Coconut oil - a wonder food?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Okay, so you know what “everyone” says – saturated fats are BAD. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are good. Shoot, I say it myself. Turns out this may not be entirely true.

Saturated fats from animal sources, as in meats and cheese, are still considered to be bad. These are the ones that clog your arteries, leading to heart disease.

But now we have a new kid on the block. Well, not really new, but definitely the beaten down and bullied kid on the block. You know, the one the other kids don’t like because he’s different. They say mean, untrue things about him and spread the word. Then, pretty soon, everyone hates him and avoids him, based solely on heresay. You know, because all the cool kids are doing it. What a shame. If they took the time to know him, they might find he’s a wonderful person.

In this, my first feeble attempt at a metaphor (or is that an analogy? I can never keep them straight), the new kid is coconut oil – and the bullies are the soybean industry and Big Business in general.

Back in the late 70s, or early 80s, people began to get Freaked Out about saturated fats and the related rise in cholesterol levels. Then, from what I have read, the soybean industry decided to prey on this fear and spent oodles of money in a marketing campaign designed to share with the masses that saturated fats and tropical oils were Bad and only vegetable oils were Good.

And who do you think profits from an ad campaign like this one? That’s right. The vegetable oil industry. Who I would assume are more concerned with their bank accounts than your health.

Pretty soon, like a game of “telephone” the word spread that coconut oil was bad. Nobody bothered to do their own research…they just took the word of Big Business as fact and passed the flawed information along until it was widely believed as God’s Honest Truth.

Over the last few years, people like Dr. Joseph Mercola (see video below) and The Weston A. Price Foundation, among others, have started their own much smaller campaign touting the benefits of coconut oil

As you certainly know by now, I hate all things science related, so I’m going to just give you a brief description of why the saturated fat in coconut oil is okay, and the saturated fat from animal sources is not. If my description doesn’t do it for you and you are science minded, I encourage you to search out the details for yourself. And there are a lot of sources for it, via our friend, Google.

The saturated fat in coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride, while the saturated fat from animal sources is a long-chain triglyceride and they are processed by the body in totally different ways.

MCT’s are almost instantly broken down by the enzymes in saliva and gastric juices so that pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes are not needed. They are much more water soluble than LCT and can be readily absorbed across the wall of the small intestine and into the blood stream for transportation directly to the liver. (God, I’m already getting a headache.) The upshot of all of this is that, although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it doesn’t convert over to fat in the body because of how quickly it is utilized.

Virgin coconut oil contains lauric acid (medium chain fatty acid). This is stressed in every single one of the million articles I read as being of High Importance. Lauric acid is found in mother’s milk and is what helps build the immune system of the newborn and fight against disease. Once the lauric acid is digested in the body, it is converted into monolaurin acid, known for its antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

So, that’s enough of the science for me. Too much, really. The point I wanted to make is that many people are experiencing great health benefits by adding coconut oil into their diet. I have no doubt that its increased popularity has to do with its weight loss and thyroid-boosting properties.

Coconut oil can be used to cook with at high temperatures without losing its benefits, unlike olive or hemp oil, which are best used unheated. Many people use it as a replacement for butter in anything, including baking, and report no discernible difference to the end product.

Let’s look briefly at a couple of the many reported benefits beyond thyroid boosting and weight loss:

Coconut oil helps to improve nutrient absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium, thus helping to prevent osteoporosis. It increases the absorption of some of the B vitamins, the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K and beta-carotene) as well as some amino acids. Coconut oil has been recommended in the treatment of malnutrition.

Coconut oil can help speed healing of cuts and burns, and because of its antifungal properties, it’s also great for infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot.

Dang, I hate it when these posts get so long. I’m trying to just hit the highlights, but there’s so much out there!

Making a too-long story shorter – the recommended therapeutic dose of coconut oil is 2-3 tablespoons per day. You should buy an organic, extra-virgin coconut oil for best benefit. I bought the Nutiva brand, based on the excellent reviews (you should read them, they’re interesting). It’s delicious and smells yummy. It comes in solid form and melts at room temperature. I am plopping a hunk of it in my oatmeal in the morning as well as cooking with it. Mr. Jelly Belly has not made any whiny comments about the taste of the food, so he must not be noticing it.

I am going to admit three things: I have noticed increased energy. Not like I’ve turned into Wonder Woman and am go-go-going from dawn till dusk, but definitely an improvement from my normal zero-energy level.

