There are a myriad of reasons to be crazy about coconut oil, but here are just a few health benefits that are fueling the coconut oil craze.
It’s well known that coconut oil is packed with healthy fats. In fact, it contains unusually healthy fats known as medium-chain fatty acids that the body can use differently from most other forms of fat. For example, medium-chain fats don’t have to mix with bile from the gallbladder in order to be digested and assimilated by the body. Instead, they are absorbed directly by the liver, which then converts those healthy fats into what’s called ketoacids, or ketones—which, among other things, feed and protect the brain.
Those same ketones also naturally boost energy levels, while helping to manage weight. Interestingly, the only times the body produces ketones is during a fast and while consuming medium-chain fatty acids. What a great combination coconut oil gives—weight-managing ketones while keeping your energy levels up!
Now, let’s back up the train a bit and talk about coconut oil and the brain . . . the healthy saturated fats found in coconut oil are essential for proper brain function. Dr. Mary Newport, M.D., published a study in 2008 which demonstrated the benefits of coconut oil on brain health. She explains, “Our cells can use ketone bodies as an alternative fuel when glucose is not available. Brain cells, specifically neurons, are very limited, more limited than other cells, in what kinds of fuel they can use to function and stay alive. Normally, they require glucose, but they can also use ketone bodies.”
This is significant in other areas as well, Newport says, including any health issue that involves “a defect in transport of glucose into neurons and other cells.” That involves important areas of brain health as well as blood sugar health and neurological health.
It may sound strange to hear so much positive news about the healthy fats in coconut oil, since we hear so much about unhealthy fats and their adverse effects on overall health and the heart. However, coconut oil is a powerful heart-healthy oil. Truth be told, coconut oil supports healthy levels of cholesterol, and those who eat adequate amounts of coconut oil have lower rates of heart disease.
Then there’s coconut oil’s antioxidant benefits. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry indicates that the regular consumption of virgin coconut oil can significantly increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes inside the body. It appears that the polyphenol compounds in coconut oil are the ones responsible for this positive benefit.
"It is well established that dietary coconut oil reduces our need for vitamin E, but I think its antioxidant role is more general than that, and that it has both direct and indirect antioxidant activities," says Dr. Ray Peat, a biochemist with extensive knowledge on the antioxidant benefits of coconut oil.
Coconut oil is also, through its lauric acid content, an avid “unwanted invader fighter,” making it a strong immune booster. Additionally, coconut oil helps to support liver health.
With all of those crazy healthy benefits, it’s easy to see why there’s a coconut oil craze.