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The Health Benefits of Organic Coconut Oil

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

coconuts growing
coconuts growing

It seems like everywhere you turn these days there are companies promoting their products as the best, the healthiest, and the new miracle cure for everything from hair loss to cancer. It can be confusing to sift through all of the information to find the facts.

Coconut oil and other coconut products are increasingly being listed as having numerous benefits to your health.

Organic coconut oil, that is.

But Isn't Coconut Oil Unhealthy?

Coconut oil was blacklisted years ago because it was labeled a "dangerous, saturated fat" and was quickly pulled from store shelves. Tropical oils were labeled bad and unhealthy, and Americans shunned them without a second thought. Now this maligned tropical oil is not only making a come back but making a comeback as a healthy, nutritional supplement that cures everything from hepatitis to HIV.

How can something move so quickly from "bad" to "good"?

Flawed Study

The negative research that was published about coconut oil in the past was a result of one study that was conducted over forty years ago! The study used hydrogenated coconut oil, the (type that is altered from it's natural form) and not virgin oils. You should also keep in mind that hydrogenation has now been shown to be unhealthy.

So, was it the coconut oil or the hydrogenation that was the problem?

Look for the certified organic label to ensure that your coconut oil is the healthiest available
Look for the certified organic label to ensure that your coconut oil is the healthiest available
image: TropicalTraditions.com Fair Trade Farmers dehusking Coconuts.
image: TropicalTraditions.com Fair Trade Farmers dehusking Coconuts.
image:coconutdiet.com -child delivers fresh coconut oil from the family farm
image:coconutdiet.com -child delivers fresh coconut oil from the family farm

What Is the Difference Between Standard and Organic?

Much of the commercial grade coconut oils are made from the dried kernel of the coconut, called copra. If the copra is used as a starting material, the unrefined coconut oil is not suitable for consumption and has to be purified and refined.

The copra is not dried by sanitary methods so it must go through a process where it is refined, bleached, and deodorized.This is accomplished by the use of high heat, then the oil is filtered through bleaching clay to remove the impurities. At that point sodium hydroxide is used to remove free fatty acids and improve the shelf life of the finished oil.

Most, if not all, of the coconut oil that is commercially produced is made in this way. During this process much of the nutritional value and the natural health benefits are removed leaving a tasteless, useless oil.

Since it is not organic there may be traces of the chemicals used to fertilize the plants and pesticides in the oil.

Organic Coconut Oil

Organic, virgin coconut oil is handled and processed much differently. This oil is made by using fresh coconut meat. Since the natural coconut oil is pure it is very stable and has a shelf life which can be measured in periods of years. It also retains all of it's delicate taste and nutritional qualities. It needs no further heat, or chemical refining.

There are currently two ways of manufacturing Virgin Coconut Oil.

Method One

Method one uses a process of quick drying the coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil by mechanical means.

Method Two

Method two is a process called wet-milling. During this method the oil is extracted from the fresh coconut meat without prior drying. The coconut milk is expressed by pressing and then the oil is separated from the water. Several methods can be used to separate the oil from the water including;

  • Boiling
  • Fermentation
  • Refrigeration
  • Enzymes
  • Mechanical centrifuge

In either of these methods the health and nutritional benefits of the coconut oil are retained, and because it is organic there are no chemical residues. The delicate flavors are also retained.

image: allafia.com -virgin coconut oil
image: allafia.com -virgin coconut oil

Nutrition for the Heart

So, now that you know that you want organic, virgin coconut oil do you know why? What exactly are the nutritional benefits of ingesting this stuff?

The Human Body Needs Fat

The current medical research indicates that at least thirty percent (30%) of our diet should be made up of fats. Each fat is not equal, however, affecting the body in a different way. Coconut oil is generally favorable, and has been shown to create a more favorable hdl/ldl ratio in the body. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, which have been described as having a negative effect on the cholesterol but coconut oil is different from other saturated fats in many ways.

Good Source of Medium Chain Triglycerides

Coconut oil is the highest vegan source (62%) of medium chain triglycerides. At least half of these medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are made up of lauric acid which is the single most important fatty acid in building and maintaining a healthy immune system. The amount of lauric acid in coconut oil is similar to the percentage in breast milk. No other vegetable oil has lauric acid and only milk and butter come close to the percentage, measuring in at 3%!

What About Cholesterol?

Virgin coconut oil has been show to raise cholesteral level in some individuals, however it is the beneficial and protective levels that are raised contributing to a healthier ratio of hdl/ldl cholesterol.

