Coconut oil has been a prominent component of Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries. In India, the oil has been used for medical purposes, with the traditional Ayurvedic system mentioning a number of cures that use it as a component. Of late, there has been a growing demand for coconut oil in the West due to several health benefits.
1. Lower cholesterol
Saturated fats in coconut oil increase the level of good cholesterol in the body and thereby minimize the risk of complications like heart disease. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in the oil deal with two of the biggest risks of cardiovascular disease — arteriosclerosis and obesity. A 2009 study found that coconut oil led to a reduction in the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
2. Weight control
Coconut oil helps in reducing weight, thanks to the MCT, which speeds up the usage of energy as compared to other types of fats. In fact, the MCTs in coconut oil digest at speeds similar to that of sugar. The body uses up these fats on a preferential basis, which means that the MCTs don’t get added to the fat cells and thus avoid being a factor of weight gain.
A study conducted in 2011 found that “VCO (virgin coconut oil) is a cheap oil source containing a high concentration of MCFAs (Medium Chain Fatty Acids) which in the current study had shown beneficial effect in WC (Waist Circumference) reduction, especially in males without any deleterious effect to the lipid profile. VCO was also safe to use for the period of study without any deleterious effects on biochemical and organ functions.”
3. Good for the brain
Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain. However, the MCTs in coconut oil can act as a secondary fuel source. One study found an improvement in brain functions of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s after they started including coconut oil in their diet.
4. Strong and healthy skin
Coconut oil is rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid that has moisturizing, antimicrobial, and hormone-regulating properties. It can trigger collagen production in the skin. The acid also has skin-regeneration and anti-aging properties. All these enable coconut oil to keep your skin young even if you might be in the later years of life. Its antimicrobial properties can help deal with eczema and acne. Plus, the vitamin E component of the oil protects your skin from possible damage from the sun. The oil is also known to reduce the presence of a harmful skin germ called staph aureus.
5. Bone health
Healthy bones require magnesium and calcium. Since coconut oil increases the absorption of these elements, bones become stronger. Antioxidants in the oil help in preventing and even treating osteoporosis. This is done by reducing bone loss while increasing bone volume. As such, coconut oil should be considered a necessary addition to the diet by older people who are at risk of poor bone health. Since calcium absorption is increased, people who consume coconut oil are also likely to develop strong teeth and minimize the possibility of tooth decay.
6. Reduces inflammation
Coconut oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can be useful to soothe the pain of arthritis patients. Even people who may not have arthritis but suffer from pain in the muscles and joints can benefit from the oil’s anti-inflammatory property. Some studies have found coconut oil to be equal to a popular pain relief medication called Indomethacin.