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Is Coconut Oil a Secret Superfood?

Orange Icon  Is Coconut Oil a Secret Superfood?

Orange Icon  Is Coconut Oil a Secret Superfood?

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A note from Isabel: I invited Kareen Turner to guest-write an article for Beyond Diet readers. Kareen has a master's degree in Public Health and is a registered dietitian. Here's what Kareen had to say about the benefits of coconut oil.

A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar on healthy living. A registered dietitian (RD) was presenting, and, during the Q&A, another attendee asked about the safe consumption of coconut oil. The RD gave a huge sigh and said that was the one question she was hoping to not get.

coconut oil Being an RD myself, I could understand how she felt. After all, what was once a strong body of evidence identifying coconut oil as a health risk is now being questioned.

Coconut oil is primarily composed of saturated fat, and research has consistently shown the link between saturated fat and heart disease. So then it must be bad, right?

Well let's talk about that here.

Not all saturated fats are created equal, and they each work differently in our bodies.

Coconut oil is primarily made of lauric acid, which is a medium chain fatty acid. In our bodies, lauric acid increases our high density lipoprotien (HDL), or good cholesterol, AND helps to convert our low density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, into good cholesterol. Increased HDL in the body promotes heart and cardiovascular health, while lowering the risk of disease.

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Additional benefits of coconut oil include:

  • Boosts brain function and memory. According to a study published in the Journal of Neurobiology and Aging, recall ability improved for all patients that consumed MCFA's, medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil. The study also concluded that coconut oil improved memory function in elderly subjects.

  • Decreases inflammation. Coconut oil is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, both antioxidants that reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Pair this health benefit with increased HDL (good cholesterol), and coconut oil is doing wonders to lower the risk of heart disease.

  • Fights viruses, bacteria, and fungus. The lauric acid in coconut oil fights the growth of bad bacteria caused by excess sugar in the body and creates a hostile environment for viruses. This acid also fights fungus from candida yeast infections - and these infections can cause health disturbances in every organ in the body if left untreated. The MCFAs in coconut oil act as an antibiotic, helping to protect the liver from damage and disease.

  • Gives the metabolism a boost and promotes weight loss. The MCFAs in coconut oil provide you with increased energy, as they are sent directly to the liver to be metabolized. Due to coconut oil's abundance of physiological benefits, such as its ability to improve thyroid function, decrease appetite, and increase our energy levels, it's surprising that many people still believe this superfood is anything but healthy.

If you are unsure about incorporating coconut oil into your diet, consider that coconut and its byproducts have been staples on tropical islands for years, and yet obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have not ravaged those countries as they have the United States. Although coconut oil provides a significant amount of fat and calories, it has been proven to increase the body's metabolic rate, making it easier to lose weight.

Here are 3 easy ways you can incorporate coconut oil into your diet for a health boost:

  1. Switch from olive oil to coconut oil when baking your vegetables.. The fat in coconut oil is more suitable for cooking, as the fats can withstand higher heat without becoming damaged. The benefits of olive oil are maximized when consumed raw and unheated.
  2. Sweet Potato Fries

    sweet potato fries

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  3. Use coconut oil in your favorite baked treats
  4. Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

    coconut chocolate chip cookies

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  5. Flavor your organic coffee or tea with coconut oil for a delicious treat. Start with one half-teaspoon per eight ounces of coffee or tea and increase based on your desired results.

»For more fat-burning recipes, be sure to visit the Recipes section in Beyond Diet.