I love coconut oil. I love the flavor. I love the smell. I love the versatility. I love how it is solid in cooler temperatures and liquid at warmer ones. I love the health benefits.
Maybe that’s where I lost you.
Coconut oil has gotten a really bad reputation, and I’m convinced it’s a bunch of hooey. Coconut is a natural food. And you know how I feel about natural food!
Coconut oil fell out of favor (remember when we were warned about the dangers of theatre popcorn because it was popped in coconut oil? Those were the good old days!) because it is a saturated fat and the diet dictocrats said saturated fats cause heart disease. (They don’t, but “they” have been trying to convince us otherwise for decades now.)
The truth is, however, that coconut oil is at worst, neutral in terms of its effect on heart disease, and at best, quite beneficial for good health.
Coconut oil, along with palm and palm kernel oil, work a little differently than animal fats. Coconut oil is composed primarily of medium and short chain fatty acid molecules. Many other fats and oils, in contrast, are composed of long chain fatty acids. This means that the fatty acids in coconut oil are easier for the body to break down, and as a result, the body tends to break them down more quickly for energy. So in that sense, coconut oil functions more like a carbohydrate.
Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is very stable, meaning it doesn’t rot easily. Food prepared with coconut oil will be preserved longer than food prepared with vegetable oil. The oil itself isn’t subject to the rancidity problems of vegetable oils and so it won’t form damaging free radicals in the body. For these reasons, it is a good idea to use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil for food preparation. In fact, most vegetable oil isn’t good for you at all, especially corn and canola oils.
There are three main medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which make up coconut oil. They are caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid. These have been used in hospitals to treat and nourish critically ill patients and premature babies, as well as to help athletes with weight control and enhanced performance. Lauric acid is used in soaps and lotions to promote soft skin. It has also been shown to improve digestion, soothe bladder and skin diseases, and provide protection against insect stings.
MCFAs are known to have antimicrobial properties. They work effectively against viruses and bacteria that have a lipid coating. When you consume coconut oil, or even rub it on your skins, enzymes in your saliva and on your skin break up the fat molecules into their individual fatty acids. MCFAs can then go to work on germs in or on your body. They incorporate themselves into the germ’s lipid membrane and weaken it because they are smaller than the fatty acids that normally make up the membrane. When enough MCFAs have incorporated themselves into the lipid membrane, the cell bursts. The MCFAs in coconut oil work against the bacteria causing strep throat in this way. It is believed that MCFAs are some of the primary ingredients in breast milk which provides protection against diseases to the nursing infant. Mothers who consume coconut oil have more MCFAs in their milk, which is a great thing for baby.
To sum up, coconut oil is great for your immune system. Anyone who has a chronic illness or autoimmune disease should eat lots of coconut oil every single day. Weston A. Price, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, named it one of those special foods that certain native peoples (obviously those who lived in tropical areas) ate that contributed to their overall excellent health.
The easiest way to eat coconut oil is to use it in cooking. Coconut oil can be used for light frying and sauteeing on the stove. It makes for the best popcorn ever (I’ll share my popcorn recipe later). It can be used as an ingredient in baking instead of butter or vegetable oil. You can also take it as a supplement, either straight or in a drink. I like to add it to smoothies. If I haven’t used it much in cooking, I’ll take a spoon and drink it straight. It’s got a very mild and pleasant flavor.
And remember what Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway said? “Coconut is a natural laxative“. Which for me is a very good thing. LOL!
Books About Coconut Oil:
The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife
Edited 6/23/2009: Since I wrote this article back in 2008, I have come to appreciate that Tropical Traditions has the best tasting coconut oil (at least among the brands I have tried). I am also impressed with their manufacturing methods and how they stick to the old fashioned, traditional method of extracting coconut oil via fermentation.
You can get Tropical Traditions coconut oil in bulk inexpensively at Amazon.com – the quality is far better than products you find on grocery store shelves. If a gallon is a bit much for you, buy one and split it with a friend. You’ll still come out cheaper in the end.