The idea of saturated fats being unhealthy is still common and supported even by plenty of doctors and scientists, even though it’s not true. Some foods that are extremely rich in saturated fats such as coconut oil are starting to gain appreciation and reveal the exaggerated hate against this type of fats, which have been wrongly accused of being a major cause of increased cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Truth is coconut oil offers many health benefits and its physical properties make it suitable for use as cooking oil.
High smoke point, resistant to oxidation
Virgin coconut oil has about 91% saturated fats, which makes it extremely resistant to oxidation and can last up to two years.
Because of its fat composition, virgin coconut oil is resistant to oxidation and has a very long shelf life. Also, coconut oil has a high smoke point (350 °F /177 °C) which makes it safe to cook with.
Healthy, saturated fatty acids
This oil is a blend of medium and short chain fatty acids, mainly lauric and myristic acids. Although some types of saturated fats are not healthy, the ones in coconut oil are responsible for increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind).
Medium-chain triglycerides are easily turned by the liver into ketone bodies, used directly as energy, which may have several health benefits including against medical conditions such as epilepsy. Several studies have shown lauric acid has antibacterial properties as it’s able to kill some types of viruses, fungi and bacteria.
A randomized, double-blind 12 weeks clinical trial divided 40 women into two groups. Group S received daily supplements of soybean oil and group C received the same amount of coconut oil. Both groups followed a balanced hypocaloric diet and had to walk 50 minutes a day.
After only 1 week of following this strict regimen, group S had increased LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and decreased HDL cholesterol (the “good” type). Group C, which took coconut oil on a daily basis had higher HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
While both groups lost weight and had lower BMIs, only group C showed a reduction in waist circumference, resulting coconut oil could play an important role in fighting abdominal fat. This type of fat, also known as visceral fat is one of the causes that lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic medical conditions.
Other uses for coconut oil
While it’s great for cooking, coconut oil is also an excellent skin moisturizer. It can make your skin softer and reduce fine wrinkles. Plus, it can be used as a natural hair mask, especially useful for dry, frizzy hair types.
Are there any cons for coconut oil?
Not really, except for the fact that it’s still fat and obviously highly caloric. The human organism does need fat as an essential nutrient, but keep in mind you need it only in moderate amounts. A balanced, healthy diet needs to include various protein, carbohydrate and fat sources. Coconut oil is great, but there are also other healthy vegetable oils and good sources of fat such as dairy, meat and fish which shouldn’t be overlooked.