Interesting Facts about Coconut Oil That You Didn’t Know
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the oil racks in the supermarket are filled up with coconut oil. In case you were wondering, coconut oil is not only exotic, but it’s also healthy. Here are a few interesting facts about coconut oil that you didn’t know.
Some time ago, coconut oil and dairy were stigmatized as sources of saturated fat and hence dismissed as unhealthy. Food magnates responded by giving rise to a wave of low and no-fat products that replaced them on the supermarket shelves. Eggs, butter, and coconut oil were banned, and processed vegetable oils took their place. Finally, many years of research have started to pay off, with medical journals recently publishing myth-debunking scientific findings that prove that foods containing saturated fat DO NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Numerous studies show that fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 are essential to our health, stimulating metabolism and promoting weight loss.
Thanks to enlightening recent research, healthy fat-rich foods, including coconut oil were redeemed, gaining a reputation of a healthy and nutritious powerhouse. Dietitians now embrace coconut oil as a good source of healthy fats and give it their vote of confidence. Coconut oil can be found in a wide variety of food products such as coconut cream, and in some gluten-free, vegan and paleo desserts.
Health Benefits and Facts about Coconut Oil, Cream, and Milk
Coconut Oil consists of two-thirds medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), which are easily absorbed by the gut and converted into energy. As coconut oil does not need insulin to be processed, the pancreas can be at ease, which helps prevent and reverse type-2 diabetes. Rich in lauric and caprylic acids, which both have a reputation of bacteria and virus busters, coconut oil is also known to stimulate the immune response. Because it does not burn at high heat, this oil is an excellent alternative to processed oils for cooking and frying. Vegans can use it in smoothies and baking, adding a nutty flavor to the final product. It is also a common ingredient in energy bars.
The amazing benefits of coconut oil do not end here! Coconut oil is also fantastic for skin care. It has protective effects against free radicals, can slow down the skin aging process, improving the overall aspect of skin.
Coconut milk and cream
Both coconut milk and cream contain a significant amount of vitamins C, Folate, vitamin E and B6. Coconut milk is particularly rich in vital nutrients such as zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, selenium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and protein. Coconut milk and water are also high in medium-chain fatty acids, adding all their associated health benefits to your cup.
That is why coconut milk and cream are the main ingredients in a vegan or paleo cook’s kitchen. Moreover, someone following a vegan or paleo meal plan will apparently stay away from dairy, not to mention that if you’re lactose intolerant, coconut milk and cream are perfect alternatives to lactose-rich products. There are gazillion ways you can use coconut, either as frosting on cupcakes, delicious coconut milk ice cream, you name it!
Coconut flour is made from the meat of the coconut and is rich in fiber and protein. For those of you following a gluten-free diet, the good news is that coconut flour is entirely gluten-free. So you can use it without feeling a tug on your heartstrings when you use for making bread, muffins and any other snacks you may think of.
Coconut-based products have been part of many traditional cuisines for centuries, enjoyed for their particular flavor and value for their health benefits. Americans have kept away from coconut due to the deep-seeded myth that the saturated fat in coconut oil was unhealthy. With recent research pointing to the contrary, holistic dietitians embrace coconut for its numerous benefits and gluten-free content. Especially now, with food allergies on the rise, people are looking for ways to incorporate healthy fat into their diet, and coconut-based products gain more terrain.
Fat in Coconut Oil
Despite the health benefits coconut oil has been associated with, a lot of buzzes has been going on around the amount of saturated fat contained in coconut oil and its impact on health. Is it good or is it bad?
Coconut (and implicitly coconut oil) is one of the foods placed by scientists and nutritionists alike on edge between good and bad for your health. If you’re confused about how much coconut oil and coconut-based products, in general, you should consume, don’t worry, not even experts can agree 100%.
The main reason for the confusion is the difference in use between coconut oil in cooking and coconut milk and or coconut flesh. While both the American Heart Association and the National Heart Foundation shun coconut, both their websites feature recipes that contain coconut milk, albeit a low-fat version.
Let us dig a little bit further. Although all greens and generally all foods that are of plant origin are widely promoted as health boosters, you need to know that coconut oil contains between 85 and 90 percent saturated fat. Saturated fats are dominant in animal foods such as meat and dairy and are dismissed as bad and unhealthy. Delving deeper into this coconut oil controversy, the amount of saturated fat in coconut oil exceeds that in butter (64 percent) or beef (40 percent). So to what extent is it good or bad for you?
We all know that too much-saturated fat is bad for health because it causes ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels to spike, which in turn increases the risk of developing heart disease. However, the presence of the two words ‘too much’ says it all, meaning that in moderate amounts it raises no risk. Moreover, not all saturated fats are equal. Unlike saturated fats of animal origin, the saturated fat in coconut oil also raised ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels, which is good for your health.
