Coconut oil is increasingly used in cooking, but the question remains, “is coconut oil healthy?” After all, it is important to be aware of what you consume.
Coconut oil has become extremely popular in recent years. It has a number of uses apart from being used in cooking. Today, coconut oil is used in skincare products, hair care products, and is even used to make deodorant.
Coconut oil is considered healthy because of its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It aids weight loss and can also help increase your oral as well as skin health. Of course, it must be kept in mind that anything in excess is bad for your body.
When used in moderation, coconut oil that is not hydrogenated or chemically processed can be great for your body. In fact, many dietitians recommend including a tablespoon of coconut oil into your diet as a means of “good fat,” which can lower your risk of heart disease.
Today, we’re here to share with you the benefits of coconut oil and why it should be consumed in moderation. You will also learn the disadvantages of using too much coconut oil. Here is everything you need to know.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy?
Coconuts that grow on palm trees are used to make coconut oil. There are two main types of coconut oil that are commonly used- virgin coconut oil and copra oil. Both these types of coconut oils have high-fat content and are loaded with nutrients like Vitamin E, as well as bioactive compounds that are great for consumption.
Coconut oil contains a unique type of saturated fat known as lauric acid. When consumed daily, this fat in coconut oil helps increase HDL, also known as good cholesterol levels in the body. In the long run, this can keep heart disease at bay.
Moreover, coconuts are plant foods that are loaded with phytochemicals that help fight diseases. However, it must be kept in mind to reap these benefits; coconut oil should be consumed in moderation. This means sticking to the recommended amount of consumption and not overdoing it.
Here is the nutritional information for 1 tablespoon of coconut oil:
- Total calories: 117
- Fat content: 14 grams
- Saturated fat: 12 grams
- Trans fat: 0 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
- Sodium: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Protein: 0 grams
One tablespoon of coconut oil per day can be great for your health. However, fats should only make up 10 percent of your diet. Below are some of the benefits of consuming coconut oil:
- May Help Burn Fat
Coconut oil contains saturated fat, also called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that can be divided into three main groups:
When you consume MCTs, it may cause your body to burn more calories, increasing your chances of losing weight. The fat found in coconut oil is 65 percent MCT which means that it helps burn fat, just like MCT oil.
However, this does not mean that one can consume coconut oil in multiple servings throughout the day. It is high in calories, and if you are not careful, coconut oil can lead to weight gain.
- Reduces Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia is usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease. This is when the person starts to forget little details of their life and cannot remember things that were said or that took place even a few seconds ago.
When you develop Alzheimer’s, your brain has a hard time converting glucose to energy. This is where coconut oil comes into play. The ketones in coconut oil help moderate this disease as they create an alternate source of energy that can be used by the brain cells.
- Keeps Hunger at Bay
An interesting quality that makes coconut oil healthy is that it helps curb bouts of hunger by reducing the amount of food you eat in one sitting.
This is because of the way your body breaks down MCTs. When you consume MCTs, a process helps break them down by producing molecules known as ketones.
Ketones are responsible for reducing appetite as they affect the chemical messengers in the brain and make some changes to the hormones in your body that lead you to believe that you are hungry. A common hunger hormone is ghrelin.
Ketogenic diet is a popular diet that uses ketones to help people lose weight. People who follow KETO do not consume too many carbs and instead load their bodies with fat. Over time, their bodies start to burn ketones as fuel.
However, many people who follow KETO have found that their cholesterol levels went up after the diet. This is because if not consumed in moderation, coconut oil can harm the body.
- Great Source of Antioxidants
Coconut oil is one of the best sources of antioxidants as they help balance out harmful molecules called free radicals. In turn, coconut oil helps protect you from loads of degenerative diseases.
Here are some of the antioxidants found in coconut oil include:
The antioxidants in coconut oil help protect against anti-inflammatory effects in the body while protecting the brain as well. Moreover, the lauric acid in coconut oil helps reduce the complications that come with diabetes.
- Boosts Skin Health
Not only is coconut oil good for your body, it is also great for your skin health. There are loads of people who use coconut oil for cosmetic purposes, such as to melt the makeup off their face and cleanse their skin. However, if you choose to do this, make sure to follow your routine with a gel-based cleanser to ensure that the oil does not block your pores. If this happens, your skin may break out into acne.
It is said that coconut oil helps increase the moisture in your skin. Moreover, it can also be used to reduce water loss and can protect you from allergens, pollution, chemicals, and environmental factors.
Many people who struggle with xerosis (dry skin) or eczema also use coconut oil on dry body parts, such as their hands, elbows, and knees, overnight to provide a boost of moisture.
- Quick Source of Energy
Coconut oil contains MCT, which helps provide your body with an energy boost. When you consume LCTS- long-chain triglycerides, fat molecules find their way into the tissues and muscles that require energy.
Moreover, just like carbs, MCTs find their way to the liver and supply your body with quick energy. Many athletes all over the world have been using coconut oil in their diet, especially in sports nutrition items, to provide their bodies with a source of energy in times of need. The body absorbs the fat in coconut oil quickly, which is why adding it to your diet first thing in the morning can be beneficial.
- Has Antimicrobial Effects
The MCT content in coconut oil, especially lauric acid, has antifungal and antimicrobial qualities. Fifty percent of MCTs found in coconut oil are made with lauric acid- a popular type of fatty acid.
Hence, coconut oil can help fight some microorganisms that cause disease and illness in the body, such as Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, and Streptococcus mutans. In fact, the lauric acid found in coconut oil can stop bacteria in the body from doubling. However, this does not mean that it will kill the bacteria.
- Boosts Oral Health
Oil pulling is a method that uses coconut oil as a mouthwash to boost oral health. All you have to do is swish coconut oil around your mouth for a couple of minutes. This method of oil pulling is known to protect the teeth by getting rid of any harmful bacteria that may be lurking around.
The lauric acid found in coconut oil merges with the saliva in your mouth to create a substance that keeps cavities at bay. It also treats the inflammation of gums and prevents the buildup of plaque, ensuring that your breath never smells bad.
Are there any Risks Associated with Coconut Oil?
While consuming coconut oil can increase good cholesterol in the body while lowering bad cholesterol, some of our research proved that when compared to olive oil, coconut oil causes bad LDL levels in the body to increase. When LDL cholesterol increases, you can suffer from a stroke or develop heart disease, both of which can be fatal if you are not careful.
According to the American Heart Association, one should not consume more than 13 grams of saturated fat in one day. Since coconut oil has 14 grams of fat in one serving, you must ensure that you do not consume too much of it in a single day. Consuming more than the recommended amount can increase your risk of developing heart disease, as well as a stroke.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore