Coconut Oil: The Versatile Oil of Tropical India
During our childhood, our mother used to run after us to apply coconut oil in our hair. Little did we know back then that the inane childhood ritual had deep implications on health. Coconut oil is widely used in cooking across India and it is also one of the world’s most nourishing oils. It provides a variety of benefits from glowing skin and healthy hair to improved gut health. Read on to know about the health benefits of coconut oil!
Coconut Oil: The Debate
Harvard Professor Dr Karin Michels’ claim that coconut oil is as bad for one’s health as “pure poison” sparked a huge controversy regarding the health benefits of coconut oil. But why did the controversy start in the first place?
Coconut oil has about 90% of saturated fat content. For decades, coconut oil has had a bad reputation due to its saturated fat content. Saturated fats are responsible for increasing LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. But, modern research has shown that not all saturated fats are the same.
Coconut oil is unique in its chemical properties, due to the presence of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). It contains MCFAs like caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid which help in digestion, improve skin health, provide energy and kill harmful microbes in the body. MCFAs are more easily digested than fats found in other oils and are processed directly in the liver and converted into energy.
Dietitian Michelle Gan Pei Chee says the hype over the health benefits of coconut oil is due to its high content of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Lauric acid in coconut oil helps in increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also aids in weight loss and slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Did You Know?
– In some cases, coconut oil can work as an antidote for poison
– At room temperature, coconut oil solidifies and has a melting point at 24-25 degree Celsius
– Coconut oil is beneficial for the gut microbiota and thus improves digestive health
– Coconut oil kills harmful pathogens and even prevent future infections
Health Benefits of Coconut oil
Let us take a deeper look at some of the major benefits of coconut oil and why you should definitely try to include it in your diet.
Aids thyroid function
Coconut oil does not interfere with the thyroid hormone production, unlike other vegetable oils. It has anti-inflammatory properties, due to the presence of medium chain fatty acids, which aid in reducing an inflamed thyroid gland and aid in normal secretion of thyroid hormones.
Promotes weight loss
Coconut oil stimulates the metabolism rate which leads to loss of excess weight in the body. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in shedding off excessive weight. It helps burn fat and calories and decrease appetite. There is also evidence from animal studies that medium chain fats are less likely to be stored than other fats.
Improves nerve function
Coconut oil helps to lower the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (slow decline in memory) by boosting the brain function. Certain parts of Alzheimer patients’ brain develop insulin resistance and are therefore unable to process glucose and produce energy. Researchers have found that ketones can provide an alternative energy source and reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s. The digestion of MCFAs by the liver produces ketones. These are directly used by the brain for energy.
Improves oral health
You can use coconut oil for oil pulling (a method of using oil as a mouthwash). Oil pulling originated in India and is being used since ancient times in Ayurveda; it detoxifies the body via salivary glands. Coconut oil helps kill bacterial germs and fungus in the mouth due to the presence of MCFAs like capric acid and caprylic acid, which have anti-bacterial properties. Thus, it prevents all kinds of tooth decay, bad breath and gum bleeding.
Coconut oil aids in healing urinary tract infections (UTI) due to the presence of MCFAs. The MCFAs act as an antibiotic on the infection causing microorganisms by damaging the lipid coating on the microorganisms and eventually killing them. MCFAs work against bacteria, fungi, yeast, viruses and parasites.
To gain the maximum benefit from coconut oil, always go for the virgin coconut oil as the manufacturing process retains its high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. The virgin variety contains up to seven times higher concentrations of polyphenols than the refined version.
Nowadays, in every grocery store, coconut oil is in great demand. Let us look at some of its popular uses.
How to use coconut oil?
Given all the traditionally known health benefits coconut oil has, it is not surprising that coconut oil finds widespread use in kitchens throughout India. It is widely used in South India in almost all dishes. The high smoke point of coconut oil makes it ideal for deep frying. Some coffee lovers use coconut oil instead of a dairy creamer, to enjoy the rich taste of coffee as well as maintain their body weight.
The cosmetic uses of coconut oil are as popular and widespread as its culinary uses. We use it for oiling our hair as it provides nourishment to the scalp. We also use it as a natural remedy in Indian households to get rid of dry skin during winter. You can apply coconut oil on skin rashes and infections as it has anti-microbial properties. Many Hollywood celebrities have revealed the use of coconut oil regularly in their routines for health and beauty. The wonders of coconut oil are truly endless!
You can use coconut oil in a variety of ways:
- You can use it for regular cooking and deep-frying, as MCFAs remain stable under heat.
- Mix coconut oil with other vegetable oil for cooking to get more energy during the summer season.
- Add one tablespoon of coconut oil to your favourite smoothie recipe and increase your energy with the oil’s MCTs.
- Do you worry about chapped lips? Then apply coconut oil daily on your lips before going to sleep. You will get soft, pink lips for the entire next day!
- Heat coconut oil and slowly massage your scalp with it. It provides nourishment to the scalp and aids in hair growth. It also gives a shiny, smooth texture to your hair and effectively removes dandruff from the scalp.
- Combine coconut oil with crystal salt and apply on the face, to get rid of dead skin cells.
- Apply coconut oil topically to treat any fungal, yeast or bacterial infections.
- You can use it to make deodorants due to its anti-bacterial properties.
- Add coconut oil to your bathing water and release your stress after a hectic day.
Adding coconut oil to your diet and in your daily health routine, can be one of the easiest ways to get the desired results. Comment below to share your opinions with us!
Disclaimer: Coconut oil has important saturated fatty acids, which help in curing various health problems but, we need to consume it in moderation as recent research shows that excess consumption may be bad for people with pre-existing heart conditions.
100g of Coconut oil provides 862 calories
Fat – 100g (Saturated fat-87g, PUFA – 1.8g, MUFA – 6g)