Coconut oil has grown in popularity over the last decade, with many health conscious brands using it as a healthy alternative to other inflammatory oils. Along with offering an incredible amount of health benefits, coconut oil is one of the most versatile and hardworking oils with its many uses - from moisturizing hair to supporting the health of our pets. So what makes coconut oil so special, and does it really live up to the hype?
Organic coconut oil is pressed from dried, mature coconuts. The two main types of coconut oil are virgin and refined. The process of producing virgin, or cold-pressed coconut oil, includes pressing the dried coconut. After pressing, virgin coconut oil undergoes no further heat or extraction making it the least processed of both oils. This helps it retain a mild coconutty taste and smell that’s often used for baking and other products wanting to take on a specific taste. In comparison, refined coconut oil is pressed and then continues to be processed in order to make it suitable for cooking at higher temperatures. Refined coconut oil provides all the same benefits as unrefined or virgin coconut oil, but without the distinct coconutty flavour and scent. The additional processing of refined coconut oil gives it a higher smoke point, making it an ideal choice for cooking and frying at high temperatures. Both refined and virgin coconut oil have an almost identical nutrient profile, so choosing between the two is a matter of preference and depends on whether you’re baking or frying!
The unique composition of coconut oil has been linked to plenty of health benefits over the years, from enhancing weight loss to supporting digestion. In terms of macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats), organic coconut oil is 100% fat. 80-90% of which is saturated fat, giving it the firm texture that’s solid at room temperature. Fats are made up of smaller fatty acid molecules which have their own unique health benefits.
There are a variety of saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil that are responsible for many of the health claims surrounding it. There are three main types of saturated fatty acids, short-chain, medium-chain and long chain. Typically, the longer the chain of fatty acids, the more harmful it is for our health, but there are some medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid that have their own unique health benefits. Lauric acid is a key fatty acid found in coconut oil, and it’s responsible for many of the incredible health benefits linked to this superfood. It makes up around 47% of the fatty acids found in coconut oil, and it provides the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties that coconut oil is so well-studied for. It’s also been shown to increase HDL (our ‘good’) cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and oxidative stress and combat viruses.
Organic coconut oil contains no cholesterol, but much of the controversy surrounding coconut oil is concerned with its high content of saturated fat. In the last ten years, research has shown us that there seems to be no link between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. Reports (like this one) have recognised that the relationship between saturated fat intake and the risk of heart disease still remains controversial. But it’s all about how we eat saturated fats as part of a healthy, balanced diet. If we eat too much of anything, it’s going to have adverse effects! When it comes to organic coconut oil and other healthy forms of saturated fat, it’s more than okay to eat these foods as part of a healthy diet, and it can actually be really beneficial for our health.
We now know that in order to improve our heart health, we need to shift the conversation from reducing cholesterol to reducing inflammation. When there’s inflammation in the body, whether that’s from an inflammatory diet, stress or digestive dysfunction, the body produces more cholesterol to ‘mop up’ the oxidative damage. Plus, the cholesterol that’s found accumulating along artery walls is oxidized, which is why it’s the main reason why it’s so dangerous for our health. The oxidation of cholesterol is generally caused by lifestyle factors like smoking, fried foods and polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils. The problem isn’t necessarily high cholesterol, it’s an inflammatory lifestyle!
Among the many evidence-based health benefits of coconut oil, here are some of our favorites.
Foods rich in medium-chain triglycerides (or MCT’s) like organic coconut oil have been shown to encourage satiety and reduce hunger and cravings. This is because when MCT’s are broken down, they have the ability to influence our hunger hormones, in particular leptin and ghrelin. This helps us feel more satiated and reduces that bottomless-pit feeling after meals.
Foods rich in MCT’s like coconut oil provide the body with a rapid source of energy! After you ingest MCT’s, they move straight to the liver where they act as the body’s preferred energy source. This is why you’ll see many sports supplements containing MCT’s as a key ingredient, because of the way they’re rapidly absorbed by the body for a quick boost of energy.
The fatty acids found in organic coconut oil work to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage that contributes to many serious health conditions. Studies suggest that in comparison to highly unsaturated oils, coconut oil may effectively reduce markers of inflammation. It’s also an amazing alternative to inflammatory vegetable oils, and because it can be heated safely at high temperatures it’s a much healthier alternative to your standard cooking oils.
Purecoco Coconut oil is produced from single origin, hand harvested, organically grown coconuts. No chemicals, pesticides or high-heat are used in the process of manufacturing our organic coconut oil, which means that all of our coconut based products retain all the natural benefits and nutrients. If you’re curious about our manufacturing process and how we’ve evolved, read more about our story here!
Naturopath & Medical Herbalist