14 Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Why you should always keep a tub of coconut oil at home

Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera).

It’s used for its water, milk, oil, and tasty meat – all with a range of health benefits, including antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, improved skin and oral health, and weight loss potential.

While all edible parts of the coconut are highly nutritious, coconut oil contains the highest concentration of beneficial fats, vitamins and minerals.
Coconut oil is made by pressing fresh coconut meat, or dried coconut meat called copra.

Coconut oil can be used as a vegetable oil substitute in many different recipes, or consumed in small quantities as it’s nutritional properties are required. The following list explains some of the uses for coconut oil and the health benefits of doing so.

Coconut oil may stimulate fat burning

Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a beneficial type of saturated fat. The health benefits of consuming medium-chain triglycerides are still being explored, but research suggests that the consumption of MCTs increases the number of calories your body burns, promoting the removal of excess fat.

As the fats in coconut oil are 65% MCT, coconut is said to have similar fat-burning properties to pure MCT oil.

While MCTs may increase the number of calories burned, it should be noted that most saturated fats have limited health benefits and should be limited. Coconut oil is also high in calories, so excess consumption may promote weight gain.

Coconut oil is a fast acting source of energy

The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil are said to provide a quick supply of energy. Long-chain triglycerides are transported to tissues that need them, such as muscle or fat tissue. When you eat MCTs, they go straight to the liver and are quickly absorbed and used as energy, similarly to carbohydrates. For this reason, MCTs are often consumed by athletes who require a burst of energy.

It is also said that a spoon-full of coconut oil before bed aids with waking up feeling rested and revitalised.

Coconut oil can help with building and maintaining muscle

The energy and high caloric content provided by medium-chain triglycerides is also great for building muscle. MCTs can be found in certain protein powders and supplements, but these are processed forms of the beneficial fats – making them a lesser substitute for natural products. Add a spoon-full of coconut oil to your protein shake to supercharge your recovery and help with weight gain.

Coconut oil has antimicrobial effects

The medium-chain triglyceride, lauric acid, is known for it’s antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and makes up around half of the MCTs in coconut oil.

Lauric acid is particularly good at killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi; therefore, it’s great in helping you stave off infections when used externally. On the other hand, when coconut oil is ingested, it reacts with enzymes to form a monoglyceride called monolaurin – which also kills off harmful pathogens and other nasty disease-causing microorganisms.

Lauric acid also acts as a bacteriostatic agent, which is a substance that prevents the bacteria from multiplying without killing it, and a bacteriocidal agent, which kills some bacteria – making it an effective supplement for many treatments.

Coconut oil may help with treatment and prevention of arthritis

The high levels of antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil can reduce inflammation and more effectively than many arthritis treatments and medications. 
A study found that coconut oil harvested with a lower heat was found to suppress inflammatory cells, working as both an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory.

Coconut oil is good for your skin

The benefits of coconut oil aren’t only attained through ingestion. Studies on individuals with dry skin show that, when applied, coconut oil improves the moisture and lipid content of the skin. It may also improve the function of the skin, helping prevent excessive water loss and protecting you from external factors, such as infectious agents, chemicals, and allergens.

A recent study concluded that applying 6–8 drops of virgin coconut oil on your hands before bed may be an effective way to prevent dry skin caused by frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers. Coconut oil may also reduce the severity of moderate symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin disease.

Coconut oil is good for your hair

Coconut oil can also act as protection against hair damage. For those with dry hair or dandruff, the fatty acids in coconut oil can improve these conditions. This is because coconut oil deeply penetrates hair strands, nourishing and making them more flexible, increasing their strength and reducing breakage.

A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found that coconut oil is the only oil that can prevent hair damage and protein loss because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, which allows it to penetrate inside the hair shaft. Based on this study’s findings, use coconut oil before and after washing your hair for maximum benefit.

Coconut oil can improve oral health

There is a an ancient practice which involves the use of coconut oil as a mouthwash. This process is known as oil pulling and involves swishing the oil around the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes to remove bacteria.

The lauric acid in coconut oil reacts with saliva to form a soapy substance that prevents gum inflammation, cavities and the buildup of plaque. The coconut oil pulls and collects the bacteria from different parts of the mouth, making it important not to swallow after.

Coconut oil may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s reduces the brain’s ability to use glucose for energy, but research suggests that ketones can offset early signs of the cognitive disease by providing an alternative energy source for the brain cells, such as medium-chain triglycerides and the other healthy fats found in coconut oil.

Coconut oil is a good source of antioxidants

Coconut oil is a rich source of antioxidants, which help prevent numerous chronic and degenerative diseases. A recent study also suggests that the lauric acid in coconut oil also aids in reducing secondary diabetic complications.

The antioxidants in coconut oil are also known for their anti-inflammatory and brain protective properties and include tocopherols, tocotrienols, polyphenols, flavnoids and phytosterols – all beneficial to good health and wellbeing.

Coconut oil is a natural lubricant

We have touched on some of the effects of using coconut oil interiorly and exteriorly, but this one may surprise you. Coconut oil feels, smells and tastes good, plus it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial – making it healthier and safer than other foods that can be used intimately.

It should be note that coconut oil weakens latex, so it should not be used with condoms.

Coconut oil can help reduce hunger

Another benefit of consuming MCTs is the possible reduction of food intake.

Scientists suspect that coconut oil’s interesting effect on hunger may be related to the way the fatty acids in it are metabolised, as a portion of the MCTs you consume are broken down in a process that produces molecules, known as ketones.

Ketones may reduce appetite by interacting with the brain’s chemical messengers, or altering the levels of hormones that alert you to hunger, such as ghrelin. Adding the MCT-rich benefits of coconut oil to one’s diet could have a very positive effect on weight and body composition.

Coconut oil may help reduce seizures

Keto diets, meaning a diet low in carbs and high in fats, have long been used to treat various disorders, including drug-resistant epilepsy.

Low carbohydrate diets result in a reduced amount of available glucose to fuel brain cells. A study has found that this diet can dramatically reduce the occurrence of seizures in epileptic people, even those who haven’t had success with multiple different types of drugs.

Either way, a reduced carb intake means lower levels of glucose in the blood and a higher fat intake results in higher concentrations of ketones, which can also be used by the brain for energy. Lower your consumption of processed carbohydrates for better health and wellbeing.

Coconut oil promotes good cardiovascular health

Coconut oil is high in natural saturated fats, the healthy ones. The findings of numerous studies suggest that coconut oil increases the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body. The higher ratio of HDL to LDL in the body, caused by the saturated fat in coconut oil, aids in promoting heart health and lowering the risk of heart disease.

Overall, research concluded concludes that coconut oil has a number of health benefits when used for both cosmetic and dietary purposes. While the benefits are numerous, it is important to remember that coconut oil does contain a high caloric content, so a moderated intake is advised.

Published by Harry Hansford

Australian in Spain with a passion for all things sport, health, fitnes & nature. Go deeper to find out more.

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