The Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

By Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc, Siobhan Bleakney, ND, and Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc Co-Medical Directors of Inner Source Health in New York

Posted on | By Pina LoGiudice ND, LAc, Peter Bongiorno ND, LAc, Siobhan Bleakney, ND

Conventional thought used to consider fats like coconut oil to be unhealthy and contribute to heart disease. We now know that this isn’t true. In fact, coconut oil is actually a heart-healthy food that can keep your body running smoother in a few different ways.

What are the health benefits of coconut oil?

Studies have show that intake of coconut oil can help our bodies mount resistance to both viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. Even more, it also can help to fight off yeast, fungus and candida.

LEARN MORE: 99 Amazing Uses for Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can also positively affect our hormones for thyroid and blood-sugar control. People who take coconut oil also tend to have improvements in how they handle blood sugar since coconut can help improve insulin use within the body. Coconut oil can boost thyroid function helping to increase metabolism, energy and endurance. It increases digestion and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

Can coconut oil reduce cholesterol?

Coconut oil has a saturated fat called lauric acid, a type of MCT. It has been shown that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels.  Coconut oil lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function. When the thyroid does not function optimally, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol.

LEARN MORE: 10 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods

How does coconut help keep weight balanced?

Coconut fats have special fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It has been shown that breaking down these types of healthy fats in the liver leads to efficient burning of energy. One 2009 study found that women who consumed 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.

Is it true coconut can help with aging?

The oils found in the coconut have a positive antioxidant action in the body. This means they help our body stop the damage to other healthy fats and tissues in our body. Oxidation is considered a major contributor to cardiovascular problems and skin aging. Coconut oil can actually help our bodies reduce the need for antioxidant intake.

LLEARN MORE: The Ultimate Anti-Aging Plan

Is coconut oil good for my skin and hair?

We tell our patients that from the time of infancy through the senior years,  coconut oil is a wonderful moisturizer for skin and hair. It has good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is very protective. If you are using on the skin regularly, it is best to try to find an organic coconut oil, to reduce the absorption of toxins and pesticides through your skin.

We even recommend new parents massage infants with coconut oil after a bath. One 2005 study of 120 babies showed that a coconut oil massage is safe and has health benefits.

How can I use coconut oil?

Coconut oil works in both baked goods like zucchini and banana bread and with vegetables. It is especially tasteful when paired with bitter greens like kale. You can use it as part of the onion and garlic sauté, where it offers a surprisingly different and pleasant full-bodied taste. It is also a wonderful addition to oatmeal to make it even creamier, while staying healthy.

Coconut oil can withstand the heat – making it a better cooking option.

One of our favorite protein shake recipes to help with blood sugar and mood is this one:

Dr. Pina’s Piña Colada

Ingredients

20 grams protein powder

3 oz low-fat coconut milk

3 oz pineapple juice

1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks or ice

Directions

Blend all ingredients together and serve. 

You can also try our coconut pancakes.

Having healthy fats and plenty of protein is a wonderful way to control blood sugar, and stave off mood disorders and depressive feelings.

Does coconut oil have side effects?

The literature suggests that coconut oil is quite safe to take in reasonable amounts. While no formal study has figured out the exact amount for optimal benefit, it appears one to two tablespoons a day can be beneficial.

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