The Health Benefits of Organic Coconut Oil
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"?
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?
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 uses a process of quick drying the coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil by mechanical means.
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;
- 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.
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;
- Vercular stomatitis virus (VSV)
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)
- Visna, cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Influenza virus
- Syncytial virus
Some bacteria inactivated by monolaurin include:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.