Studies have also shown that the current popular oil, canola oil, actually was one of the worst oils to use, producing high levels of trans-fatty acids when used in cooking.

Virgin coconut oil actually helps to prevent hardening of the arteries.

Nutrition for the Immune System

Monolaurin, the precursor to lauric acid, has helped in killing many viruses.The research indicates that it also offers some protection against cancer causing substances and free radicals. It does this by disrupting the lipid membranes of envelope viruses and also inactivated bacteria, yeast and fungi.

Some of the pathogens reported by researchers to be inactivated by Monolaurin include;

  • HIV
  • Measles
  • Vercular stomatitis virus (VSV)
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)
  • Visna, cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Influenza virus
  • Pneumonovirus
  • Syncytial virus
  • Rubeola

Some bacteria inactivated by monolaurin include:

  • Listeria
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus agalactiae
  • Groups A, B, F and G streptococci

These health benefits can be achieved by eating approximately one -fourth of a cup (four tablespoon fulls) of virgin organic coconut oil per day. In fact, the fats derived from coconut oil are routinely being used in hospitals, baby formulas and sports drinks to increase the strength of the individual immune system.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil- Lubricate Your Body's Engine

Nutrition for the Metabolism

Coconut oil is actually a fat that promotes weight loss. Because the medium chain fatty acids do not circulate throughout the bloodstream like other fats but are sent straight to the liver where they are metabolized and converted into energy, acting as carbohydrates rather than fats. These medium chain fatty acids also act to speed up metabolism causing the body to actually burn more calories and therefore promoting weight loss.

Healthy fats in the diet help the body to feel full and to not overeat. Consider that low fat and fat free diets have been pushed for at least two decades and we are not seeing people become thinner by following them. Rather, on average, the fatness of the population continues to rise! This is partially due to the hormones and chemicals we ingest continually, and partly due to the fact that with low fat choices we eat more carbohydrates than our bodies need resulting in obesity.

How to Use Coconut Oil

Getting the full benefits of coconut oil every single day is easy. Simply eating a tablespoonful with each meal and one before bed is the easiest way. Natural, virgin coconut oil is delicious and tastes of coconut. You can substitute coconut oil for butter or margarine, or even vegetable shortening in your recipes. Heating the coconut oil during normal cooking and baking does not cause it to be hydrogenated or change the beneficial structure of it in any way.

Topical Use

  • Because of the antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties coconut oil can be used topically on the skin to help with acne, burns, dry skin, or skin infections.
  • Using the coconut oil as a pre-conditioner, before shampooing, on the hair and scalp will guard against dandruff and keep hair smooth, soft, and shiny.
  • It is a great personal lubricant, completely natural and helps to guard against yeast infections. Since you don't use a lot at a time it is much more frugal than commercial preparations.

Cosmetic Use

  • Use it to keep lips soft and guard against chapping.
  • Coconut oil is a fabulous moisturizer for delicate, and older skin, helping to guard against the brown discolorations caused by metabolization of free radicals and also helping to keep the skin elastic.
  • A combination of crushed garlic and coconut oil spread on the feet at night will help cure athlete's foot fungus.
  • Coconut oil makes a great massage oil.

Enhance Your Health

`While coconut oil may not be the answer for every disease of the human body, using it on a regular basis can go a long way to enhance health and well being into old age. By using certified organic, virgin coconut oil daily energy levels can be increased, metabolism can be sped up, and the body's immune system can be protected and strengthened.

Using it on skin can help keep skin soft, supple and smooth. With so many ways to utilize it, coconut oil is part of a healthy lifestyle.

In warm weather coconut oil will liquefy at room temperature and in cold weather it will be a solid. Keep this in mind when storing your oil and if you will want to use it as a solid store it in the refrigerator in hot weather.

When using the coconut oil as a massage oil it helps to keep it in a squirt bottle but again, in cold weather it will solidify and you will need to warm it quickly in warm water to turn it to a liquid again.

As you are buying coconut oil look for not only certified organic but Fair Trade oils. As long as you are doing healthy things for your body you might as well be doing healthy things for the planet.

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    • profile image

      Jacob malete 4 weeks ago

      That's good information I had ,from now on I'll use virgin coconut oil daily

    • Gauri Maini profile image

      Gauri Maini 3 years ago from Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia

      Marye, I use organic virgin coconut oil in my soaps. I also use it on my body and with clay/ oatmeal as a cleanser...I have not been able to determine what benefits of the coconut oil remain in the soap. It is meant to provide cleansing and lather and I wonder if the benefits of the oil when applied direct to the skin and in food remain once the saponification has happened.

