Coconut oil has some very powerful benefits and it’s worth taking a close look at how it could impact your personal health in a positive way.
Coconuts are among the most useful food on the planet. Putting aside all the amazing nutrients (we’ll get to that in a minute), you’ll find that the coconut tree has been used for everything from making ropes to building homes to starting fires. The flowers of the coconut tree offer medicinal properties that have been used by ancient cultures for centuries.
When I was in Costa Rica surfing back in March, one of the things we always look forward to is when our hosts pull fresh coconuts from a nearby tree. The guys would scale the tree, chop a few down and bring them over.
They would chop the edge off with a machete, just far enough to break the skin. The water that flows out of a freshly harvested and sliced coconut is probably one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever had.
The list of health benefits of the coconut water, meat, and oil is extensive. I think they are amazing so I’m going to list a few of the most important here:
- Useful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. The fatty acids in coconut oil are used to produce the energy your brain needs to function. It can also produce insulin, which the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are unable to produce in proper quantities.
- Highly hydrating. Coconut water is packed with potassium, more than you’d get from a banana, in fact. Potassium is the electrolyte responsible for eliminating water from your body, reducing high blood pressure. At the same time, the sodium in the coconut water will help to balance out your electrolytes.
- Fights cholesterol. The saturated fats in coconut meat and oil will encourage the production of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that prevents your “bad” LDL cholesterol from rising out of control.
- Anti-inflammatory. The antioxidants in coconut oil can help to prevent inflammatory cells from causing low-grade inflammation in your body, a problem that has been linked to disease.
- Protects your liver and kidneys. Coconut oil can help to cure UTIs, reduce the risk of kidney disease, and prevents damage to your liver. Coconut water can even be used in the treatment of kidney stones!
- Can kill off tumors. Coconut oil produces ketones, a source of energy that cancer cells can’t use to replicate or spread. The fatty acids in coconut oil also digest the fatty walls of the bacteria that plays a role in stomach cancer.
- Enhances cognitive function. Coconut oil provides energy specifically for your brain, encouraging better brain function overall. Studies have found that coconut oil can improve memory, even among older subjects.
- Boost immunity. Thanks to the antibacterial and antiviral properties of lauric acid, coconut oil and water are two amazing immune system boosters. Taking coconut oil when you’re sick can help to fight off disease.
- Better digestive health. The fatty acids in coconut oil helps your body digest calcium, magnesium, and other fat-soluble vitamins. At the same time, the Omega-3 fatty acids in coconut oil are also easier to absorb. Coconut oil also promotes better gut bacteria health, leading to better health overall.
- Boosts energy. Digesting coconut oil is easy, but it provides your body with a steady supply of energy that will last for hours. It’s often used pre-triathlon or before a serious training event to provide required energy.
- Improve oral health. “Oil pulling” (swishing oil in your mouth) with coconut oil can be an amazing way to prevent tooth decay and improve gum health. The antibacterial properties of the coconut oil will stop cavities, periodontitis, gingivitis, and other oral health problems in their tracks.
- Improve bone health. Coconut oil not only provides the fat your body needs to absorb the fat-soluble mineral calcium, but it can also prevent oxidative stress from causing osteoporosis.
- Increase insulin sensitivity. The fatty acids in coconut oil will balance the insulin reaction in the body, preventing insulin resistance and promoting better energy/blood sugar regulation.
- Promote weight loss. This is one of the most amazing things about this oil! It may sound odd to eat oil to lose weight, but it works, thanks to the fact that your body NEEDS fatty acids in order to burn fat. Multiple studies have proven that coconut oil (and other sources of unsaturated fatty acids) can encourage the breakdown of adipose (fat) tissue in the body, forcing the body to access stored fat for energy. The result: better fat burning overall.
The truth is that coconut oil (along with coconut meat and water) is a truly amazing addition to your diet. Thanks to the many, MANY health benefits (we’ve listed maybe half of them here—there are more!), you can improve your health drastically by adding coconut oil to your diet.
And there’s the rub! For so long, we’ve heard that fat is bad for our health, so we’ve found ways to reduce and eliminate fat in our diet. The thought of adding extra fat to your meals may seem like crazy talk. After all, isn’t there a risk of weight gain and obesity if you eat more fat?
With coconut oil, the answer is no. Unless you’re eating 500 calories’ worth of coconut oil (around 5 tablespoons) ON TOP of what you already eat, you’ve got nothing to worry about. In fact, you’ll find that adding coconut oil to your diet is actually a lot easier than you’d think. You can simply use it to replace a lot of your primary fat sources.
How to Add More Coconut Oil Into Your Diet
Want to improve your health by increasing your Omega-3 and unsaturated fatty acids to your diet? Coconut oil is definitely the way to go. But how can you increase your intake of coconut oil without totally changing your diet habits?
Eat it By the Spoonful – This may sound pretty gross. After all, you’d be eating a spoonful of OIL—Sounds pretty gross, right?
