Coconut oil is a great additive to a healthy diet; it contains valuable nutrients that help maintain a healthy body.
When I first started using coconut oil, the health benefits were very important to me, but what I fell in love with were its amazing characteristics.
Coconut oil’s exotic flavor gives your food a tropical kick with a hint of sweetness. It is suitable for both sweet and savory dishes such as smoothies, soups, curries, salads, baked goods, stir-fries and desserts.
You can use it raw, cook with it, bake with, fry with it, melt it and freeze it – it’s super versatile.
This versatile oil goes easily between solid and liquid and back according to the temperature, which makes it a great base for home-made candies, fudges and other desserts.
Coconut oil doesn’t go rancid and can keep up to 2 years.
Even if you aren’t big on the coconut flavor, you can use a good quality organic refined coconut oil with a neutral taste and still get much of the goodness.
But the most essential thing about coconut oil, the health benefits; are truly impressive.
Is fat good for you or bad?
There is a lot of contradicting information out there about what healthy fats are.
Some people believe that healthy fat should contain as little fat as possible or that all saturated fat is unhealthy. Others follow a diet high in fats such as the Keto diet.
Most food contains some sort of fat. Some is good for you and others are not but it’s a fact that our body can simply not exist without fat.
We need it for our brain to function properly, for healthy skin, cells, organs, hormone production, for energy, to help transport and absorb fat-soluble nutrients and to protect us from heart disease.
There are 4 types of fat: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats.
The first 3 types of fat are naturally found in different types of food and oils from plant sources and some from animal sources.
Trans fats are the results of chemical processing and are found in many processed foods, particularly in junk food. You’ll recognize them by the label ”(partially) hydrogenated”.
These fats are very unhealthy for all sorts of health related reasons and are best avoided.
The MCT’s in coconut oil
Coconut oil consists of 92% saturated fat. That sounds like a lot and it is, but it’s actually a good thing.
When it comes to the high concentration of saturated fat in coconut oil, the health benefits are directly related to it. This is why:
The plant-based saturated fat in coconut oil is different from saturated fats from animal sources.
Unlike other saturated fats which consist of fatty acids called long triglycerides, coconut oil is packed with MCT’s -Medium Chain Triglycerides- fatty acids which are easily absorbed by the body.
Instead of being stored in the gall bladder, MCT’s are metabolized in the liver and used as an immediate energy source.
The rest of the MCT’s converts into ketones which are literally brain food and also fuel for our heart and muscles.
As MCT’s are not stored in the body and help with metabolism, they can actually burn fat and help with weight control.
The abundance of antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties in MCT’s destroy viruses, bacteria and fungus in our body and help detoxify it.
Coconut oil also helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
Lauric acid, the most important one, forms about 50% of the MCT’s in coconut oil and the rest comprises of caprylic acid, capric acid and caproic acid.
Coconuts are the main plant-based natural source of lauric acid – another essential source of lauric acid is found in breast milk!
Coconut oil is the most heat-stable fat
To understand what makes a fat healthy or not, we need to know not only what the nutritious value is, but how an oil is produced and how sensitive it is to oxidation.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction resulting from heat, light and oxygen that changes the chemical properties of an oil. This results in harmful free radicals that can cause serious damage to our body.
Oxidation can actually turn an otherwise healthy fat into an unhealthy one.
Every oil oxidizes at some point, the key its use oils that are heat-stable so they don’t oxidize easily.
– Fats high in saturated fats are the most heat-stable ones.
– Fats high in monounsaturated fats are less heat-stable, but some of them are still suitable for brief, low-temperature cooking.
– Fats high in polyunsaturated fats are the least heat-stable and should not be used to cook with.
More about the different types of fat and oxidation in this article about how to choose a healthy cooking oil.
One of the main health benefits of cooking with coconut oil is that its high concentration of saturated fats makes it the most heat-stable fat. It protects against oxidation and free radicals.
When we consume coconut oil, the health benefits it provides us with are truly abundant.
For further reading: