Coconut oil has had a bad rap – yes, it looks like lard and is full of saturated fat. HOWEVER, it’s the type of fat that is important.
Two-thirds of its fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s), as opposed to long-chain triglycerides (LCT’s) abundant in most other fats we consume. MCT’s are treated very differently in the body and are thought to have many health benefits. Current research into its potential role in weight loss is particularly exciting.
The oil is derived from the white meat of the coconut, cold-pressed into oil, and has been used in South East Asia and the Pacific for centuries for eating, medicine, and skin treatments. The coconut is so valued by the people of the Pacific islands that they call it ‘the tree of life‘.
Why Is It So Good If You’re Over 40?
Because as we age, we are more prone to chronic disease, obesity, fatigue, cognitive decline, diabetes, and infection. And did I mention hormone imbalance?
The peri-menopausal years can be a real struggle for weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, brain fog, PMS, hot flushes, night sweats, and general hormone havoc. Coconut oil can be helpful in boosting our metabolism and stabilizing blood sugar, helping to balance our hormones during this crazy time.
Potential Health Benefits
Instant energy – MCT’s are smaller than LCT’s so do not need to pass through bile salts in the gut to be digested, they go straight to the liver to be quickly metabolized into ketone bodies to provide instant energy. They are not stored like other fats and are the preferred energy source for cells. This can result in a surge of energy and an increase in metabolism (a benefit for under-active thyroids and weight loss).
Weight loss – as well as boosting metabolism, MCT’s have been shown to increase satiety after eating so you feel full for longer, reducing your cravings for sugary snacks. Many studies are showing promising results for reducing obesity.
Antimicrobial and anti-fungal – almost half the fat content is made up of lauric acid which converts in the body to monolaurin, a substance that can attack viruses, bacteria and fungi. There are very few dietary sources of lauric acid (the main one being breast milk!). Can be effective against candida and other microbial overgrowths.
Anti-aging and heart health – Coconuts contain polyphenol antioxidants that have been shown to protect the liver against free radicals, support the immune system and protect against cardiovascular disease. One antioxidant called P-coumaric acid is associated with arterial protection and decreasing LDL cholesterol. These compounds also contain vitamin E, a known heart protector and scavenger of free radicals.
Brain health – In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells are starved of glucose due to insulin resistance. Ketone bodies provided by MCT’s can be an alternative source of fuel, with the potential to reduce symptoms and worsening of the disease.
Diabetes – MCT’s act like glucose as an instant source of energy, but they don’t cause an insulin spike, the major contributing factor over time for insulin resistance and diabetes. Increasing metabolic rate also improves insulin levels. Eating fat with carbs helps slow the release of sugar into the blood. This helps reduce insulin and balance blood sugar, lowering the risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.
Tips For Using Coconut Oil
In smoothies – not only does it taste great, but the fat will help you absorb all the other great nutrients in the smoothie (as long as there are lots of green veggies in there!).
In coffee! – I love a teaspoon in my morning coffee. It gives me a double dose of energy and focus first thing. Amazingly delicious too, blended up with a little almond milk.
In cooking – many vegetable oils including sunflower, rapeseed, and olive oil are unstable and can denature when exposed to high temperatures (frying, roasting), turning the oil into trans fats. Coconut oil is perfect for cooking as it is very stable and does not change structure, even at very high temperatures.
And remember, all coconut oil is not equal! It’s important to buy the cold-pressed organic extra virgin variety as it is not heated during the extraction process, so retains its antioxidants and avoids rancidity. My favourite brands are; Nutiva and Tiana.
Try some for a couple of weeks and let me know if you notice a difference!
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- Scalfi L1, Coltorti A, Contaldo F. Postprandial thermogenesis in lean and obese subjects after meals supplemented with medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 May;53(5):1130-3.
- Ruzin A1, Novick RP. Equivalence of lauric acid and glycerol monolaurate as inhibitors of signal transduction in Staphylococcus aureus. J Bacteriol. 2000 May;182(9):2668-71.
- Stubbs RJ1, Harbron CG. Covert manipulation of the ratio of medium- to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996 May;20(5):435-44.
- Liu YM. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic therapy. Epilepsia. 2008 Nov;49 Suppl 8:33-6.
- Assunção ML1, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.
- Lauren C Costantini, Linda J Barr, Janet L Vogel,and Samuel T Henderson, Hypometabolism as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease. BMC Neurosci. 2008; 9(Suppl 2): S16.
- Combinations of medium chain triglycerides and therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases resulting from reduced neuronal metabolism,” United States Patent 20080009467, Inventor Samuel T. Henderson, Accera, Inc., Broomfield,Colorado (Ketasyn)[/toggle] [/accordian]
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