Coconut oil has been touted as a superfood with multiple health benefits. The great news is… it’s true! Coconut oil can be incorporated into our diet very easily and can yield a huge positive effect on diabetes and many aspects of our health. It can be used for managing body weight, to lower blood sugar, and improving immune system function, among its many benefits.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which are good saturated fats. These special fats break down in the body and are immediately converted to energy. Coconut oil does not store in the body as fat, but is transformed into energy that is ready to be burned by the body. Coconut oil not only assists in the prevention of weight gain but can also help reduce abdominal fat, a type of fat that contributes to heart problems and is very difficult to lose.
Coconut oil boosts thyroid function which helps to increase metabolism, positively affecting energy and endurance levels. Improved thyroid function contributes to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Coconut oil also promotes the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, a starting point for the production of many of the body’s vital hormones.
The body’s immune system also sees incredible benefits from the inclusion of coconut oil in one’s diet. Coconut oil increases the body’s resistance to various illnesses, bacteria and viruses. The immune system can be strengthened and maintained through the use of coconut oil. Digestion is also improved as coconut oil aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Those with diabetes who use coconut oil in their diets can expect to more easily manage and even lower blood sugar. It not only slows down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, it helps to improve the body’s release and utilization of insulin from the pancreas.
Coconut oil also serves as a huge factor in the fight against aging. As we age, the process of oxidation occurs in the body. When oxygen is metabolized (oxidation) it creates free radicals which cause damage to the cells of the human body. Oxidation is a major contributor to the aging of our skin, as well as a factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Using Coconut Oil in a Daily Diet
Dr. Oz supports the addition of coconut oil to one’s diet, and lists much of this information on his website http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil. Also on his website are a few suggested uses and recipes for coconut oil. Dr. Oz suggests adding coconut oil to baked goods such as zucchini bread or banana bread. He also recommends pairing coconut oil with vegetables like kale sautéed with garlic and onion in coconut oil. Coconut oil has a very high heat tolerance and stability making it ideal for cooking, while still retaining its nutritional value.
Coconut oil can be added to many of your favorite recipes. For breakfast, add it to your morning bowl of oatmeal for extra creaminess, or you could add coconut oil to this protein shake recipe from the Dr. Oz website:
Dr. Pina’s Piña Colada
20 grams protein powder
3 oz. coconut milk
3 oz. pineapple juice
½ cup frozen pineapple chunks or ice cubes
1 tbsp. coconut oil if desired
Directions: Blend together and serve.
Another great recipe from Dr. Pina featured by Dr. Oz is this recipe for Coconut Pancakes that already includes coconut oil:
Dr. Pina’s Coconut Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat pancake mix
1 tbsp. coconut oil
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp. coconut, shredded
Directions: Combine pancake mix, egg, coconut oil, milk, vanilla, and spices. Mix until will bended, then add flaxseed and walnuts. Pour batter onto greased griddle or skillet. Cook as you normally would, and garnish with shredded coconut.
According to Dr. Oz, including healthy fats like coconut oil in our recipes can assist in controlling blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, elevating mood, and keeping depressive feelings in check.
Differences Between Coconut Oils and How to Make the Most Beneficial Choice
Coconut oils are divided into many varieties, which include refined versus unrefined coconut oils. The standard refining process does not produce oil from fresh coconuts, but rather from copra (pre-dried pieces of coconut or coconut seed). The oil then usually undergoes a process of deodorization and bleaching. Refined coconut oils can be processed and treated with various preservatives and chemicals that defeat the health benefits of this product.
For optimal health benefit, purchase unrefined or (extra) virgin coconut oil. Organic and raw coconut oils are also available, and are the highest quality coconut oils. Also, look for coconut oils in a glass jar rather than a plastic tub. The oil will remain pure and better preserved in the glass bottle, and will not be exposed to anything it may absorb from plastic packaging. Refined coconut oils cost less, but the organic, raw unrefined oils are more than worth the difference in price.
Coconut oils are usually removed from coconut seeds and nuts through either expeller-pressed or cold-pressed technology. Expeller-pressed oils are put through a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts the oil from the seeds and nuts. The harder the nut or seed, the higher the pressure will need to be to extract the oil. The higher the pressure required, the more friction and higher heat the oil will be processed under. High heat exposure during this process can compromise the value of the oil. The more heat that is applied to the oil, the more its nutritional value and health benefits are decreased.
Cold-pressed oils are expeller-pressed in a temperature controlled process that keeps the heat below 120° F which preserves the value of the oil. Thus, a cold-pressed oil will be more beneficial.
So, we’ve determined that in order to maximize the health benefits of coconut oil, our optimal choice is a coconut oil that is certified raw, organic, unrefined extra virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil preferably packaged in a glass jar. Those are a lot of qualifiers, but they are the key determinants in the quality of the coconut oil. Also be wary of the labels on containers of coconut oil as producers may place the words you want to read on the front label, then sneak in extra (undesirable) ingredients on the back label.
The very best coconut oil that we have found that meets these specifications is distributed by Nutiva. It’s certified organic, unrefined and cold-pressed, extra-virgin coconut oil. This is a very light, white and creamy oil. The flavor is so light that unless you knew in advance I don’t think you’d guess it was from coconuts. Nutiva goes s step further than many processors and stamps a “packed on” date and “best before” date on the bottle. Amazon has assorted sizes at a great price!
How to Choose a Coconut Oil: Comparing Best and Worst Brands. Updated 2014. Ochel, Evita author of online publication Evolving Wellness.
Super Health Benefits from Superfood: Coconut Oil. Updated 2013. Ochel, Evita author of online publication Evolving Wellness.
The Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. 2012. Logiudice, Pina, ND, LAC, Bleakney, Siobahn, ND, and Bongiorno, ND, LAC. Co-Medical Directors of Inner Source Health in New York.
http://www.evolvingwellness.com/essay/how-to-choose-a-coconut-oil-comparing-best-and-worst-brands http://www.evolvingwellness.com/essay/super-health-benefits-from-featured-superfood-coconut-oil http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil