While there are many nutrient dense foods that fall under the "superfood" category, there are some that seem even more super than the rest. One of these powerful plant foods is the coconut! This is one of the most versatile superfoods because it can be used and consumed in so many ways. Young green coconuts are harvested and drained for there "coconut water" which turns into "coconut milk" in the mature nuts. Both of these liquids pack all kinds of nutrients and health benefits on there own. On the inside of the coconut shell in mature nuts is the "flesh" of the coconut. This can be harvest to eat or processed into oils and nut milk. Even the shell of this powerful superfood provides us with some charcoal and coir from the fibrous husk! I'll break down all these aspects of the coconut and benefits that go along with them, which will have you going nuts over these coconuts!
Coconut oil is one of those foods that we hear so much about these days classified as a “superfood.” It has a very unique combination of fatty acids and saturated fats that can have some amazing (and super healthy) effects on the body with regular use.
We dive into a few of these benefits (of many) below.
Let’s get right into it!
1. Coconut Oil’s Unique Combination of Fatty Acids Contains Powerful Medicinal Properties
Coconut oil has been ridiculed in the past because it contains saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated (1).
However, new data is showing that these once evil saturated fats are harmless. You know that whole “artery-clogging” thing that went around? Many huge studies including hundreds of thousands of people prove that it was a myth (2).
Also, coconut oil isn’t just your average saturated fat you would find in common foods!
It contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) — which are fatty acids of the medium variety.
Most of the fatty acids in the diet are of the long variety, but medium fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently than normal.
Instead of typical digestion, they go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy or turned into ketone bodies, which can have positive effects on many different brain disorders.
2. Helps You Burn More Fat by Increasing Your Energy Expenditure.
Obesity is arguably one of the biggest and most impactful health crisis in the world right now.
Some people like to think that obesity is simply a matter of how many calories you are consuming, others think that the sources of those calories are critical as well.
It is well known that different foods affect our bodies in different ways. So, all calories are not equal.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase energy expenditure compared to the same amount of calories from longer chain fats (3, 4).
One study found that 15–30 grams of MCTs per day increased 24 hour energy expenditure by 5%, totalling about 120 calories per day (5).
3. It Can Help Suppress Your Appetite
One interesting benefit of coconut oil is that it can reduce your appetite.
This is probably related to the way the fatty acids are metabolized. The Ketone bodies that we discussed earlier can have some appetite reducing effects (6).
In one study, different amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men.
The men eating the most MCTs ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average (7).
Another study in 14 healthy men discovered that those who ate the most MCTs at breakfast ate significantly fewer calories at lunch(8).
4. Coconut Oil May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease by Improving Blood Cholesterol Levels
As we discussed earlier, Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, which actually do not harm the blood lipid profile like previously thought.
Saturated fats raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and change the LDL cholesterol to a benign subtype (9, 10).
In a study with 40 women, coconut oil reduced Total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL compared to soybean oil (11).
There are also rat studies showing that coconut oil reduces triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, increases HDL and improves blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status (12, 13).
These improvements in cardiovascular risk factors should theoretically lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over a longer period of time.
5. Coconut Oil Can Help You Lose Fat, Especially The Infamous Belly Fat
We’ve talked about how coconut oil can help suppress your appetite as well as its fat burning properties. It would make sense that it can also help you lose weight, right?
It seems to be especially effective in reducing the oh so infamous belly fat, which lodges itself in the abdominal cavity and around organs.
This is the most dangerous fat of all and is highly associated with many Western diseases.
A study in 40 women with abdominal obesity, supplementing with 1 ounce of coconut oil per day lead to a significant decrease in both BMI and waist circumference in a time-frame of 12 weeks (14).
Another study in 20 obese males noted a reduction in waist circumference of 1.1 inches after 4 weeks of 1 ounce of coconut oil per day (15).
This number might not seem too impressive, but it should be noted that these people aren’t adding exercise or dieting along with this. They’re simply losing significant amounts of belly fat by simply adding coconut oil to their existing diet.