The coconut tree, which is mostly cultivated in tropical areas, yields fruit or drupe called coconut. The white pulp found inside the shell of this drupe is further used to produce super healthy coconut oil. Coconut oil benefits and application has gone beyond its use in food and medicines.
Health benefits of coconut oil are never-ending. It can fight several diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, thyroid conditions, etc. Oral consumption of coconut oil can lead to boost in HDL cholesterol and weight loss.
It has also found its application in skin and beauty treatments. Coconut oil is a natural skin moisturiser, and it is also used to give oil massage to newborns. Other skin benefits of coconut oil are in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. Not to forget the most popular application of coconut oil on hair for curing damaged hair and hair fall.
- Suggested read: Top 15 Tea Tree Oil Uses and Benefits
Coconut oil is rich in saturated fats but still healthy, why?
Most of you might reason by saying that coconut oil contains about 90% saturated fat which is more than butter and even beef fat (1). Also, we all know that more saturated fat is bad since it raises LDL cholesterol level. Then how come coconut is good for health?
Coconut oil increases HDL cholesterol level, which is good news for the heart. Saturated fats found in coconut oil has a significant constituent, almost 2/3rd, called medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which is also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCFAs are known to increase your body metabolism and help you in shedding extra fats. Other vegetables and seeds oils are rich in long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) or long chain triglycerides (LCTs).
LCTs are stored in your body as excess fat. It takes a lot of time to digest LCTS since they require special enzymes for digestion. In short, long chain fatty acids are not good for HDL and thus a healthy heart.
Coconut oil is also rich in Lauric acid and Capric acid. Lauric acid converts into monolaurin inside your body. Monolaurin is also the best fat present in mother’s milk. In fact, it is only found in coconut oil and mother’s milk. Like mother’s milk, Monolaurin can boost the newborn’s immune system for fighting disease and infection.
Capric acid has antimicrobial benefits, giving protection from infections.
Cold pressed and virgin coconut oil
Coconut oil has a distinct smell and is a sweet oil. Its unprocessed version is called ‘Virgin coconut oil’. This oil is neither refined or bleached nor deodorised.
Cold pressed coconut oil is extracted mechanically without any use of an external heat source. The pressure required to squeeze out the oil from the white coconut flesh may generate some heat. But the temperature should be controlled and should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coconut Oil benefits on health
1. Maintain good brain health
The human brain needs healthy dietary fat, more than any other organ in the human body. 60% of your brain is made up of fat. The brain cell membrane integrity depends mainly on the fatty acids.
As told you earlier, coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Majorly glucose fuels your brain. But additionally, MCTs are broken down into ketones which provide instant energy to brain cells.
Also, people who eat diets low in fats and lower in cholesterol can cause depression, dementia and suicidal tendencies (2).
2. Helps in Epilepsy
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids which helps in preventing seizures in epilepsy, with much lower side effects than prescription drugs. Also, coconut oil is an excellent inflammatory and can help with brain inflammation caused by an epileptic seizure.
It also improves general health and prevents gastrointestinal tract from the side effects of drugs (3).
3. Can be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease
Coconut is a rich source of energy which helps in repairing memory and aids in reversing brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease. It is rich in antioxidants and prevents brain damage & seizures, improves memory and learning ability.
4. Cure for Dementia
As mentioned earlier, MCTs in the virgin coconut oil converts into ketones and act as a super fuel for the brain. Also, these ketones can pass the blood-brain barrier and provides instant energy to the brain and stimulates healing and repair. This helps in reversing the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s and Dementia (4).
5. Maintain healthy heart
Coconut is one of the best oils for heart disease. It is surprising because it contains more than 90% saturated fat, which is considered unhealthy. Saturated fat raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, and that is what can risk a heart attack and other such diseases. In spite of this coconut oil has recommended for a healthy heart because it can raise HDL too (5).
6. Maintain normal blood pressure
Family history, poor diet, and obesity are some of the causes of hypertension. Besides keeping it in check with prescription drugs, there is nothing much for your physician to do. It is irreversible. However, coconut oil when used correctly can prove beneficial in lowering blood pressure (6).
Coconut oil packed with omega three fatty acids, which work to widen blood vessels. It has a very high amount of saturated fats and especially medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).
It is better than other vegetable and seed oils at lowering blood pressure. The omega three fatty acids also relieve inflammation of the arteries.
