One of the words increasingly used in the ever-changing dietary lexicon is superfood, referring to any number of food items providing a giant nutritional bang for your health conscious buck. It’s not surprising that many on this list include certain low calorie fruits, vegetables, proteins and ancient grains touted for their beneﬁts when eaten alone or in combination with others. But many of these superfoods are not necessarily low calorie or low in fat, but just as important to our overall nutrition, because they promote vitamin absorption, healthy nerve function, and improve cell activity, natural immunity and brain health.
One of these is coconut oil. Unlike other fats, coconut oil is comprised of a unique combination of fatty acids called medium chain triglycerides (MCT) that are metabolized differently and offer many medicinal and nutritional beneﬁts. These include assistance with weight management, brain function and heart health, among others.
Because MCTs in coconut oil go straight to the liver from the digestive track, they can be quickly turned into easily expendable energy, which can promote weight loss. In fact, some studies show that usable energy from MCTs is higher than that from the longer chains found in most saturated fats, resulting in a higher caloric burn.
In addition, the way these fatty acids are metabolized tend to have an appetite reducing effect, helping dieters to consume less overall and contributing to more weight loss over the long term — particularly in the abdominal cavity, which a particularly bad, but common, place to carry excess weight.
Ketones in the blood supply energy to the brain, and diets low in carbohydrates and very high in healthy fats increase the amount of ketones present. For this reason, low carb/high (healthy) fat diets are being tested as a means to control brain disorders from seizures to Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, MCTs from healthy fats like coconut oil are able to cross the blood/brain barrier and offer therapeutic beneﬁts for many.
The most success with these types of diets has been shown in the ability to dramatically reduce the amount of seizures in epileptic children, even those who have proven drug resistant. Further research on improving brain function in mild cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia is also showing great promise, with increased brain function often happening immediately after consumption of MCTs.
Populations that regularly incorporate coconuts and coconut oil into their diets are some of the healthiest in the world. The saturated fat in coconut oil has been shown to raise HDL cholesterol, change the LDL to a benign form, lower triglycerides, and improve antioxidant status, all of which can translate to a lessened risk of heart disease.
This is contrary to the low-fat diet recommendations of the past that have only recently been proven incorrect.
The fatty acids in coconut oil naturally break down into several components — Lauric Acid and Monolaurin — that potentially contribute to immunity against several types of infections. Speciﬁcally, these substances are known to kill the pathogen Staphylococcus Aureus, as well as the yeast Candida Albicans, a common source of yeast infections.
Another immunity building way to use coconut oil is through oil pulling, a process that doesn’t involve swallowing the oil, but rather swishing around in your mouth and through your teeth and then spitting it into the trash. An ancient practice, oil pulling is believed to remove toxins from your mouth, aid in dental hygiene and prevent bad breath.
None of the beneﬁts discussed require a major diet overall. In fact, all can be realized by simply adding coconut oil to your existing diet. Start by replacing traditional cooking oils with that of coconut, as it has a very high smoke point and is great for stir-frying, baking and in recipes. It can also be used as a dairy free replacement for butter, a coffee creamer or, believe it or not, eaten by the spoonful. Whatever method you choose, your goal should be to work it into your diet in whatever way possible. Go nuts for coconut!