While going through a short patch of less-than-stellar eating habits (that’s a whole ‘nother post), I have not gained one pound. In fact, I have lost two. THAT shocked me. I had been avoiding the scale since I had been eating so much (not necessarily Bad Things, but too much of them) so when I decided to bite the bullet and assess the damage, I was pleasantly surprised.

I hate to admit this one, but I have a toenail fungus. Ick. I have had it for what seems like forever on my big toe. Lamisal did not work. Home remedies did not work. I have resigned myself to having it for life and to never wearing sandals again. I am actually seeing new clear toenail growth at the bottom of that toe. Coconut oil? I don’t know. But it’s interesting.

So, as if this post isn’t already long enough, I will leave you with two videos that you can watch for further information. They cover all the other important facts that I left out. The first, by Dr. Mercola, while rather dry, presents the facts in an easily understood way and is actually very interesting (6:15). The second is perkier and gives the facts but it’s a bit longer (9:38).

And then I encourage you to draw your own conclusions as to whether or not coconut oil is a hero or a villain. I’m going with hero.


Gin said...

I am definitely going to try this one out! It sounds great. I too have a god-awful toe nail fungus on my big toe which nothing has helped! I have had it for about 3 years. Anything is worth a try.

Tammy Howard said...

Mention the thyroid and I'm in!

Also? Coconuts? Yum!

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

Tammy - I KNOW! That's what drew me to it in the first place!

3 Bay B Chicks said...

I'm with Tammy...thyroid boosting and weight loss are about the only two words you needed in order to get my attention.

Fabulous post, Mrs. Jelly Belly. I simply love what you write. Always so informative and good for me. The combination cannot be beat.


Lee said...

Very informative! Will look for this at my local health food store.

Anonymous said...

This was new info to me.

Thanks for sharing.

Camevil said...

I have never read the phrase "extra virgin coconut oil" before. And I ain't gonna's very hard for my brain to process this concept. Is it a joke? That can't be. How absurd. No, it hasn't found a landing spot yet.

When it does, one day, I can't wait to put coconut oil in my popcorn and not feel so guilty eating it.

Patty said...

I did the whole WAPF, Nourishing Traditions thing and absolutely loved it. I was so excited because I needed to lose weight, and others were having great success. I started making kombucha and coconut kefir water, taking my coconut oil and saw some great improvements in some areas but I gained 10 pounds! Yikes!! I think it is a very healthy way of eating, but those calories can really add up. I still follow most of the principles but I really have to watch it.

On a side note, I was searching for salad dressing recipes this weekend, and found a wonderful collection, and it was yours!

I made the French and the ranch and they were big hits, esp. the French!

kristisummer said...

love anything coconut...I'm game.

Sapphire said...

I currently use coconut oil as a moisturizer for my dry skin and hair. Hmmmm....if I start ingesting it, it will seem weird, like I'm eating lotion. ;)
Great info as always Mrs. JB!!

MaryRC said...

once again so informative. i use it for photoshoots alot, its great for shiny reflective skin too... LOL my little coconut contribution...

WhisperingWriter said...


I may try this!

Sonia said...

wow...what perfect timing! I was justing thinking about this because of Lillian not being able to drink whole milk and switching to rice milk and she needed some extra fat in her her diet and yada yada yada! However, I too have heard wonderful things just this week about it and now I think you've pushed me over the edge to go ahead and buy some!

NJDecorator said...

Something else that may be interesting to try, especially if it tastes like a pina

Brandy said...

While reading another blogger's menu she mentioned putting coconut oil in her coffee or something and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she would do that.

Now I know because of you. I should try this for all the reasons mentioned above, but also b/c I need help with Calcium absorption. Who knew?

Michelle said...

*adding this to my list for the store tomorrow* Think I could find this at Trader Joe's? I'm not big on the whole coconut flavor, so I'll have to see. But thanks for the info!

Laura said...

interesting post!

jh said...

Thanks for the great post. I agree that coconut oil is good for moderation. Butter too---a tiny bit of butter goes a long way, much longer than margarine. Thanks.

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Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

coconut oil is GREAt for long thick hair. Indian women have been warming it and massaging it into their scalps for aeons and have long, luxurious hair as a result...well, counting me out, coz I never did listen to my mother!!

Oz Girl said...

Ok, this is very interesting. Another thing on my list to check out further TOMORROW. :-D G'nite!!