About Coconut Oil and its Benefits
Fat was once considered the bane of health freaks. But of late, there is a renewed interest in studying the role of fat in our lives. It is common knowledge that some kinds of fats are bad for your health, while others are essential components for a healthy lifestyle. Coconut oil has regularly found place in the media, earlier for its potentially harmful fat content, and more recently for a renewed interest in its beneficial properties.
This recent surge in interest seems to be due to recent research pointing out that coconut oil contains plenty of medium chain fatty acids and not long chain fatty acids, which are implicated in causing weight gain and heart diseases. Rather, the medium chain fatty acids are harder for our bodies to convert into stored fat and easier for our bodies to burn off.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut Oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or flesh of the nut, commonly known as coconut, harvested from the coconut palm, otherwise known as Cocos nucifera. It is only recently that there is much interest in this tropical nut which was earlier shunned as a primary cause of obesity and heart disease. Coconut oil was shunned by most people because of propaganda that the high saturated fat content might be causing obesity and heart diseases. However, recent research has revealed that the fat contained in coconut oil might be good for you, and not harmful as was earlier believed.
Coconut oil is rampantly used in tropical countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Phillipines. The recent change in terms of positive research and perception about coconut oil has resulted in more western countries accepting this natural oil as a healthy oil.
Active Constituents in Coconut Oil
Many health organisations are strongly against the use of Coconut Oil because of high levels of saturated fat. Coconut oil contains 117 calories, 0 grams of protein, 13.6 grams of fat (11.8 grams saturated, 0.8 monounsaturated, and 0.2 polyunsaturated) and 0 grams of carbohydrate in every single tablespoon making it a rich dietary constituent. Coconut oil is thus 100 percent fat. Besides, it is almost devoid of any vitamins or minerals. But, don’t make your conclusions yet.
Virgin coconut oil, which is naturally extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without denaturing its properties, has potential antioxidant properties due to the presence of plant nutrients called phenolic compounds. Hydrogenated coconut oil is equally harmful to other vegetable fats containing high amount of Trans fatty acids which are implicated in high blood pressure and other heart diseases.
The high content of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in virgin coconut oil makes it difficult for storage inside your body and is much easier to burn. It is seen that communities who regularly use coconut oil are generally healthier as compared to those who do not consume coconut oil regularly. It acts in a manner very different from that of other saturated vegetable oils containing long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) which are the main culprit in contributing to trans fats and heart diseases. Lauric acid contained in coconut oil along with monolaurin has antimicrobial properties.
How does Coconut Oil help you?
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) make up much of what constitutes coconut oil. These fatty acids are much more difficult to accumulate in the body as compared to long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) contained in vegetable fats. MCFAs increase energy expenditure by 5 percent (120 calories) per day. This can potentially help in weight management.
MCFAs are easily absorbed and converted to ketone bodies or used as ready energy source, which may provide benefit for brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. The rich content of Lauric acid is responsible for its antimicrobial properties with the ability to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. Coconut oil also has a potential to reduce your appetite, leading to less food intake and weight loss in the long run.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a quirky oil. It is fat all the way but with a twist. It contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are difficult to be stored as body fat and is much easier to burn as compared to long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). This peculiar property along with others makes it beneficial for humans.
Some of the benefits of coconut oil are as follows:
- Medicinal Properties: Medium-chain fatty acids contained in coconut oil have the potential to reduce brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. These fatty acids are rapidly metabolised by the liver to ketone bodies which help the brain cells to recover.
- Helps Weight Loss: MCFAs in coconut oil increase the 24 hour energy expenditure by about 5 percent which is a significant 120 calories extra energy expenditure per day. Regular use of coconut oil can thus assist in weight loss. Coconut oil is also known to reduce appetite which assists your weight loss goals by increasing fat burning.
- Antimicrobial Properties: Coconut oil contains Lauric acid, and its derivative, monolaurin, which is a natural antimicrobial, helps fighting various bacteria, viruses and parasites.
- Reduces Seizures: Due to its ability to generate ketones in the body, coconut oil may be able to reduce seizures in children, particularly in epileptic children.
- Prevents Heart Disease: Believe it or not. Although coconut oil is completely fat in nature, it helps to improve your cholesterol makeup by raising HDL and LDL (benign subtype) cholesterol while reducing the bad cholesterol. This reduces the incidence of heart disease significantly.
- Prevents Skin and Hair Damage: Coconut oil is a natural emollient and helps moisturise the skin. It also prevents hair damage and blocks harmful UV rays from the sun from affecting your skin. This further reduces the risk of skin cancer.
- Boosts Brain Function: Raising the levels of ketone bodies in the body can boost brain function, particularly in patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil is converted into ketone bodies after rapid absorption in the gut which can help in alleviating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Final Words on Coconut Oil
The discovery of medium-chain fatty acids and Lauric acid in coconut oil have triggered much controversy as researchers lambast the long-lasting belief that coconut oil is as harmful as other vegetable oils.
Although more research is needed to verify these findings, there is hope for the hard-shelled nut and its beneficial oils. For more info. Click on the image to the left of this paragraph.
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