Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

In my opinion coconut is one of the most amazing fruit on earth. Everything from its tree to its development as a fruit are just amazing. It also has a unique shell which rare in any other fruit. Coconut water and coconut water are naturally available when you take coconut but there are numerous processed foods one can make out of these two. Coconut oil is most popular of them.

Coconut oil is extracted from coconut meat. Based on the way it is extracted it can be qualified as virgin (pure or natural) coconut oil or refined (RBD coconut oil). Virgin coconut oil provides more benefits to our body and thus whenever I refer coconut oil below I am referring virgin coconut oil.

Composition of coconut oil

What makes coconut oil so unique is its composition. Close to 92% of coconut oil is made up of saturated fatty acids (having no double or triple bonds), 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids have long been considered to be harmful for our body especially for heart. Thus medical professionals advice only limited intake of saturated fatty acids and prefer polyunsaturated acids more. You must be wondering, then what is so unique about coconut oil which makes this saturated fatty acid rich oil so healthy? The answer lies in the type of saturated fatty acids.

Coconut oil also has some trace vitamins and Poly-phenols which also play important part in its health promoting activities. More details on coconut oil composition can be found here

Fatty Acid % of Total Saturated / Unsaturated Chain length
Lauric 47.5 Saturated Medium chain
Myistic 18.1 Saturated Long chain
Palmitic 8.8 Saturated Long chain
Caprylic 7.8 Saturated Medium chain
Capric 6.7 Saturated Medium chain
Oleic 6.2 Unsaturated Long chain
Stearic 2.6 Saturated Long chain
Linoleic 1.6 Unsaturated Long chain

Role of medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil

As you can see from the table above, more than 60% of coconut oil is made of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). This is another way of classifying fatty acids based on how many carbon atoms they have. Three main medium chain fatty acid in coconut oil - Lauric, Capric, and Caprylic are responsible for most of the health benefits of coconut oil. Among them Lauric acid plays the main role.

Medium chain fatty acids are good for our health because of various reasons:

  • They are metabolized in a different manner than say polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are absorbed in our intestines and sent directly to liver where they are burned to make energy. Thus they do not enter blood stream and deposit as fats.
  • Medium chain fatty acids are broken down into free fatty acids in our body. For example lauric acid is broken down into monolaurin, Capric acid forms monocaprylin and Caprylic acid forms monocaprin. These free fatty acids, especially monolaurin are known to provide significant anti-microbial properties. They fight bacteria, viruses and fungus in our body and promote health (see mode details here).

You might not know but mother's first milk to baby is also rich in medium chain fatty acids and they help the baby to fight various infections when his immune system is still under development.

Coconut oil uniqueness : Internal and Topical use

Before we jump into actual health benefits of coconut oil I would like to highlight another amazing quality of this oil. It is beneficial both topically and when taken internally! What it does is it increases benefits and usage possibilities multi fold! There are only a few other fruits or even foods which can boast of this dual quality.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Health benefits of coconut Oil

Here are some of the most important health benefits of coconut oil, there are numerous more but I chose these ones as they concern most common ailments and usage of coconut oil:

Skin care with coconut oil : Coconut oil has been used since long for skin care. Coconut oil acts an antioxidant and prevents ageing of skin and wrinkle formation. Coconut oil provides you with a youthful skin as it removes the dead cells from skin and also strengthens the connective tissues in skin giving a health skin. Not only this coconut oil is very useful in various skin issues such as dry and cracked skin - in such cases applying coconut oil heals cracks and gives a smooth and soft skin.

Not only this, coconut oil fights germs on our skin and keep them from entering our body. It's antimicrobial action kills harmful bacteria and viruses which breed on sebum of our skin.

Our skin has a protective oil layer which helps keeping harmful microorganisms at bay, but when we rub soap over our skin that layer is also destroyed. Applying MCT rich coconut oil helps in Rejuvenating this protective layer .

Coconut oil benefits to hair : There are several benefits of coconut oil for hair. Firstly, regular use of coconut oil removes dandruff. It is more effective than even anti-dandruff shampoos if applied regularly. Coconut oil nourishes your hair and provide strength. Coconut oil is also a great conditioner and moisturizer and that too without any harmful side effects. All these qualities help them to grow long retain their original shine and colour. If you even visit Sri Lanka or southern parts of India, you will find people have think, long and black hair. Their hair do not grey to a very old age! This all is due to regular use of coconut oil in their diet and hair.

Apart from the above bacteria and other microorganism can breed on your scalp. As with body skin, coconut oil is also effective in killing them. Thus keeping scalp healthy.

Improves digestion and nutrition absorption : Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) present in coconut oil are completely broken down into individual fatty acids by the time they travel through stomach. They do not even need pancreatic enzymes or bile for their digestion. This helps reducing strain on our digestive system. When these fatty acids reach intestine, they are readily absorbed and sent to liver - thus their absorption avoid lipoprotein stage. These fatty acids are not only digested easily but also help absorption of other vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D etc. Thus people who suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiency due to low absorption get great help by including coconut oil in their diet.

More energy and increased metabolism : As already mentioned in above, MCTs are broken down, absorbed and then sent to liver. Here they are converted into energy. Thus coconut oil provides you energy boost and increased metabolism. Thus coconut oil is great if you get tired easily and need a energy boost. It can also be used by athletes.

Weight loss : Yes, you heard me right. Here is a fat which can help you reduce your weight.coconut oil for weight loss While this may sound odd there are several reasons behind this. Studies have shown than when medium chain fatty acids are consumed they tend to decrease the consumption of food and thus weight management becomes easier. Secondly, coconut oil increases your metabolism rate. Even wondered why some people remain thin even when they eat a lot, because they have high metabolic rate - what every they eat gets converted to energy and not to fat and thus no weight gain happens. Coconut promotes body metabolism which helps in reducing weight in natural way.

