With so many benefits and uses for coconut oil, it’s important to sift through the facts and fiction regarding this media darling (or villain- depending on what you read). This article breaks down the top benefits of coconut oil, and gives tips on its practical uses. And find out once and for all if coconut oil has benefits that are, indeed, good for you.
Coconut Oil Benefits
Coconut oil was one of the major sources of dietary fat (aside from dairy and animal fat) before being vilified in anti-saturated fat campaigns in the mid 1900s (1). Now with the rebirth of coconut oil use, we must examine the research on whether or not saturated fat has health benefits. Even more recent media attention came to light in a blog post that went viral, shaming coconut oil.
Coconut oil is primarily saturated fat. Over half of the fat is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). This differentiates them from the majority of fats in our diet, which are long chain fatty acids (LCFA). LCFAs go through a longer modification process for digestion and absorption. MCFAs are absorbed directly from our intestines, where they go straight to the liver to be used quickly to give us energy (1). This process does not take part in making or transporting cholesterol, making it a cardio-protective fat.
Many research trials have confirmed that compared with LCFAs, MCFA consumption decreases body weight, waist and hip circumference, total body fat, total subcutaneous fat, and belly fat (2). Because MCFAs are so readily used by the body, energy expenditure (aka it burns more calories) is higher and stores less fat (3). There is also potential for decreased overall food intake due to faster rates of satiety. In other words, we get fuller faster with coconut oil (3). Therefore, replacing LCFAs with the MCFAs in coconut oil benefits modest weight loss.
Natural Infection Prevention
Coconut oil is the highest natural source of lauric acid (1). Lauric acid is a saturated fat found to be the most protective against gram-positive organisms (4). The MCFAs of coconut oil are also anti-viral due to their ability to disrupt a virus from assembling and maturing. Both lauric acid and its byproducts kill harmful pathogens, including: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This makes it a natural alternative to help prevent infection (4).
The antimicrobial properties of the MCFAs in coconut oil are so strong, that it can be seen as a common part of candida and other yeast infection therapy protocols. Coconut oil is a nontoxic alternative to other antibacterial or antiviral therapies (5).
Improved Brain Function
MCFAs in coconut oil can increase production of ketone bodies in the blood. Ketones provide powerful benefits for the brain. It’s a potential treatment in epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, and for improving brain function and memory (6).
Hair & Skin Health
Coconut oil has been used on skin for centuries as an antiseptic skin moisturizer. Studies have proven the safety and effectiveness of using coconut oil on skin for eczema, treating dry skin, and increasing skin’s hydration (7). Researchers even found that coconut oil serves as a natural sunscreen by blocking out about 20% of ultraviolet rays (8).
Coconut oil can also be applied directly to hair to prevent damage. When compared to other oils, coconut oil is the only one that shown to reduce protein loss for undamaged and damaged hair (9). It is also able to get into each hair shaft, unlike other oils, making it a much more potent option (9). For more information on coconut oil and hair growth, visit Hairguard.
Types of Coconut Oil
Refined Coconut Oil
- Less expensive
- No coconut flavor or aroma
- Various levels of processing like deodorizing or bleaching
- Mass produced
- Possibly hydrogenated
Unrefined/Virgin Coconut Oil
- Light coconut taste and aroma
- Produced from fresh coconut meat
- Coconut freshness and brand processing techniques vary product quality
Fresh coconuts must be processed to remove the oil. This is normally done using expeller-pressed or cold-pressed methods. Expeller-pressed is a mechanical process that uses high pressure and heat. Cold-pressed oils are different because of the heat-controlled environment used. Some manufacturers keep the heat super low in order to comply with “raw” product standards.
Although coconut oil is more stable in heat than other oils, choose a brand that uses less heat and less processing. This helps preserve nutritional integrity of the oil (like antioxidant levels and integrity of the fats).
Choosing organic coconut oil reigns supreme in regards to the type of fertilizer used or avoiding pesticides. Another common label is “fair trade certification.” This is important for those concerned with social justice and environmental sustainability issues around coconut farming.
