The Truth about Coconut Oil and Cholesterol
You may have heard a lot about coconut oil recently – it’s reputed to be one of the new “Superfoods” on the market. But is it really so good for us? And what is it that makes coconut oil so special? Let’s find out!
Coconut oil has a long and highly respected reputation in many cultures throughout the world, not only as a valuable food but also as an effective medicine. For example, in India it is an important ingredient in some of the Ayurvedic medical formulations. Ayurvedic medicine has been practised in India for thousands of years. In China, ancient medical textbooks over 2000 years old include the use of coconut oil for the treatment and cure of at least 69 diseases.
I strongly believe that diet has a huge impact on health, and it’s interesting to note that Pacific Island communities that have not abandoned their traditional diets enjoy superior health, far above that found in most developed nations, and are relatively free from the crippling effects of degenerative western diseases. More importantly, when they do abandon their traditional diets in favour of western foods, their health deteriorates. The more westernised these people become, the more their diseases mimic those commonly found in the west. Ian Prior, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the epidemiology unit at the Wellington hospital in New Zealand, says this pattern has been very clearly demonstrated by Pacific Islanders.
So what is it in the South Pacific traditional diet that keeps people so healthy? I can guarantee you their diet is not low fat. They eat coconut and its products, including coconut cream and coconut oil, in liberal quantities. If you have been avoiding coconut oil because of concerns about its saturated fat content, you are among hundreds of thousands of others following the advice given out by self-serving commercial enterprises. For example there was a strong propaganda campaign in the 1970s against coconut oil – which appears to have been spread by the USA based corn and soy oil industry.
You may be sceptical now and perhaps even resistant to the idea that coconut oil can be healthy. But several years of intensive scientific research have revealed a new image of this marvelous dietary oil.
Using coconut oil for all your cooking needs and even for your baking may be one of the healthiest decisions you could ever make.
What are some of the health benefits of using Coconut oil?
- Weight loss (helps to burn fat)
- Curb cravings
- Boosts immune system
- Increase in Energy
- Boosts brain functions
- Improves digestion
- Regulates metabolism
- Kills bacteria, viruses and fungi and helps with infections
- Prevents diabetes
- Good for the heart and kidneys
- Maintains healthy cholesterol levels
- Improves dental quality and bone strength
- Can reduce seizures
- Natural hair and skin care
What is it that makes coconut oil so special?
Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a “Superfood”.
Coconut oil is unique in that it is one of the best natural sources of medium- and short chain fatty acids, which give it its incredible health promoting properties. It has a totally different effect on the body from that of the typical long-chain fatty acids (both saturated and unsaturated) found abundantly in meat and vegetable oils. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are broken down and used predominately for energy production and therefore not stored as fat. Medium-chain fatty acids do not have a negative effect on blood cholesterol and also help protect against heart disease.
Other health benefits of coconut oil – antimicrobial action, antioxidant properties, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties – can be attributed to the lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid that coconut oil contains.
What is this cholesterol craziness about?
Cholesterol is a natural substance in your body and the majority of cholesterol in your body does not come from food you eat but is manufactured in your own liver. Cholesterol is a steroid that is essential for the production of adrenal and sex hormones and for the digestion of fat.
In recent years high cholesterol levels and associated problems seem to be on the rise, despite the availability of low fat foods. So where are the elevated cholesterol levels in the body coming from? Cholesterol imbalance can be the body’s reaction to poor lifestyle (high stress, low exercise etc.) and diet (increased sugar and refined white carbohydrates). To clear sugar from the blood the body secretes insulin. Insulin also influences how much cholesterol the liver produces. The more sugar you consume, the more insulin is secreted, therefore the more cholesterol is produced.
If your lifestyle and diet are great then high cholesterol levels in the blood are often a symptom that something in the body is not right – usually it is caused by some kind of inflammation – and the body produces cholesterol to fix the inflammation. There can be other reasons behind raised cholesterol levels but in the first instance it’s best to focus on healing the inflammation and the causative factors of the high cholesterol levels. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties coconut oil can safely be included in the diet and could be beneficial.
You will find lots of useful information about the myth of cholesterol (and the statin drugs that the doctors prescribe to lower cholesterol levels) in the book “The Great Cholesterol Deception” by Dr. Peter Dingle. Dr Dingle has compiled a wealth of research – I found this book to be a great eye opener. You can listen to an interview with Dr Dingle on the subject of cholesterol here.
Is a low fat diet good for us?
It is now been researched and proven many times that we don’t need to eat low fat foods and that they are actually not so beneficial for us as previously believed. Low fat foods often contain more sugar and carbohydrates to make up for the lost fat and to improve their taste. A good amount of healthy natural fats are actually really good for us. The body needs natural fats to function properly. Healthy and natural fats include extra virgin and cold pressed oils like coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil; tahini, avocado, ghee (clarified Butter), butter, raw milk, olives, nuts, seeds and nut butters. It’s best to avoid vegetable oils and here is why.
To sum it all up: Healthy fats are good for us and coconut oil is one of the best oils you can use. If you want to enjoy the immense health benefits of coconut oil, then make sure to choose organic, cold pressed, virgin coconut oil and not the refined stuff. This info here on coconut oil is really just the tip of the iceberg. I can highly recommend the book “The coconut oil miracle” by Bruce Fife for more detailed information.
Please feel free to comment and share your ideas and tips on coconut oil below.
Here are some coconut recipes: