Countless studies have shown that coconut oil is probably among the healthiest foods on the planet with a multitude of uses. Coconut oil predominantly consists of healthy fats like Caprylic acid, Lauric acid and Capric acid which are Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs). In fact, up to 91% of the fat in coconut oil is healthy saturated fat.
MCFAs are much easier to digest, have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, are smaller in size and can be absorbed by cells for immediate energy requirements, and are immediately converted to energy rather than being stored as fat.
Apart from the above obvious benefits, there are several additional benefits which are associated with the consumption and/or topical application of coconut oil which are elaborated below:
1. It Improves Brain Activity:
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) are digested by the liver to create ketones. These are an extremely efficient energy source for the brain and can provide it with energy without requiring insulin to process the glucose into energy.
In Alzheimer’s patients, the ability of the brain to produce its own insulin to meet its energy requirements is hampered. Hence, ingestion of coconut oil provides an alternative energy source to the brain which improves brain function.
Even in older subjects not suffering from Alzheimer’s, a marked improvement in memory was observed due to the same reasons mentioned above.
2. It Helps Prevent Heart Disease:
It is a well-known fact that coconut oil is rich in naturally occurring saturated fats. Saturated fats are instrumental in increasing the amount of healthy cholesterol (HDL) in the body and at the same time reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) into good cholesterol.
This is instrumental in promoting heart health and significantly lowers the risk of cardiac issues.
3. It Promotes Renal Health:
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) have also been known to act as natural antibiotics. They act by disrupting the lipid coating on bacteria which kills them. Hence, it is no surprise that various studies have shown that coconut oil, with MCFAs as its major constituent, cleans up kidney infections effectively.
4. It combats Arthritis:
Coconut oil contains surprisingly high amounts of antioxidants. This is a major reason why coconut oil is known to reduce inflammation and heal arthritis.
Several studies have shown that coconut oil is an analgesic and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by suppressing inflammatory cells.
5. It Prevents Cancer:
As mentioned earlier, the digestion of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) produces ketones. Cancer cells are unable to digest ketones and are exclusively dependent on glucose for their energy requirements. Hence, a diet rich in coconut oil will result in higher levels of ketones in the body, resulting in a lower amount of energy available for cancer cells.
Additionally, some microbes like Helicobacter pylori are known to increase risks of certain types of cancer. Due to its antimicrobial activity, coconut oil can help reduce chances of this occurring.
6. It Boosts The Immune System:
Coconut oil is a known antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agent. Lauric acid, which is present in abundance in coconut oil has been known to create hostile conditions for propagation of viruses, fight bacteria and reduce candida. Ingestion of coconut oil during bouts of sickness can help aid recovery by preventing viruses and bacteria from multiplying.
7. It Increases Energy Levels:
Several triathletes are opting for coconut oil as a fuel source during training and races. This is because coconut oil is easily digestible, and at the same time, provides energy for a longer period of time.
This happens because Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) present in coconut oil are directly converted to energy by the liver.
8. It Aids Digestion and Improves Gastric health:
Coconut oil can play a major role in improving digestive issues as it accelerates the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium.
Coconut oil helps to destroy harmful bacteria and helps restore the balance of microbes in the stomach. This regulates the stomach acid which is known to cause poor digestion and other gastric issues.
9. It Improves Skin Health:
Coconut oil contains Caprylic acid and Lauric acid- both of which are great moisturizers for the skin and also aid in treating several issues like eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, dermatitis, and burns.
It is also a wonderful face cleanser and sunscreen. In addition to this, its high antioxidant content and anti-microbial qualities make it an effective alternative to skin conditioners.
10. It Improves Oral Health:
Oil pulling using coconut oil is an age- old treatment for several oral diseases. Given its high concentration of MCFAs, it is a good antibacterial agent. When coconut oil is swished around in the mouth for a few minutes, the bacteria in the teeth are killed, and it also loosens the plaque and tartar, which is the cause for several periodontal issues.
It is also said to be very effective in healing gum damage and disease, cleaning and remineralizing the teeth.
11. It Prevents Osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis is mainly caused due to the presence of free radicals and oxidative stress. The high levels of antioxidants in coconut oil counter these effects and also aid in increased absorption of calcium in the gut. It has been shown that coconut oil improves bone structure and volume, and also reduces bone loss due to osteoporosis.
12. It Promotes Weight Loss:
Coconut oil is extremely beneficial in losing weight. It helps to burn fat and reduce appetite. Capric acid, in specific, is known to be instrumental in the gradual reduction of appetite and subsequent weight loss.
It was discovered that Capric acid causes significant improvement in thyroid functioning, and helps to achieve a lower resting heart rate. This helps the body to burn fat faster.
Another reason is that the MCFAs in coconut oil are great muscle builders. As we all know, muscle burns more energy than fat, and hence higher muscle percentage in the body results in higher Basal Metabolic Rate. This is instrumental in promoting weight loss.
While coconut oil is not harmful by itself, care should be taken to use good quality coconut oil for ingestion, oil pulling as well as topical application. Some methods of extraction end up altering the chemical make-up of the oil and also introduce certain heavy metals and other chemicals which might be harmful.
The best way to avoid any issues is to buy cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil. It is completely safe and can be used for any purpose.