The Fatty Truth About Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been advertised as a ‘magic cure’ for almost everything ranging from nutrition, skin care, hair care, and even oral health! Are you wondering about jumping on the coconut oil bandwagon? Keep reading to learn more.
Oils, like coconut oil, are primarily made of fat. Fat is an essential macronutrient and an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat can be used as a source of energy, helps your body absorb and use certain vitamins, is a building block of important hormones such as estrogen, and creates a protective layer around your internal organs. However, it is important to remember that fats are very high in calories and can quickly add up - and not all fats are created equal when it comes to nutrition and health!
Refined vs. Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconuts, and is not refined or treated. It still contains the coconut flavour and strong coconut aroma. Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is more neutral in its flavour and scent because it is made from dried coconuts which are then refined with chemicals or steam. The addition of heat means refined coconut oil can withstand a higher cooking temperature than virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil does have a slightly higher nutrient profile because refined coconut oil may lose some nutrients during the refining process. There are benefits to using both types of coconut oil, and you may want to use a different one depending on what you’re planning to make. Virgin coconut oil adds a delicious tropical flavour to sweets and desserts. If creating something savory or cooking at a high temperature, refined coconut oil may be the best way to go.
Is coconut oil heart healthy?
The fats that make up 90% of coconut oil are saturated fats. Saturated fats have been found to raise your blood cholesterol (both your total cholesterol and LDL-C, the “bad” cholesterol) and triglyceride levels which may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the type of saturated fat in coconut oil has been found to also raise HDL-C cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol); so the overall effect on cardiovascular disease risk may not be as simple as once hypothesized. Currently, there is not enough evidence to recommend substituting coconut oil in place of heart healthy non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as olive or canola oil.
Are there other benefits of coconut oil?
A variety of studies have found coconut oil, as part of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle, may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Coconut oil may protect against viruses like influenza and hepatitis C (1). Coconut oil may act as an antimicrobial agent because the medium-chain fatty acids can destroy the membranes of lipid-coated microbes (4). Coconut oil that has been converted into a cream may help treat fungal and bacterial infections (4). These properties are due to the lauric acid which makes up most of the fatty acids found in coconut oil. Though it has been found effective to help fight infections, further research needs to be done to test the capabilities of coconut oil. We suggest checking with your physician before you use coconut oil for medical purposes.
Coconut oil can be used as a natural moisturizer and has been found to help reduce protein loss in hair (2)
Oil pulling is a technique where oil is ‘swished’ in the mouth for a short period of time. This popular trend has been found to help fight against and reduce plaque, as well as keep up good oral hygiene (3).
The Final Verdict
As long as you’re following a balanced diet, incorporating coconut oil can be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Coconut oil also adds an awesome flavour in many dishes and desserts.
Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review (Boateng, L., Ansong, R., Owusu, W., Steiner-Asiedu, M., 2016)
Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. (Rele, AS., Mohile, RB., 2003)
Coconut Oil and Virgin Coconut Oil: An Insight into its Oral and Overall Health Benefits (Salian, V., Shetty, P., 2018)
Coconut oil: a review (Shankar, P., Ahuja, S., Tracchio, A., 2016)