Coconut oil has had a bad rap – yes, it looks like lard and is full of saturated fat. HOWEVER it's the type of fat that is important.
Two thirds of its fats are medium chain trigylcerides (MCT’s), as opposed to long chain triglycerides (LCT’s) abundant in most other fats we consume. MCT’s are treated very differently in the body and are thought to have many health benefits. Current research into its potential role in weight loss is particularly exciting.
The oil is derived from the white meat of the coconut, cold pressed into oil and has been used in South East Asia and the Pacific for centuries for eating, medicine and skin treatments. The coconut is so valued by the people of the Pacific islands that they call it ‘the tree of life‘.
Why is it so good if you’re over 40?
Because as we age, we are more prone to chronic disease, obesity, fatigue, cognitive decline, diabetes and infection. And did I mention hormone imbalance?
The peri-menopausal years can be a real struggle for weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, brain fog, PMS, hot flushes, night sweats and general hormone havoc. Coconut oil can be helpful in boosting our metabolism and stabilising blood sugar, helping to balance our hormones during this crazy time.
Potential health benefits
- Instant energy – MCT’s are smaller than LCT’s so do not need to pass through bile salts in the gut to be digested, they go straight to the liver to be quickly metabolised into ketone bodies to provide instant energy. They are not stored like other fats and are the preferred energy sources for cells. This can result in a surge of energy and an increase in metabolism (a benefit for under-active thyroids and weight loss).
- Weight loss – as well as boosting metabolism, MCT’s have been shown to increase satiety after eating so you feel full for longer, reducing your cravings for sugary snacks. Many studies are showing promising results for reducing obesity.
- Anti microbial and anti fungal – almost half the fat content is made up of lauric acid which converts in the body to monolaurin, a substance that can attack viruses, bacteria and fungi. There are very few dietary sources of lauric acid (the main one being breast milk!). Can be effective against candida and other microbial overgrowths.
- Anti aging and heart health – Coconuts contain polyphenol antioxidants that have been shown to protect the liver against free radicals, support the immune system and protect against cardiovascular disease. One antioxidant called P-coumaric acid is associated with arterial protection and decreasing LDL cholesterol. These compounds also contain vitamin E, a known heart protector and scavenger of free radicals.
- Brain health – In Alzheimers disease, brain cells are starved of glucose due to insulin resistance. Ketone bodies provided by MCT’s can be an alternative source of fuel, with the potential to reduce symptoms and worsening of the disease.
- Diabetes – MCT’s act like glucose as an instant source of energy, but they don’t cause an insulin spike, the major contributing factor over time for insulin resistance and diabetes. Increasing metabolic rate also improves insulin levels. Eating fat with carbs helps slow the release of sugar into the blood. This helps reduce insulin and balance blood sugar, lowering the risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.
Tips for using coconut oil;
- In smoothies – not only does it taste great, but the fat will help you absorb all the other great nutrients in the smoothie (as long as there are lots of green veggies in there!).
- In coffee! I love a teaspoon in my morning coffee. It gives me a double dose of energy and focus first thing. Amazingly delicious too, blended up with a little almond milk.
- In cooking – many vegetable oils including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil are unstable and can denature when exposed to high temperatures (frying, roasting), turning the oil into trans fats. Coconut oil is perfect for cooking as it is very stable and does not change structure, even at very high temperatures.
And remember, all coconut oil is not equal! It's important to buy the cold pressed organic extra virgin variety as it is not heated during the extraction process, so retains its antioxidants and avoids rancidity. My favourite brands are; Nutiva and Tiana.
Try some for a couple of weeks and let me know if you notice a difference!
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Combinations of medium chain triglycerides and therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases resulting from reduced neuronal metabolism,” United States Patent 20080009467, Inventor Samuel T. Henderson, Accera, Inc., Broomfield,Colorado (Ketasyn)[/toggle] [/accordian]