Thyroid relates issues : This benefit is again related to metabolism rate increase due to coconut oil. In case of Hypothyroidism, our thyroid gland does not make enough hormone to promote metabolism. This leads to fatigue, constipation, excessive sleeping etc. Coconut oil assist thyroid gland in these cases to bring body metabolism at optimum level naturally.

Fights against various disease causing microbes : This is where MCFAs do their magic. How do they do that? When MCFAs are broken down into free fatty acids / monoglycerides, these are absorbed into outer membrane of harmful microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungus. These have a destabilizing effect on the membrane, it ultimately weakness and breaks down and the microbe dies. The best part is microbes cannot develop resistance to this process as they do against various anti-bacterial and other anti-microbial drugs. Some of the microbes which coconut oil fights include - measles virus, herpes, influenza, hepatitis C, H.pylori, Giarida to name a few. See more details here.

Acts as a great antioxidant : Coconut oil acts as a great antioxidant. Coconut oil is very stable and is unlike polyunsaturated fatty acids which are prone to peroxidation.

Coconut oil for liver : One of the key functions of liver is to remove toxins from body. Today's lifestyle given lot of stress to liver as the food we eat is highly processed and full of toxins. Coconut oil assists liver by acting as a natural detox agent. Apart from this, coconut oil also protects liver from free radical attacks especially in case of alcohol addiction.

Coconut oil for heart disease : This has been a point of debate among researchers. Somecoconut oil for heart believe that saturated fats are bad for heart as they tend to accumulate and cause disease such as atherosclerosis. But there are several others who disagree. The key reason they give is that medium chain fatty acids which are major part of coconut oil do not behave just like other saturate fatty acids. They are absorbed and metabolizes in a different manner and thus should not be treated as other saturated fats. Coconut oil is believed to promote heart health by maintaining a healthy HDL- LDL ratio. It also helps in case of artery inflammation which leads to deposit of plaque and is cause of heart attacks.

Controls cholesterol levels : This is another misconception here that as saturated fats increase cholesterol levels this is true with coconut oil too. This is proved to be wrong again. When we observe HDL/LDL ratio, which is better indicator of healthiness of a food than just absolute values, we observe that coconut oil increases HDL more than LDL thus the ration becomes better.

Great natural detoxification agent : Coconut oil acts as a natural detox agent. As discussed in several other points mentioned above coconut oil 1) helps in removal of harmful microbes 2) helps in toxin removal from body 3) stimulate metabolism of body. All these lead to natural detox of body. Just how amazing it can be!

Helps maintain pH balance : Maintaining a good pH balance of body fluid is very important for our health. Because of the acidic nature of most of the foods we eat this pH balance is disturbed. A stressed and unhealthy lifestyle also contributes to this. Coconut oil which is very stable can help maintain a good pH balance in body. It promotes of absorption of various alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium which further help in this balancing act.

Healing effect for injuries, infections and insect bites : Antimicrobial effect of coconut oil is already discussed above. It is because of this that coconut oil can be used as a natural and effective way to heal external injuries and infection on skin. It can even be used for insect bites to reduce inflammation. Another important benefit of coconut oil is when it heals the injury it nourishes the skin so that there is little or no scarring. This is critical if the injury is on a body part which is exposed such as face, neck etc.

Great deodorizer : Do you know coconut oil can be used as an effective natural deodorant. Unlike other deodorants, this is natural, prevents odour and makes skin soft and smooth (especially of underarms).

Benefits to bones : There are several minerals which are essential for development of bones these include magnesium and calcium. But in several cases our body is not able to absorb them properly. When we use coconut oil, it helps absorb these minerals and thus promotes bone health.

Dental benefits : The reason why coconut helps in promoting dental health is also related to absorption of calcium by our body. When calcium is absorbed in appropriate amount it helps in developing strong teeth and prevents tooth decay too.

Cancer benefits : Coconut oil is also known to be prevent several types of cancer such as skin cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer etc. Studies have shown that medium chain fatty acids play an important part in suppressing effects of free radicals and viruses which are known to be primary cause of cancer. Coconut oil is also known to strengthen our immune system.

How to include coconut oil in your diet

With so many benefits (I have not included many more benefits here) of coconut oil, the next question you will be asking is - how can I include this miracle oil in my diet. Fortunately there are numerous ways to do so. Some popular ones:

  • Include coconut oil to cook food. This is one of the easiest ways to include coconut oil. What's more it also provides great aroma and taste in your food
  • Taking coconut oil directly (orally) is also an option.
  • You can also get benefits of coconut oil by using it topically in form of massage or general application

Get more info on this here

Get info on how much coconut oil you need on a daily basis here

Which kind of coconut oil to use ?

The benefits I have mentioned above are for virgin coconut oil and not RBD coconut oil. While many of the benefits of virgin coconut oil are also there in RBD coconut oil but if available choose virgin coconut oil only. It may be bit more expensive as compared to RBD coconut oil, but it is worth it.

Get more info on virgin coconut oil here

So as you can see, coconut oil is just amazing. I have never heard of so many benefits of an oil before and I am sure I never will. So what are you waiting for start using coconut oil today and get its benefits!

If you are already using coconut oil share your experiences of using it and benefits. If you are facing any issues using coconut oil, get in touch with me and I will try to help you as much as I can!

References : Coconut Research Center, USDA, Scientific Journals, Coconut oil books

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