Saturated fat is categorized differently depending on the number of carbon atoms its molecule has. Approximately half of the saturated fat found in coconut oil is 12-carbon variety (lauric acid). This amount is higher than in most of the other plant-based oils and is thought to account for increasing HDL levels. Plant-based oil though is more than sources of fats, they are also high in antioxidants and other nutrients that are good for our health. Consequently, their overall effects on health can only be predicted by changes in LDL and HDL levels.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you can occasionally experiment using it instead of butter or vegetable shortening to make pie crust or other baked goodies that require a certain amount of fat. Like Thai food? Give coconut oil a heads up then, because you will need it to prepare your favorite Thai dish.
In regards to the way that consumption of coconut oil may influence heart disease, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support that. Most of the research focused on the effects of coconut oil on cholesterol levels. While coconut oil’s capacity to boost ‘good’ cholesterol levels may tip the scales in its favor, don’t use it more than occasionally, after all, it is high in saturated fat which is only beneficial in moderate amounts.
According to a study conducted by a group of Dutch researchers, consumption of fats that are high in lauric acid as coconut fat is more beneficial to your health and can alter your cholesterol profile for the better compared with fat rich in trans-fatty acids (a form of unsaturated fats created during the manufacturing process of biscuits and pastries), which are worse than saturated fats especially if your cholesterol levels are above normal values.
Furthermore, a number of studies have examined the health condition of people whose diets are rich in coconut oil, flesh, and milk and found that when their whole diet is taken into account, coconut actually proves to be a beneficial and health boosting component.
Professor Mark Wahlqvist, director of Monash Univesity’s Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre, examined the health of people living in West Sumatra for about 25 consecutive years. Coconut oil and other coconut-based goods are stapled elements of West Sumatran cuisine, especially among the inhabitants of the Minangkabau region, but its use has dropped significantly with the advent of packaged foods just ready to be thrown into the microwave. At the same time, coronary heart disease cases have been on the rise, Professor Wahlqvist says.
The reason behind it could be, he further explains, that while these people do consume a high amount of coconut oil (extensively used in cooking) and other coconut-based products, they also associate these with a high intake of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. In fact, the use of coconut oil encourages consumption of fish and veggies, as those of you who love Thai fish curry can appreciate.
Professor Walhqvist also found that it was not the amount of fat (be it saturated or unsaturated) in the subjects’ diet that made a clear distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy heart, and that was the lower or higher intake of meat, eggs, sugar, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. People suffering from any form of heart disease tended to consume more meat, eggs, sugar and have a higher intake of cholesterol and protein and a lower intake of plant-based protein and carbohydrates, being less likely to eat soy, rice or cereals. What is of note is that coconut consumption as milk or flesh was the same for both healthy and unhealthy individuals. Chances are however if you do cook with coconut milk, you’ll be using plenty of fresh vegetables and maybe some tofu, fish or chicken.
While dietitians do not recommend replacing olive oil with coconut oil, you can use it every once in a while in the same way that you can use coconut milk or other coconut-based products provided that you associate these with a hefty amount of fresh veggies and lean meat.
More Facts about Coconut Milk
The more researchers study coconut milk, the more interesting facts about it they reveal. Here’s what you need to know.
Coconut oil controls weight
A 2009 study found that women who consumed coconut oil lost weight, including those who were predisposed to or suffering from obesity. Easier to digest, coconut oil protects the body from insulin resistance. Want to try coconut oil for weight loss? Add one teaspoon to your diet and incrementally work your way up to four teaspoons daily.
Coconut oil smoothes digestion
Suffer from digestive issues or frequent belly bloat? Coconut oil is the solution! Research shows that coconut oil alleviates digestive symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and tummy bugs. The fatty acids in it act as antibacterial agents and help keep the bad bacteria like candida or parasites that are responsible for poor digestion at bay.
This nutty oil manages type 2 diabetes
According to a new and revolutionary study conducted by the Gavan Institute of Medical Research, coconut oil reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes fighting insulin resistance. MCFA fats help improve insulin sensitivity, experts suggest, small as they are they easily penetrate cell walls and are quickly processed. In this way, we do not only pack less fat, but we also tend to react better to insulin.
Did you know that the fatty acids contained in coconut oil (lauric, caprylic and capric acids) also have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties? Researchers have confirmed it and because of these amazing qualities of these key compounds, the exotic nutty oil can kick start your immune system. Lauric acid, for instance, contains the highest amount of MCFA (around 75 percent). In the digestion process, the body converts this fat into monolaurin, which is said to work miracles against viruses like herpes, flu, cytomegalovirus, helicobacter pylori and yeast such as candida.