    • profile image

      Ryan Archibald 4 years ago

      wonderful article, my grandma always used coconut oil. i am going in the back yard get coconut now and make some oil

    • Bobski606 profile image

      Bobby 4 years ago from U.K

      Wow, what an interesting hub. I've just added to my knowledge base. Thanks, voted up and interesting.

    • MargaritaEden profile image

      MargaritaEden 5 years ago from Oregon

      Wonderful article about one of my favorite health products, used your article as a reference for my recipe, thanks for the great info!

    • youbar profile image

      Joel Lipman 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      excellent hub! I have tried many types of organic raw coconut oil, and its really incredible that even among the top shelf contenders, they all seem to taste very different. some have flavor some have no flavor. a whole other article could be done on the top shelf contenders and the different flavors, like fine wines that each really does possess. some remove the flavor entirely, which would be interesting to research as well.

    • fish oil blog profile image

      fish oil blog 5 years ago

      I love coconut oil. I take it because it's a source of high quality saturated fat. I've heard that MCTs are not stored away as fat very easily.

    • editorsupremo profile image

      editorsupremo 5 years ago from London, England

      Fantastic hub Marye with lots of information. My mum whose from the caribbean told me that she had beautiful skin before she came to England because my grandmother would oil her skin with coconut oil. My grandma had many coconut trees in the backyard and made her own oil. So it has a good topical result as well as working on internal organs.

      voted up!

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      LOL! So true, so sadly true

    • profile image

      Lynn 5 years ago

      As a rule of thumb, if the FDA or gov't takes it off the market......it's GOOD for you!

    • iamageniuster profile image

      iamageniuster 5 years ago

      This is very true. I've done a lot of research regarding coconut oil. It's very very healthy for you.

    • profile image

      Trish 5 years ago

      I will try coconut oil for chronic fatigue, i also get very dry skin in the winter. I hope to find the virgin oil, it will help me keep the signs of aging at bay now i am 50. It is a shame the facts were misrepresented years ago, it would of helped a lot of people and they would have been spared the suffering. I also hear that it helps to keep headlice at bay!

    • lbfitness profile image

      lbfitness 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a great hub with well arranged information. I learned some more advice about coconut oil that I'll put in to practise! It's just a shame it's not a product that appears on the shelves of supermarkets here in the UK!

    • sadybizgal profile image

      sadybizgal 5 years ago from Florida

      Nice post thanks for the info!!!!

    • gavelect profile image

      gavelect 5 years ago from Glasgow

      Great post and lengthy post- I knew Coconut's in general were good for you but you have just blown me away. You know your coconuts.

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Finally, these misconceptions about the super healthy and effective virgin coconut oil have been debunked! It took us long years to know the truth. I personally use VCO as my body moisturizer and honestly I've never seen a moisturizer as cost-effective as this one.

    • doodlebugs profile image

      doodlebugs 5 years ago from Southwest

      Coconut oil is the only thing that helps my wife's dry skin. The only thing is, it turns solid when it gets cold in the house.

    • spokaneseo profile image

      spokaneseo 5 years ago from Spokane

      Coconut oils is so tasty, I am glad the rest of the world is catching up.

    • gezondgewicht profile image

      gezondgewicht 5 years ago from Netherlands

      Thank. This is indeed a very interesting hub. I will dig in deeper into some coconut oil facts :)

    • jamterrell profile image

      jamterrell 6 years ago

      Very interesting hub. And I like the photo.

    • dusy7969 profile image

      dusy7969 6 years ago from San Diego, California

      Good hub.This hub is very informative and useful.Coconut provide the heat of the body.The oil of the coconut is very useful for health.Last year I enjoy a lot to eat the coconut.I like this hub.So thanks a lot for this wonderful sharing.

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      We Sri Lankans use coconut oil everyday but sadly it is not virgin coconut oil.

    • france1982 profile image

      france1982 6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I have just read a (sad) story of a child with HIV who live alone in a mountain in China. His name is A Long's . His parents had died of AIDS undermined. A very sad, the people in his village isolate him, so he must do everything by himself. Starting from getting out of bed, washing clothes, feeding chickens and dogs. A Long also learns to read by himself. The only thing that accompanies A Long is just a black dog named Lao.

      Hopefully, if Coconut Oil can really cure HIV. A long will get a better life...

