Does This Plant Oil Have a Place in Your Diet?
Everyone, everywhere is talking about how great organic coconut oil is for you. “I use it for this, I put it on that…” But if someone asked, could you tell them what’s so great about it? If so, no prob – you’re a step ahead of me. But if not, my hope is that after reading this post you’ll be able to take a decent, at least somewhat more informed stab at that question.
And while we won’t get into the nitty gritty science of it here, I thought I’d outline for you three of its most noteworthy benefits, along with some additional considerations, that could help you to improve your health.
Reduce Hunger – Organic coconut oil is comprised of medium-chain fatty triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized differently than other fatty acids. Shorter in length at the molecular level than more complex fatty acids, MCTs are preferable for quick energy and do not require hormones or enzymes in digestion. Instead, they head for the liver, where they are converted to ketones – one of the body’s preferred energy sources – for energy; not stored as fat.
What’s so great about ketones? Research has shown that ketones can function to reduce hunger. If you’re less hungry, you’ll eat less; the less you eat, the less likely you are to put on additional weight (because, thermodynamics). This also means that MCTs can play a role in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. What’s more is that dietary fat is hugely satisfying and improves feelings of satiety i.e. you need less of it to feel satisfied.
Still, other factors come into play and for this reason, I don’t want you to get too caught up on portion size. It’s not just about eating less. It’s about eating more of the right things, more often (i.e. plenty of protein, non-starchy veggies and healthy fats; also enough carb, for you) to create a hormonal environment in your body conducive to burning fat, staving off hunger and keeping cravings at bay; also balancing energy. Because in terms of sustainable fat loss, calories matter but hormones matter more. More on fat loss nutrition & exercise here.
Improve Energy – You know those ketones we were just talking about? You body can (and will) use them for energy. In fact, fat is actually your body’s preferred source of energy. Can it get energy elsewhere? Yes. But one fat gram contains ~9 calories compared with the ~4 calories per one gram for both protein and carbohydrate. This means that, efficient digestion of dietary fats gives your body the most bang for its proverbial buck i.e. easy access to lots of energy. Bottom line: More MCTs = more energy.
What’s really cool is this: when your body makes the shift to that of a fat burner (i.e. preferentially choosing MCTs as a primary energy source), it begins to look for alternate fat sources (e.g. body fat) to convert to energy when the piggybank of MCT-produced ketones is empty.
This shift is a process. It takes time and we cannot expect changes overnight. You may experience cravings for the carbs (sugar) that you’re used to, even wonky energy, but it does get better. Practice surfing the urge and be patient, with yourself and with the process. The benefits reaped (i.e. sustainable energy) are worth it. You’re likely to feel better, experience improved mental clarity and boost productivity. Worth mentioning also that the more energy you have, the more likely you are to move (i.e. exercise), which further validates organic coconut oil’s role in weight management.
Reduce Belly Fat – Belly fat is some of the most dangerous fat to carry and if you don’t take action, responsibility for your health, you could be headed for metabolic syndrome - a collection of risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease and other chronic/acute conditions including diabetes and stroke.
I mentioned above, in the context of reduced hunger, the role of organic coconut oil’s MCTs in losing weight and healthy weight maintenance. In terms of weight loss, studies have shown belly fat in particular to be targeted, with significant reductions in both BMI and waist circumference in women carrying excess belly fat; and waist circumference in obese men supplementing with just 1-ounce of organic coconut oil/day. Interestingly enough, none of them were exercising for the duration of the study. [1,2]
A few additional considerations if you’re not yet convinced that this nutritional powerhouse could be a beneficial addition to your diet/lifestyle:
- It carries antioxidant properties.
- It facilitates optimal absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium and vitamin D which have implications for bone strength).
- Is good for brain health, as the organ does quite well with ketones over glucose.
- It’s high lauric acid content (over 40%) gives it anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. Coupled with antiviral properties, this can help fight infection and flu. It’s high lauric acid content can also help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
- It’s antifungal properties may reduce candida and yeast in the body and may help fight yeast infections.
- Increased thyroid health.
- Organic coconut oil can help moisturize your skin, and can even protect you from some of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- Organic coconut oil is stable and does not burn at high temperatures, which makes it great for cooking.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the options on the market (there are lots)! Try the organic coconut gluten-free protein bar by Vukoo here. Look for unrefined, organic coconut oil but, as always, do your best with what is available to you.
What’s your favorite way to use organic coconut oil? Let us know on our Facebook page!
"Coconut Oil—America’s Favorite Fat"; by Vukoo®