Coconut oil has a reputation for being unhealthy because it's mostly saturated fat. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Coconut oil nutritional value lies primarily in the medium-chain fatty acids that coconut oil is so rich in. Most significant among these is lauric acid, a nutrient not found in any other source but mother's milk. In addition, coconut oil nutritional value includes the antioxidant properties of vitamin E, vitamin K, and minerals.
Let's take a quick look at the different types of fatty acids and the characteristics of each one.
Saturated: A fatty acid is saturated when all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. Because of this, they are highly stable and do not normally go rancid, even when heated in cooking. Your body makes saturated fatty acids from carbohydrates; they are also found in animal fats and tropical oils.
Monounsaturated: Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and, therefore, lack two hydrogen atoms. Your body makes monounsaturated fatty acids from saturated fatty acids and uses them in a number of ways.
Monounsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. Like saturated fats, they are relatively stable. They do not go rancid easily and therefore are good for cooking. The monounsaturated fatty acid most commonly found in our food is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil, as well as the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated: Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more pairs of double bonds and, therefore, lack four or more hydrogen atoms. The two polyunsaturated fatty acids found most frequently in our foods are linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3).
Your body cannot make these fatty acids and hence they are called "essential fatty acids" (EFA). We must obtain these essential fatty acids from the foods we eat.
There is only one kind of "bad" fat —
trans-fat, an artificially-made unhealthy fat.
Fats are an important part of everyone's diet. Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones.
Fats as part of a meal slow digestion, so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes vital to your health.
The much-maligned saturated fats which Americans are trying to avoid are not the cause of our modern diseases. In fact, they are essential for good health and play many important roles in the body:
Researchers classify fatty acids not only according to their degree of saturation, but also by their length.
Short-chain fatty acids are always saturated. These fatty acids have antimicrobial properties-that is, they protect us from viruses, yeasts and pathogenic bacteria in the gut.
Medium-chain fatty acids have also have antimicrobial properties. They are absorbed directly for quick energy; and contribute to the health of your immune system.
Long-chain fatty acids can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Stearic acid is an example of a saturated fatty acid found chiefly in beef and lamb. Oleic acid is another monounsaturated fat which is the chief component of olive oil.
Coconut oil nutritional values are directly related to its chemical structure, or more precisely, the length of its fatty acid chains. Coconut oil is comprised primarily of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). It is nature's richest source of these. By contrast, most common vegetable or seed oils are comprised of long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs).
The MCFAs in coconut oil are healthier than the long-chain fatty acids common in vegetable oils, for several reasons:
MCFAs are smaller, and more easily digested. They penetrate cell membranes easily and are utilized more effectively by your body.
MCFAs go directly to your liver, where they are converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. MCFAs in coconut oil help stimulate your body's metabolism, helping with weight loss.On the other hand, long chain fatty acids have several disadvantages: LCFAs are difficult for the body to break down — they require special enzymes for digestion. LCFAs put more strain on the pancreas, the liver and the entire digestive system. LCFAs are predominantly stored in the body as fat. LCFAs can be deposited in your arteries in lipid forms such as cholesterol.
Here are just a few of the fatty acids that enhance coconut oil nutritional value:
Lauric acid is the compound responsible for helping to strengthen the immune system. The human body uses this important acid to help eliminate viruses and bacteria that cause diseases such as herpes, influenza, and even HIV.
Caprylic Acid possesses antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial properties which are extremely effective in the treatment of candidiasis (yeast).
Linoleic Acid, an essential omega-6 fat.
Oleic Acid, also found in olive oil, which may help boost memory and help reduce high blood pressure.
Polyphenols, including gallic acid, which are responsible for the fragrance and the taste of coconut oil.
You have been fed a great deal of misinformation about the relative virtues of saturated fats versus polyunsaturated oils. Mainstream dieticians will tell you that polyunsaturated oils are good for you and that saturated fats clog your arteries and cause cancer and heart disease. The result has been that people are eating more unsaturated fats than ever, and less saturated fat.
Has this resulted in a healthier population? No — the increase in consumption of polyunsaturated fats has not resulted in any decrease in the rate of heart disease. On the other hand, an increase in the consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability, impaired growth, and weight gain.
There are several ways you can add coconut oil nutritional value to your everyday life, and it really is easy! Coconut oil is stable even during long periods of storage, and needs no refrigeration. Because its melting point is 76° F, it can be used in both liquid or solid forms. It has a neutral flavor that makes it ideal for use in frying, cooking and baking.
Here are just a few suggestions:
You can even eat coconut oil right out of the jar. It gives you a quick burst of energy without creating a spike in your blood sugar levels.
One of the easiest ways to add the benefits of coconut oil to your daily routine is by using it as an ingredient in your smoothies. Coconut oil adds a rich, creamy texture to any smoothie recipe, although it may congeal if you add frozen ingredients.
If you haven't discovered the magic of smoothies yet, you might want to consider them. There's no easier way to increase your daily intake of antioxidants than a well-made smoothie.
You can discover how to make a smoothie the healthy way elsewhere on this website.
There are several excellent organic coconut oils that I can recommend. Click on any of the images below for more information on any one of them:
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