It jump starts metabolism
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that coconut oil can boost a lazy metabolism. Participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil on a daily basis torched more calories than those who consumed less, researchers say. A properly functioning metabolism not only boosts the immune system but also keeps the extra pounds away.
Coconut oil slows down skin aging
Apart from adding a wonderful flavor to your curries, it’s more to coconut oil than meets the spoon. The fatty acids in it also act as hydrating agents, soothing the skin and softening the fine lines, slowing down the aging process and wrinkling. Apply coconut oil directly to your skin daily and you will see the results in the mirror! You can use it both for face and body to give your skin a healthy, youthful glow. For optimal results, it’s best to use additive-free virgin coconut oil.
Rich in medium-chain saturated fatty acids, coconut oil has a higher smoking temperature than the majority of the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils. That’s what makes it a good option for deep frying or any recipes that require high-temperature cooking. Furthermore, unlike olive oil, which oxidizes at high temperatures, coconut oil doesn’t. So, fry on!
Forget about sugar cravings
Craving for some sweet? Try a teaspoon of virgin coconut oil instead for a change, it’ll do the trick. That’s because ‘good’ fat fills you up faster than sugary carbs. Want to cut back on sugar? Coconut oil is a must-have item in your pantry. Very many of us do not realize that constant hunger (cravings) is an indication that our body is not properly fed. With the right amount of fats and protein, you can give your body the exact amount of fuel it needs to produce energy, feel good, and quit sugar.
Coconut oil is an easy-cook oil. Here’s a nutritious suggestion you can try.
1 teaspoon organic coconut oil
1 cup almonds (or walnuts)
1 cup organic dates
3-4 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
Shredded coconut (preservative-free)
Add all ingredients to a blender. Mix into small-bite-size balls and add the shredded coconut. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
More Coconut Oil Savory Recipes
No-Bake Yummy Coconut Bars
½ cup shredded coconut (sugar-free)
2 cups raw, salt-free cashews
1 cup Medjool dates (pitted)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup and 2 tablespoons coconut butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven for about 3 minutes. Stir and let it cook for an additional 2 minutes or until it becomes golden-brown and fragrant.
When it’s done, set the toasted coconut aside and toast the cashews in a baking sheet for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
Add the coconut, cashews, dates, cinnamon, and salt to a blender. Blend until the ingredients turn to crumbs. Throw the coconut butter and ½ tablespoon of coconut oil into the mix. Continue to blend until the whole mixture becomes compact. If it’s too dry, add another ½ tablespoon of coconut oil.
Now, line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting two sides hang over the side of the pan. Dab some coconut oil on the pan, just a bit to help stick the parchment to the sides of the pan.
Press the yummy mixture firmly into the pan. You can use plastic foil to help it flatten out evenly. Put it into the freezer and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. Take it out and slice it into 8 bars. Wrap each bar individually and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Still, want a candy bar?
Coconut Oil Apple Crisp
4 chopped apples
2 tablespoons almond meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cups and 2 tablespoons coconut oil (in liquid form)
½ cup organic honey
1 ¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup almond meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350oF. Dab a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a bit of coconut oil. Spread the apples, almond meal and cinnamon in a single layer across the baking dish.
Whisk the honey and coconut oil together until smooth. Add the rolled oats, pecans, almond meal, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Pour the coconut oil and honey mixture over and stir until homogenous.
Add the oat mixture over the apples and cover evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the topping becomes a light brown hue. Allow it 15 – 20 minutes to sit.
Brown Sugar Sriracha Sesame Popcorn
1/3 cup corn kernels
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons srirarcha
1 tablespoon butter (unsalted)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Mix the corn kernels and coconut oil together and add them into a brown paper bag. Fold the top down a few times so it doesn’t unfold. Put it into the microwave and bake for 2- 2.5 minutes or until the kernels are popped. Take the bag out, open it and pour the kernels into a large bowl and allow some time to cool down a bit.
In another bowl, whisk the sugar, srirarcha and butter together. Put it in the microwave and leave it there for 20 seconds, remove and whisk until combined. Drizzle the mix over the popcorn in layers (drizzle, toss, drizzle again and toss until the popcorn is fully coated), then sprinkle the sesame seeds on and drizzle the toasted sesame oil and toss. Enjoy!
Now that you have an idea of how to use coconut oil in and out of the kitchen, enjoy cooking! Want a healthy, flawless skin, massage coconut oil before bedtime and you’ll love the results! Don’t miss out on our health and beauty tips and tricks. Enhance your light and if something really catches your eye, spread the word across the world, we don’t mind!