavily on the coconut plant to sustain life. What is amazing to think about is that they didn’t suffer from heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and other modern degenerative diseases. However, when they started incorporating modern western foods into their diet and abandoned their traditional, coconut based diets, these diseases started to show up. This transition was noted by many researches that the more ‘westernized’ the people came in regards to their diet, the more their health deteriorated. Their diet did include other nutrient-rich foods that did contribute to their overall health but they were not the ‘secret’ to their underlying absence of disease and illness. What researches had found was that the most common and staple food used in all of these countries was the coconut plant.
The ‘Fat’ in Coconut Oil
We are constantly being told in our society to avoid fat, and it makes sense, its called fat for a reason right? This is where the misconceptions arise. There are ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats that we need to be aware of, which you can learn more about here. To be healthy and free of disease we need essential fatty acids which come in the form of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Medium-chain fatty acids like those found in the Coconut plant, are also important and are considered conditionally essential. This means that under certain circumstances, they are just as important as other essential fatty acids.
Coconut oil was thought of as a food to avoid due to its high saturated fat content among other food groups as well such as meat, margarines and fried foods. However with the Coconut plant, the saturated fat it contains is made up of small and medium chain triglycerides as oppose to other saturated fats like animal fats which are long chain triglycerides.
We are told that if we reduce our fat intake by 30% of our total calorie intake, then it will help reduce our risk of heart disease. This may be true for some fats but coconut oil is another story. Look at the Polynesian people for example, they consume coconut oil daily and in large quantities, in fact, their fat intake can contribute to 60% of their total calorie intake which is twice the recommended amount.
Additionally, Coconut oil is better for our health because it is burned in the body easily whereas long chain triglycerides goes to the circulatory system before it is finally used as energy.
What is Virgin Coconut Oil?
The difference between Commercial coconut oil and Virgin coconut oil is dependent on the way it is processed. Commercial coconut oil is produced from dried coconut ‘meat’ and then undergoes refining processes to make the oil edible. Once it has been refined, it is called Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized Coconut oil. This is the most commonly used coconut oil when cooking.
Virgin oil, on the other hand, does not undergo the refining process because the oil produced is already edible.
The chemical properties are the same in both Commercial and Virgin so the health benefits remain the same because they have the same medium chain fatty acid composition, it is just the process they undergo that the name changes.
In regards to health, Virgin Coconut oil is better for you due to the biologically active substances which are normally lost in the refining process remain intact in the oil.
Coconut oil is highly respected in many cultures of the world and not only as a valuable and diverse food source but for medicinial purposes as well. For example, in Central America of Panama, people are known to drink coconut oil by the cup, which they found to help overcome sickness faster. Additionally in Nigeria, palm kernal oil (which is similar to coconut) is their most trusted remedy for all types of illnesses, and because it has been used there for so long, it is their most commonly administered traditional remedy.
Coconuts are disease fighters due to their antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and antioxidant properties. It is even used in baby formula because it provides many of the same nutrients as human breast milk! Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed the consumption of coconut oil as not only safe, but can be used to treat a number of common illnesses.
People use to think that coconut was something that contributed to diseases such as heart disease or other cardiovascualr diseases but what studies are showing is that coconut actually helps prevent these diseases.
Coconut oil has also been mentioned in cancer prevention studies. This is because Coconut oil does not affect blood lipids and will not cause an increase in cholesterol or cause cardiovascular disease. It even increased the High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or the so-called “good cholesterol”, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
Additionally, Blackburn et al (1988) stated that Coconut oil is, at worst, neutral in regards to an atherogenicity of fats and oils and can be beneficial to prevent and treat some heart diseases.
At the start of this article I said the Coconut plant is a Nutraceutical substance. That is a substance that offers nutritional value as well as pharmacological effects. It is a nutraceutical due to its biologically active substances. There are studies that are still trying to understand the effects of these substances on human health and the interest is going big worldwide!
How do I use coconut oil?
Regular usage of coconut oil can really improve your overall health and help prevent diseases. If you are overweight, it can help you to loose weight; if you have digestive problems it can help with that as well.
You can incorporate coconut oil in your daily life by:
(1) Using it for cooking and replace it with your other oils,
(2) Eat coconut or coconut products (coconut yoghurt, coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut water) or,
(3) Apply coconut oil directly to your skin and hair in order to recieve its health and healing properties into your body.
(4) Coconut oil can also be used in a toothpaste, which inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, an acid-producing bacterium that is a major cause of tooth decay and they are usually natural toothpastes that will be free of harmful ingredients like fluoride, triclosan, and sodium laureth sulfate (SLS).
Thanks for having a read and trying to better your health through healthy and safe alternatives to medicines. I hope you learnt a thing or two and are ready to replace your vegetable oils with coconut oil! I know I am!
What are your thoughts about coconut oil and its health benefits? Please feel free to share your thoughts below, I am excited to chat about this amazing plant!
The Earth Co.
Fife, B., 2013. The coconut oil miracle. Penguin.
Enig, M.G., 1996. A new look at coconut oil. The Weston A. Price Foundation. http://www. westonaprice. org/health.
Carandang, E.V., 2008. Health benefits of virgin coconut oil. INDIAN COCONUT JOURNAL-COCHIN-, 38(9), p.8.
Chow, C.K., 2007. Fatty acids in foods and their health implications. CRC press.