I was going to write a post about the wonders of coconut oil, but instead I convinced a true expert on coconut oil to enlighten us. I highly recommend you read on…
Ayurvedic practitioners of India used coconut and its oil for a range of health ailments 3000-5000 years ago. Coconut oil used to be the remedy du jour, but lost favor as traditional practices were displaced by Westernization and the medicalization of health.
Lies about Coconut Oil
One of the most prevailing myths that developed regarding coconut oil was that it caused heart disease due to its high composition of saturated fats. Fear regarding consumption of coconut oil peaked so high that grocery stores in the Phillippines where the majority of coconut oil is produced had to change the labels of jars of coconut oil to “vegetable oil” by the 1950’s.
History of Coconut Oil
The United States gradually cut its imports of coconut oil as a byproduct of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. In response to needing revenue and jobs, the US taxed coconut oil imports and subsidized the soybean industry. While the tax on coconut oil imports was eventually reversed, by the 1950’s and 1960’s, the processed food and vegetable oil industry already had too much momentum for the coconut oil industry to overcome.
The soybean lobby began joining the saturated fat debate in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which happened to be the same time of the earliest [low fat] dietary recommendations put forth by the American Heart Association in the 1980’s and then the government-sponsored Food Pyramid in 1992. The 1980’s also saw the invention of statin drugs – aimed at reducing “harmful” levels of cholesterol. The statin industry lobby also joined in the debate.
By the year 2000, researchers began catching on to some interesting trends regarding the coconut oil-heart disease debate, and some key flaws in the main studies that led to the saturated fat-heart disease debate in the first place. In short, coconut oil was found to be protective of heart disease, not disease-promoting.
Finally, coconut oil has returned to grocery store shelves and is once again being recognized for its many health benefits.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Coconut oil is heart protective. Research shows that although coconut oil will increase total cholesterol and low density lipoproteins (LDLs or “bad cholesterol”), it actually has a more dramatic effect on raising high density lipoproteins (HDLs or “good cholesterol) as well as the improving the Total Cholesterol:HDL ratio – a well-recognized marker of heart disease risk.
2. Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties. When digested, a small percentage of the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are converted to their respective monoglycerides such as monolaurin, which is also found as a natural immune modulator in breastmilk. Monolaurin and similar monoglycerides have been shown to deactivate a range of organisms from HIV, influenza, epstein barr virus, herpes simplex 1 and 2, as well as Streptococcus sp., Staphlyococcus sp. (including MRSA), Candida sp., and various molds such as Aspergillus sp.
3. Coconut oil boosts metabolism. When digested, the unique properties of the MCTs in coconut oil are thermogenic (“heat-producing”) which means they help us burn calories and prevent fat from depositing in our tissues. It promotes healthy thyroid function – and may also have a preservative effect on insulin resistance – potentially reducing risk from metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.
4. Coconut oil is highly regarded for its ability to protect the skin from aging. When applied regularly to skin and hair, it can help promote a youthful and rejuvenated skin appearance.
5. Coconut oil will promote the health of teeth and gums. “Oil pulling” is a well-known practice of swishing coconut oil in your mouth for a period of 15-30 minutes. As the enzymes in your saliva convert the oil to some of its active ingredients, you will not only help pull potentially harmful bugs and pus out of your mouth, it will leave a healthy fatty coating on your teeth that may keep future bacteria from binding and causing future problems. You will want to spit out the coconut oil when finished, but oil pulling once or twice daily can do wonders for your oral health.
About the author: