Coconut oil isn't only a popular cooking oil in the kitchen, these days it is being used for all sorts of purposes, including health.
Coconut is a versatile superfood with many benefits and uses that may come as a surprise. Concerns around being a saturated fat may arise, however research now confirms that we actually do need saturated fat, though the type and quantity does matter Saturated fats found in fast food, baked goods, and processed food products affect the body differently than obtaining them from foods like coconut oil and grass-fed animal products.
As long as reasonable amounts are consumed there is no need to completely avoid saturated fat, in fact it can be beneficial.
Though coconut oil is mainly saturated fat (up to 90%), it also contains medium-chain fatty acids that include caprylic acid, lauric acid, and capric acid.
These medium-chain fatty acids are easier to digest and convert easily into energy instead of being stored as fat.
Not only is coconut a "good" fat it also possesses significant nutrition and therapeutic properties that are often overlooked.
Today we explore the many health benefits that coconut oil may provide, that are backed by science:
6 health benefits of coconut oil
Because the human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, it is one of the main organs that thrives off fat from the diet and requires it for proper brain function.
Medium-chain fatty acids, found abundantly in coconut oil, are particularly brain boosting as they are broken down to ketones by the liver and readily cross the blood brain barrier to fuel brain cells and provide a source of quick energy.
But it's not just brain performance, coconut oil may also provide neuroprotective properties and even serve as a potential natural treatment in brain disorders and neurological diseases including dementia, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease (1)(2).
Though fats have been largely misunderstood for many years and have often been taking the blame for weight gain, science shows that consuming specific types of fats can actually support fat burning. Who would have thought?
Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides that provide a quick boost of energy. Your body metabolizes MCTs differently than other fats due to their shorter chain length and as a result they are transported straight to the liver where they are turned into an instant energy source (9).
MCT oil is sometimes recommended for athletes as an efficient and rapid source of energy that doesn't bog them down and may provide beneficial effects on exercise performance (10)(11). MCT oil may also support weight loss and improve body composition via increased energy expenditure (12)(13).
Coconut oil is a source of both long chain and short chain fatty acids, thus if you are looking for solely MCTs you can supplement with pure MCT oil.
There is a lot of debate on whether coconut oil is healthy for arterial health and cholesterol levels in particular due to its saturated fat content.
Although coconut oil isn't recommended the same way that oils like olive oil are for heart health, research is indicating that moderate consumption of coconut oil may be beneficial for cholesterol levels.
Another study that compared the effects of butter, coconut fat, and safflower oil on cholesterol found that coconut was effective at lowering bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing "good" HDL cholesterol (17).
The main fatty acids responsible for its anti-fungal effects are caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid. Though caprylic acid is the most well known anti-fungal found in coconut oil, all three of these fatty acids work synergistically together to fight yeast in the body.
Research has found that the species of yeast called candida albicans in particular was the most susceptible to coconut oil (19).
Another study found that the antifungal activity of coconut oil was higher compared to probiotics against C. albicans (20).
Coconut oil may be a safe and effective anti-fungal food to include during a candida cleanse or to help prevent recurring infections.
Coconut oil has been used in traditional herbal medicine in Asia to treat wounds and injuries before science could even catch up and confirm its efficacy (21).
Coconut oil has even been found to be an effective healing agent for burn wounds in a study done on rats (23).
Applied topically, coconut oil may help to moisturize the skin and maximize tissue repair, supporting wound healing. Due to its antimicrobial properties it may also help to prevent further wound complications from arising such as infections.