The metabolism-boosting, heart-protective oil

When it comes to dietary fats, there is some controversy surrounding coconut oil…

Disagreements arise mainly because coconut oil is 91 percent saturated fat.

Based on these numbers, it’s easy to assume that coconut oil is unhealthy. After all, you’re not meant to eat saturated fat because it causes weight gain, clogs your arteries and leads to heart disease.

At least, that’s what we were  led to believe… when the myth that saturated fats, like you find in butter, eggs, red meat — and coconut oil — was propagated by those looking to use mass-produced oils from cheaper sources to make the cheap, ultra-processed artificial food products that line your grocer’s shelves.

Like most food groups, not all saturated fats are the same. Coconut oil consists predominantly of a fatty acid known as ‘lauric acid’ — a medium chain fatty acid with some pretty powerful benefits for your health.

Increased metabolism

Compared to other saturated fatty acids, the body metabolizes medium chain fats like coconut oil very differently. These fats are a smaller molecular size that makes them easier, faster and more efficient to absorb during digestion. Once digested, they go straight to the liver where they are used as energy and activate mitochondrial cells that increase your metabolism. And you know what that leads to…

Weight loss

Even though coconut oil is calorie-rich, containing 117 calories per tablespoon, because medium chain fatty acids are rapidly metabolized, they don’t get stored as fat deposits in the same way long chain saturated fats can. In fact, they improve fat oxidation, which means you burn fat faster.

On top of this, they influence your appetite-regulating hormones, increasing satiety (your feeling of fullness) and lowering your overall caloric intake. All this equals increased weight loss for you!

Heart-protective mechanisms

Quite interestingly, Polynesian populations that consume large amounts of coconut oil have very low rates of heart disease — just one example that proves this unique fat is not the artery-clogging, heart-damaging fat that some claim it to be.

While it has been shown that consuming coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), it has a more powerful impact on HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). Shifting your HDL/LDL ratio has heart-protective benefits, and overall, people eating coconut oil usually see a decrease in total cholesterol levels as well.

Furthermore, since it’s now recognized that heart disease is initiated by increased inflammation, you’ll be pleased to learn that coconut oil won’t activate the immune system and inflammatory pathways like longer chain saturated fats can — yet another heart-protective mechanism!

Promote healthy gut bacteria

Alterations in gut bacteria have been linked to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, this is another area that medium chain fats, like you find in coconut oil, shine…

They improve the intestinal ecosystem, inhibit or correct gut permeability and decrease intestinal inflammation.

In addition, coconut oil contains a substance called caprylic acid, which keeps one particular bacterial pathogen at bay — candida albicans, also referred to as the silent epidemic. If you suspect you already have candida, coconut oil will help bring it under control as well.

Use coconut oil daily

The great news is, unlike other vegetable oils, coconut oil is very stable — it’s not easily damaged, remains stable at high heat and is not overly sensitive to light either.

Its high smoke point makes it the perfect cooking oil for use at higher heats — baking, frying and sautéing. This protects you from consuming oxidized oil particles that contribute carcinogens to your body, which can occur when you use low quality, low-smoke-point vegetable oils like peanut, soy, grape seed and sunflower.

Coconut oil, preferably unrefined or virgin, can also be consumed raw or melted and added to salad dressings or smoothies.

Amazingly, even one single dose of coconut oil starting at just 5 grams (about one teaspoon) contributes some health benefits. But of course, the inclusion of one tablespoon per day will support metabolism and heart-health even more.

Sources:
  1. McCarthy MF. Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity. — Open Heart. 2016;3(2):e000467.
  2. Rial SA, et al. Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals. — Nutrients. 2016;8(5):E281.

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Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.