7. Improve insulin resistance – Help you with diabetes
A recent study (7) conducted on the effects of coconut oil on diabetes concluded that the MCT’s in the coconut oil could improve insulin resistance and improve the actions of insulin.
Virgin coconut oil should be used and not the processed variety. The saturated fats in the coconut oil can reduce carbohydrate cravings and contribute to insulin resistance.
A study (8) was conducted on several Indians had shown that when polyunsaturated oil replaced ghee (Clarified butter) and coconut oil, like sunflower, their sugar levels rose alarmingly.
8. Helps in digestion
Coconut oil benefits include antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Having just one spoon of coconut oil with your meal can have powerful healing results. The polyunsaturated fats in the coconut oil have microbial properties which eliminate bad bacteria fungi and other parasites which cause indigestion.
It also helps the body in the absorption of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. That is why it has got the name colon cleanser. It keeps the colon healthy (9).
9. Maintain healthy kidneys
The kidneys are another fattiest organ in the body but only next to the brain. The only way to live with healthy kidneys is by supplying your body with good fats. The right kind of fats keep the kidneys healthy by decreasing damage and inflammation associated with nephrotic syndrome.
The bad fat can increase inflammation and accelerate the rate of damage to the kidneys. Coconut oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are good for the kidneys. This superfood oil has shown to slow the formation of the scar tissue in the kidneys. This is excellent news for kidney patients with FSGS and IgA nephropathy (10).
10. Reduces inflammation of the liver
Coconut oil which a very high antioxidant content which protects the liver from the harmful effects of free radicals while ensuring the elimination of toxins. It reduces inflammation and swelling caused by the fatty liver disease.
Coconut oil can reduce the workload of your liver by fighting with the buildup of fat. Its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties manage effectively multiple liver problems while speeding up your metabolic function (11).
One of the coconut oil benefits has some good news for people who drink alcohol. Regular intake of one tablespoon of coconut oil can prevent and protect the liver from the damage of alcohol consumption.
11. Can prevent Osteoporosis
It is one nasty ailment for old age people. Coconut oil is one robust approach to making and keeping your bones healthy. Studies have shown that the saturated fats in the coconut oil acts as antioxidants and protect bones damage from free radicals (12).
12. Strengthen your bones and thus keeps away Arthritis
Unprocessed or virgin coconut oil is a natural antibacterial, and its antioxidants help the body strengthen itself against disease. Regular use of coconut oil improves bones joint health in arthritis patient (13).
Ways of using the coconut oil as a cure for arthritis
- Massaging joints with warm oil
- Daily ingestion of coconut oil
- Oil pulling
13. Maintain healthy teeth
Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutants are two main groups of bacteria which cause cavities. The fatty acids present in coconut oil help in destroying these two types of bacteria.
Chlorhexidine is an ingredient used in many topical antiseptics and oral therapies and prevents tooth decay. It is found that gums massaged with coconut oil are equally effective as chlorhexidine. Coconut oil also reduces plaque and improves gingivitis (14).
14. Relief from Eczema
By now you know that coconut oil is an excellent natural skin moisturiser. It does more than just providing a skin barrier by acting as an emollient. It softens the dry and brittle skin of eczema, preventing breakups that invite bacteria.
This oil also reduces irritation and improves the skin roughness and scaly skin (15).
15. Treat Psoriasis
The coconut oil helps to hold moisture. It has to be dabbed on the skin just as you would do with moisturiser. It can be used for scalp treatment to loosen psoriasis scales (16).
16. Natural Moisturiser
The outer layer of the human cell comprises of fatty acids. Extra virgin coconut oil contains the same fatty acid as your skin cells. That helps the coconut oil to get absorbed exceptionally well. It restores moisture without keeping your skin greasy.
17. Coconut oil benefits for your hair
Coconut oil stimulates hair growth by getting deep into its follicles. It promotes scalp health by fighting against problems such as insect bites, lice and dandruff. It adds shine and softness to the hair.
Coconut oil boosts hair strength and prevents hair from breaking and splitting, contributing to healthy hair length. Not to mention, this superfood oil also prevents hair loss by slowing down hair fall.
Final thoughts on coconut oil benefits
In recent times, the coconut oil benefits have gained much popularity because of its myriads health benefits. The oil that was once ostracised by the medical community for its saturated fat content now seems to be coming back in the mainstream health community.