Bottom line: choose organic, cold-pressed, unrefined/virgin coconut oils that have fair trade certification.
Uses for Coconut Oil
Versatile with a variety of everyday practical applications, it’s the one oil that crosses normal barriers. With so many health benefits and wide availability, here are some simple ways to integrate it into your life.
Cooking and Baking
Unlike other oils that create harmful effects when heated, coconut oil’s smoke point is high. It prevents free-radical production at high heat and health benefits remain preserved.
Keto Fat Bombs
Fat bombs (we call em’ brain bombs) typically use one or more coconut products. From oil, to butter to MCT, the coconut adds richness, helps things solidify, and offers carb-free healthy fat. Try our delicious fudge recipe here.
For those avoiding dairy, coconut oil replaces many foods. Use instead of butter for baking, as a spread, or for cooking (popcorn, eggs, vegetables). Use instead of creamer in coffee.
The MCFA content of coconut oil makes it a quickly digested and quick source of energy for the body. Mix into a beverage or food for an energy boost that will not raise blood sugar.
Due to coconut oil’s MCFA profile and powerful antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties, daily consumption boosts immunity.
It can also help combat acne due to the antibacterial action. Apply topically to skin in replacement of some other harsher alternatives.
Healthy Fat Replacement
Using coconut oil to replace other saturated fats has been shown to be effective in increasing the good HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL:HDL ratio (10). The MCFA content of coconut oil makes it a healthy saturated fat alternative.
Coconut oil works the best for oil pulling thanks to high concentrations of antibacterial MCFAs. Oil pulling reduces the bacteria that put us at higher risk for dental health problems like plaque, decay, and gum disease.
Applying coconut oil to hair improves and prevents damage, increases moisture, and leaves hair shiny. Coconut oil benefits dandruff, dry, and damaged hair. Try it in shampoos, conditioners, or a way to naturally de-tangle hair.
Using it on skin for moisturizing works well enough for treating those with eczema and psoriasis. Thanks to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and MCFA containing properties, it heals heal burns, and adds moisture.
- Massage oil
- Nontoxic lotion alternative
- Foot rubs on cracked heels
- Damaged cuticles
- Baby ointment
- Rash guard
- Prevent chafing
- Natural lubricant
Natural Lip Balm
Apply coconut oil directly onto lips for a nourishing and natural moisturizer. (Lip balms generally contain artificial ingredients).
Coconut oil can be a natural stain remover. Combine one part coconut oil with one part baking soda and mix into a paste. Apply to the stain and wait for 5 minutes before wiping away.
Because of coconut oil’s antibacterial properties, try it for a natural deodorant. Make your own, or buy a store bought version.
Reduce Abdominal Fat
Usage of coconut oil daily decreases abdominal fat when compared to other oils (11).
Natural Insect Repellent & Bug Bite Soother
Certain essential oils, when combined with carrier oil like coconut oil, naturally repel bugs when applied directly onto skin. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it also helps relieve the pain and itching caused by bug bites.
Make Up Remover
Coconut oil is a nontoxic replacement to traditional makeup removers. Regular removers dehydrate skin or contain artificial ingredients. Apply small amounts to skin and wipe off gently with a cloth.
Also effective in cleaning:
- Makeup brushes
- Hair brushes
Applying coconut oil to wood produces a natural shine. It also acts as a natural dust repellent due to the fat content.
Treating Yeast Infections
If working with a medical provider to eliminate candida or other yeast infections, it can be part of the protocol to consume coconut oil daily. Discuss amount and frequency with your provider.
Coconut oil’s properties make it an easy to digest option for those trying to heal intestinal permeability or overgrowth (due to the immune boosting properties). It also kills off harmful bacteria or yeast, restoring microbial balance.
Some people find by consuming small oral amounts, bowel movements regulate. Coconut oil benefits spread all the way down to constipation and regularity!
Coconut oil has been used for centuries around the world for medicinal and non-medicinal uses. The scientific community will keep researching this tropical oil to prove its effectiveness and examine drawbacks. In the meantime, choosing high quality coconut oil proves a healthy addition to diets, households, and kitchens.