Coconut Oil Basics

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018

If you’ve looked for health and wellness tips on the internet lately, there is a good chance that you will come across coconut oil in your research. People have touted the benefits of coconut oil as a solution for everything from weight loss and whiter teeth to faster metabolism and more radiant skin, turning this tropical staple into a whole body superfood. But does this tropical oil actually deliver on these claims?

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When you are buying coconut oil it is important to pick the right variety, from virgin or refined to expeller pressed and cold-pressed, there are many options when it comes to coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is pressed directly from the flesh of the coconut soon after it is harvested. Since the coconut is fresh when the oil is pressed out, it still has that tropical taste.

Refined oil is pressed from the solid typically left over from making dried & shredded coconut, producers have to use bleaching and other processes to sanitize the coconut. These, often chemical, treatments remove the tropical taste and smell from the coconut oil. This makes refined coconut oil a good choice for cooking and baking (look for a brand that uses natural instead of chemical treatments) while virgin coconut oil is best for overall health benefits since it has not gone through any additional treatments.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat (it contains between 85-90%), which is the type of fat that leads to high cholesterol. This leads many to assume that coconut oil is not as healthy as people were made to believe, but new research is telling a different story. Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), while most other fat sources (such as vegetable oils and animal fats) are made up of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs.) MCTs are broken down much faster in the body, which means our bodies can digest them more easily and they help us produce energy more quickly. The MTCs in coconut oil can also help to temporarily boost your metabolism.

Coconut oil also increases our good cholesterol levels. Not only does it increase our good, but it also lowers our bad cholesterol, packing a heart healthy double punch. While there is still a need for more research to be done regarding the fat levels in coconut, current studies are showing that coconut oil can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.

Many people have stated that coconut oil is a key to weight loss, but are these claims true? They just might be. A 2008 study looking at how MCTs and LCTs effect weight-loss found that, when used as part of a weight-loss program, coconut oil helped study participants lose more weight than those who used olive oil.1

Coconut oil makes you feel full for longer, which means you will likely eat fewer calories.  A 2002 study found that those who added a small amount of coconut oil to their first meal of the day were more likely to eat less calories throughout the day than those who did not have coconut oil as part of their breakfast.2 This does not mean that you should be eating coconut oil by the spoonful for breakfast, and you should be accounting for the added calories that are coming from the coconut oil.

There are also many applications for coconut oil beyond the kitchen. Since coconut oil is, in fact, an oil, it makes a great moisturizer. You can use it on anything from your hands and face to your hair and nails. If you are going to use it as a moisturizer, be sure to use virgin and unrefined coconut oil. While some people suggest that coconut oil can lead to clear skin, there have been no studies to prove its effectiveness and most dermatologists recommend you avoid putting oils on your skin if you are prone to acne.

Coconut oil has many benefits and uses, both in and out of the kitchen. It is important to remember that coconut oil is a fat, and so you need to account for that when adding it to your diet. Just like anything else, when enjoyed in moderation, coconut oil is a good addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

1. St. Onge, MP. Bosarge, A. “Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain tricylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil.” National Center for Biotechnology Center. U.S. National Library of Medicine, March 2008.

2.Assuncao, Monica L., Ferreira, Heroldo, S., dos Santos, Aldenir F., Cabral Jr, Cyro R., and Florencio, Telma M.M.T. “Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity.” Springer Link. Springer Link, 13 May 2009.

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