Is Coconut Oil Just A Health Fad?November 2, 2017
The 80s saw a revolt in the health industry with saturated fats being deemed the enemy. Out went things like coconut oil, butter and ghee, and low-fat became all the rage.
The funny thing is, given enough time, things come back into fashion. Today, coconut oil is seeing a resurgence, and it is common to see its many virtues extolled.
While research is still ongoing into many of coconut oil’s health claims, we present some of the natural wonder’s more plausible ones.
What is it good for?
When it comes to oil, we naturally associate it with fats—but not all fats are bad. Fat is essential in our diets. It is needed for proper brain function, blood sugar and weight regulation, proper cell formation, hormone production, and hunger and craving control. Thus, we should not eliminate oils from our diet.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat made up mainly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) and this lends it its many good properties.
But more than just ingesting it, using coconut oil externally can be quite wondrous too.
Here are 4 benefits of coconut oil to take note of:
- Weight Loss
MCTs cause slight increases in metabolism – calorie burn can go up by as much as 5% over 24 hours – and are easily digested. Hence, they are less likely to be circulated through the body and deposited as fat.
MCTs also significantly reduce appetite. This one-two punch can potentially lead to significant weight loss in the long term. Coconut oil consumed in small amounts has appeared to be effective at reducing belly fat. In some studies, adding about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day to diets had impressive results in reducing weight and waist size.
- Better health
Diets rich in MCTs are associated with better brain and cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that coconut oil improves important risk factors like cholesterol levels as well as blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status.
- Managing Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting primarily the elderly. The brain requires carbohydrates to function, and brains of Alzheimer’s patients show a reduced ability to use them.
Studies involving patients with milder Alzheimer’s have shown that the consumption of MCTs helps improve brain function by providing an alternative energy source. Research is still being undertaken to determine if MCTs can play a larger role in managing the disease.
- Topical use
One of coconut oil’s fascinating aspects lies in its many topical applications.
Its high moisture and fat content make it a good moisturiser. Applying it to skin can make it feel nourished and smooth. It works great for massages too. It can be used both for pre- and post-sun exposure, working as a mild sunscreen and a treatment for sunburn.
Compounds in coconut oil have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that can kill harmful pathogens. This makes it useful in treating common skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema.
Hair too can benefit from coconut oil. It serves as a deep conditioner by reducing protein damage, and nourishing and healing damaged hair, giving it a lustrous feel and a nice aroma.
Eye makeup removal can be done in a cinch. Applied to a cotton ball, coconut oil can effectively remove mascara while hydrating the delicate skin around the eyes.
Expensive and chemical laden shaving creams can be replaced by coconut oil. Coconut oil’s hydrating properties make hair easier to shave off while soothing the skin beneath.
It can be used as a mouthwash in a process called oil pulling—done through swishing the oil in the mouth for several minutes each day. Doing so helps kill some of the harmful bacteria in the mouth, improving dental health, making teeth stronger and reducing bad breath.
With its myriad uses, it is little wonder that coconut oil can be found in the list of ingredients of many commercial products aimed at these needs.
It’s all about choosing wisely
Organic unrefined coconut oil is considered the best type to use as it retains the most benefits. Other types do not preserve the antioxidants as well or might be lower in healing properties.
Coconut oil is calorie-dense and when consumed should be in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Lastly, when externally applied, it is good to test to see if one has any adverse reaction (allergies, for example) before regular use. Everyone reacts differently to coconut oil, and therefore benefits in different ways.