Coconut, also called khopra in
our part of the world has amazing
health benefits and is described
as a superfood. Oil from coconut is
used for cooking in Sri Lanka, parts
of India, Malaysia, Philippines and
many other countries. With a lot of
research recently done by nutritionist
and clinicians, coconut oil is now
being used for cooking by many
people in the USA and Europe and
is now available easily in most
supermarkets in the West.
IN THE PAST, COCONUT WAS NOT USED WIDELY DUE TO IT’S HIGH CONTENT OF SATURATED FAT. RECENT RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT THE SATURATED FATS (FATTY ACIDS) IN COCONUT ARE OF A DIFFERENT KIND AND NOT HARMFUL BUT INFACT BENEFICIAL FOR HEALTH IN MANY WAYS. THE FATTY ACIDS IN COCONUT OIL ARE
METABOLISED DIFFERENTLY IN THE BODY THAN FATTY ACIDS DERIVED FROM OTHER FOOD SOURCES. MOST FATS TAKE LONGER TO DIGEST AND GO THROUGH A 26 STEP PROCEDURE TO BE TURNED INTO FUEL FOR ENERGY, WHERE AS FATTY ACIDS IN COCONUT OIL GET ABSORBED EASILY AND GO THROUGH ONLY A 3 STEP PROCEDURE TO BE CONVERTED INTO FUEL FOR ENERGY. IN COUNTRIES WHERE POPULATION CONSUMES COCONUT AND COCONUT OIL REGULARLY, PEOPLE STAY HEALTHY AND SUFFER LESS FROM HEART DISEASES.
HDL cholesterol is increased by taking this oil and may reduce LDL and total cholesterol. There is no report of increase in heart diseases in areas where coconut and coconut oil are used on regular basis.
FATTY ACIDS IN COCONUT OIL
90 per cent of fatty acids in this oil are saturated fats but they are not harmful (as was believed before) as long as you do not consume too much. These fatty acids differ from the ones found in other foods. Fatty acids in coconut oil have medium chains (called medium length chain triglycerides, MCT) and are metabolised very differently. After absorption they go straight from the gut to the liver where they are utilized as a quick source of energy or turned into Ketones (instead of being stored as fat as for other fatty acids) which have a therapeutic effect on some brain disorders such as Alzhiemer’s. In this disease there is reduced ability to use carbs in certain parts of the brain. MCT’s in coconut oil increases blood levels of ketones which can be used as an alternate source of energy by parts of brain unable to use glucose as energy and may relieve some of the symptoms of Alzhiemer’s disease. It is also said that due to similar action seizures in epileptic children may be reduced by using coconut oil.
AS A COOKING OIL
It is the best oil you can use for our style of cooking which requires heating at high temperature. Unsaturated fats in most vegetable oils get oxidized and if used regularly silent inflammation sets in the body leading and too many diseases. Coconut oil has saturated fat which can withstand high
temperature during cooking and does not get oxidized easily. It is recommended that you use coconut oil for cooking on a regular basis.
Inspite of high fat content of saturated fats, coconut oil can help you reduce weight as long as you do not consume too much. Due to the presence of ketones there is reduction in hunger and suppression of appetite helping you reduce weight. MCTs in coconut oil help you burn 5 per cent more calories over 24 hours and contributes further in weight reduction .There is also improvement in thyroid function further contributing in weight management. There is also reduction in belly fat and fat around the internal organs, this improves heart health as belly fat contributes to
Coconut oil may act as a natural antibiotic as 50 per cent of the fatty acids in coconut oil is Lauric acid which can kill harmful bacteria, virus and fungus thus preventing infection helping boost immunity.
Coconut oil helps in absorption of fat soluble vitamins, calcium and magnesium, and reduces stomach ulcers. It also destroys bad bacteria and candida in gut. Due to increase in calcium absorption it may have a role in osteoporosis.
TYPE 2 DIABETES AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
This oil is of some help in these two conditions by providing an alternate and consistent
source of energy that is not glucose dependent.
SKIN AND HAIR
Skin and hair health is improved as there is increase in fat and moisture content of the skin. The oil is also used as a face cleanser ,moisturiser and sun screen, it is also good for dandruff and dry hair.
AS A MOUTHWASH
Coconut oil makes a very good mouthwash and can be used in an activity called oil pulling which is very beneficial for mouth, gums and teeth. It is done in the following manner: Early morning before brushing take one table spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and swish for 15-20 minutes, spit and then brush. This can be done in the shower a practice which I do. Done regularly, this will reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth and will also reduce inflammation in gums and mouth.
It has a role in antiageing due to high content of antioxidants.