    • profile image

      Where to Buy Coconut Oils 6 years ago

      Excellent! Coconut oils are very well explained here. The benefits are factual and very healthy for the body! Thanks for sharing this and promoting the wonderful usage of coconut oils.

    • CrossWords profile image

      CrossWords 6 years ago

      Love your hub, great ideas!

    • sportandhealth profile image

      sportandhealth 6 years ago

      I enjoyed your article as my mum told me to start using coconut oil. I use it as an alternative to face cream or body moisteriser.

    • lindaadams37 profile image

      lindaadams37 6 years ago

      It is quite common to use coconut oil for head message and I am sure the body too responds to it very well.

    • profile image

      aw 6 years ago

      Its also so healthy to drink Vita Coco, which is why everybody is drinking it!

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Fontana, WI

      I learned allot! Will give many of your tips a try! Thank you!

    • Jentle profile image

      Jentle 7 years ago from London

      I use virgin coconut oil to treat my sons eczema and it is simply amazing!

    • profile image

      sunil rao 7 years ago

      mom is fan virgin coconut oil

      My mom is a big fan of VCO she use it for cooking

      I use it for moisturizing my skin after taking a shower.

      It leaves my skin soft and supple.

      I also use it to condition and moisturize my hair.

      MeritVCO extra Virgin coconut oil also makes an

      excellent addition to a fruit

      smoothie or protein drink

    • revitawellness profile image

      revitawellness 7 years ago from Mecklenburg

      Thanks for sharing information of coconut.

    • profile image

      dunja 7 years ago

      LOVE LOVE LOVE coconut oil, good for you good for everything and I am addicted to the flavor. And, to always have it with me I have Coconut oil caps, organic of course, when I am out I am using 4 and bite them open, especially right before workingout. Yum.

    • Kevin Hemminger profile image

      Kevin Hemminger 7 years ago from Philippines

      Awesome hub, very informative. Thanks for the organized information it's a great resource!

    • casey kaldal profile image

      casey kaldal 7 years ago

      I love coconut oil. I eat right out of the jar with a tablespoon. My girlfriend thinks I'm nuts.

      I seriously think it keeps me lean.

    • Ayesha08 profile image

      Ayesha08 8 years ago from Saudi Arabia

      That's a very informative hub!

    • profile image

      Angie Porter 8 years ago

      Nice comprehensive page Mayre. Well done.

    • my-success-guru profile image

      my-success-guru 8 years ago from Upstate NY

      Hi Marye,

      WoW! Very insightful! I use to think canola oil was very safe and healthy to cook with!

      "Studies have also shown that the current popular oil, canola oil, actually was one of the worst oils to use, producing high levels of trans-fatty acids when used in cooking.

      Virgin coconut oil actually helps to prevent hardening of the arteries."

      Your information can save lives!!!

      Take Care,

      Jim

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      nice hub, thanks for sharing those important information about coconuts.

    • profile image

      Grace 8 years ago

      Great article, thank you~

    • profile image

      Tasha  8 years ago

      I recently started using the coconut oil but mine doesn't say virgin is it still safe to use?

    • djsartin profile image

      djsartin 9 years ago from Missouri Ozarks

      Great information. Our family has been using coconut oil, that we get from URI International for a couple of years now. Since I have a health business, have shared this with customers and they love it too. Sad that there was so much misinformation for years now about fats. And now even the doctors are saying cholestrol isn't that important as far as our hearts. Seems inflammation is the real bad guy.

      My daughter and I definitely use it for skin and hair care too....besides cooking with it.

      Thanks so much for the additional information!

      DJ

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

      Great Hub Marye, Indians use lot of Coconut oil, their hair is very healthy and shiny for this reason. Cocunut has plenty of uses.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      An excellent hub with well marshaled facts.

      Thank you please have a great Christmas and the best New Year for 2008.

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    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

      Great hub, will done good information fantastic

      Thank you very much

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

      Great hub, will done good information fantastic

      Thank you very much

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Very interesting and informative article. I used it to get suntan. At the moment I take fish oil capsules every day. I wonder how that would go with coconut oil

    • profile image

      dafla 9 years ago

      Great hub! I have only recently started using coconut oil, as a way to shrink an enlarged thyroid. I have been so busy, I haven't really had time to use it much lately, but I will be starting back the first of the year. I love the taste, and I also love using it to condition my hair. My hair has never been softer! If I could afford it, I would use it on my skin more.

    • profile image

      Aman 9 years ago

      For 2 years i was in Bangalore,enjoyed lots of coconut.nice hub.

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 9 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      What a beautifully organized hub. Really nice.

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