Well, the truth is that coconut oil actually tastes pretty good on its own. It has a slightly sweet taste that’s pretty easy to get used to. A week or two of eating a spoonful of coconut oil per day, and you’ll find it slides down your throat with no problem.
The best time to have a spoonful of coconut oil is 20-30 minutes before a meal. The fatty acids will help to suppress your appetite, and you’ll end up eating a smaller portion of food. You’ll find a spoonful of coconut oil is a wonderful addition to your daily diet.
Cook With It – The beauty of coconut oil is that it has a pretty high smoke point: 350 F for regular coconut oil, or 400 F with refined coconut oil. You can use it to fry, saute, or bake your meals, and it will lend a delicious coconutty flavor to anything you make.
Here’s how you can cook with it:
- Put a spoonful or two of coconut oil into your skillet when frying up eggs or potatoes
- Use it to cook the veggies and meat to make your curries, soups, and sauces
- Spread it over your potatoes for oven-baked French fries
- Put a bit of it into your crockpot when planning to slow cook your food
- Saute your onions, garlic, or veggies in coconut oil
Be warned: it’s not an oil to use for shallow frying or deep frying. It doesn’t have as high a smoke point as other cooking oils (peanut or vegetable oil, for example), so it’s better to stick with sautéing, frying, or baking.
Worried that all your dishes are going to end up tasting like coconut? The good news is that the flavor of coconut can blend nicely with stronger spices (curry powder, cumin, garam masala, etc.). Or, you can try expeller pressed coconut oil, which has less of the coconut flavor but all the important fatty acids.
Use it for Salad Dressings – Olive oil may be the go-to for salad dressings, but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried coconut oil salad dressing!
Olive oil has a milder flavor than coconut oil, so it won’t affect your vinaigrette or light dressing’s flavor profile as much as coconut oil. However, you can find a variety of salad dressing recipes that use coconut oil to great effect, such as:
These salad dressings are the perfect way to give your salads a delicious flavor that is also HIGHLY nutritious, thanks to the coconut oil.
Try Bulletproof Coffee – Bulletproof Coffee is definitely something I (a coffee purist) will probably never try. The idea of mixing coconut oil and butter into my coffee holds no appeal, considering how much I love the rich, complex flavors of a good cup of Java. But for those who drink a lot of coffee, it’s a good way to increase the nutritional value of your beverage.
Bulletproof Coffee is a blended drink that combines a tablespoon of grass-fed better, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and a cup of freshly brewed coffee. According to its proponents, it’s a great way to get more antioxidants and fatty acids.
On the flip side, a lot of people warn AGAINST it. It’s high in calories and fairly low in macronutrients, with the focus primarily on fats. One cup per day is a good way to incorporate more coconut oil into your diet, but any more than that and you run the risk of overdoing it on the calories.
Bake With It – Butter, vegetable oil, and shortening are all vital ingredients in any baked treat: cookies, cakes, bread, muffins, rolls, biscuits, etc. Thankfully, coconut oil can be used in place of any of these fat sources. Not only will it make your breads more nutritious (the nutritional profile of coconut oil is better than any of the commonly used baking fats), but it will give your food a coconutty flavor that will make them even more delicious.
Baking with coconut oil isn’t any different than baking with shortening, cooking oil, or butter. The high smoke point of coconut oil makes it a great addition to your food, and you’ll find that the oil gives your food a “lightness” of both flavor and texture.
Fun Fact: You can “whip” coconut oil (like whipped butter) to aerate it, making it a tasty spread on your fresh-baked bread.
Use it in Smoothies – Do you add fats into your smoothies? There is already natural fats present in milk and coconut milk, but some people like to add a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter into the mix to increase the fat content and improve the nutritional profile of their smoothie.
Adding more fat (in the form of coconut oil) into your smoothie will give your body the steady stream of energy required for post-workout repairs and recovery. Mixing protein (from the protein powder) with carbs (from fruit) and fats (from the coconut oil) will ensure your protein smoothie is well-balanced.
If you’re already making smoothies with coconut milk/water, try adding a bit of coconut oil into the mix as well. A spoonful will help to slow down absorption rate of a fruit-heavy smoothie, reducing the risk of blood sugar spikes and delivering a steady burn of energy.
Add it to Nut Butters – Most nut butters already contain a good amount of oil, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use a bit more. Mixing a few tablespoons of coconut oil into your all-natural, unsweetened peanut or almond butter will give it a creamier, smoother texture and improve the nutritional value of your nut butters.
Coconut oil contains different fatty acids than you get from peanut and almond oils. You can make the nut butters healthier by mixing in coconut oil. These can be very powerful breakfast foods.
The truth is that coconut oil is a food that BELONGS on your menu! You need to eat more coconut oil in order to have more healthy fatty acids and nutrients. Coconut oil offers a LOOOONG list of benefits, so adding a spoonful or two of this amazing oil into your daily meals will do wonders for your health.