The story goes that Isaac Newton was inspired to research the concept of gravity when an apple fell from a tree and landed on his head. It’s amazing to think that one falling apple could change the world so much, isn’t it?
Now imagine this—what if Isaac Newton had been conked on the head with a falling coconut, instead?
Sure, it may have hurt a little more (OK, maybe a lot more). But we think it would have been just as revolutionary—because coconuts are pretty dang amazing in their own right!
In recent years, the humble coconut has become a pretty big star in the health and wellness world. In particular, coconut oil has become an absolute mega-trend. Coconut oil has become so popular for its astonishing health benefits, in fact, that it has also faced somewhat of a backlash from certain circles.
There’s been a lot of press from a whole bunch of different places about this, and you may be wondering: “Is coconut oil the real deal, or is it actually just a health fad?”
So, is coconut oil healthy? What sources should you be listening to on this issue? We’re here to give you the full scoop – and put your mind at ease!
Consider the Coconut
Before we even dive into all of its remarkably healthy properties, let’s take a second to explore just why coconut oil became so popular in the first place.
Coconut oil, which is extracted from the flesh of the coconut, offers a sweet yet nutty flavor that many people find absolutely delicious. It’s all-natural and vegan, which makes it an appealing option for anyone who’s looking to eat fewer processed foods. In addition, coconut oil boasts an extremely long shelf life. It also has a high smoking point, which makes it a great choice for cooking.
Its thick and creamy texture also means that you can use coconut oil in a lot of different ways. It can replace dairy products when you’re baking or making a smoothie, for example. You can also combine it with other healthy ingredients to whip up a tasty aioli or salad dressing.
And, even if you don’t eat it, coconut oil has plenty of other astonishing uses as a health and beauty product. This amazing oil can be used to:
- Clean your teeth and gums
- Moisturize and replenish your skin
- Clean your cuticles and strengthen your nails
- Hydrate your lips
- Clean and treat your hair
All this, from one little oil? Pretty amazing, right?
The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
So we know that coconut oil is tasty, incredibly versatile, and long-lasting . . . But is it good for your body? Most health and nutrition experts say “yes… yes! A thousand times yes!” Here’s why.
Many different studies conducted over the course of decades have shown that adding this luscious oil to your diet can:
- Boost your immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Help you lose weight
- Increase your metabolism
- Ease digestion and control cravings
- Improve brain function
What’s behind these amazing health benefits? For one thing, we know that coconut oil is extremely high in lauric acid, a fatty acid that is also present in breast milk. Your body can process this acid into a substance that can help kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, aiding your immune system and keeping you healthy.
We also know that coconut oil contains plant nutrients called phenolic compounds, which are rich in beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential for fighting free radicals and protecting your health. They may even be able to help slow the physical aging process!
And finally, and most importantly, coconut oil is rich in a specific type of saturated fat, known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs have been shown to help lower your risk for heart disease, partially by increasing your metabolism and decreasing your appetite, promoting better eating habits overall. MCTs may also help you burn body fat, without sacrificing healthy muscle mass.
What’s more, MCTs have also been shown to decrease chronic inflammation throughout your body, improving cardiovascular function. Even better, studies suggest that the unique fats contained in coconut oil may help increase your levels HDL cholesterol (i.e., “good” cholesterol), and offset the effects of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind, which can lead to heart problems and chronic illness).
So If Coconut Oil Is Healthy, Why the Controversy?
So, if coconut oil offer all of these proven benefits, why are there people out there saying it’s actively bad for you?
The debate boils down to an advisory released by the American Heart Association (AHA), which suggested that people avoid coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat. Research has previously connected consuming saturated fats to an increased risk for developing heart disease.
Now, it’s hard to deny that coconut oil is, in fact, very high in saturated fats. But just saying that sentence doesn’t tell the whole story.
For one thing, as we’ve already suggested, coconut oil is rich in MCTs, a type of fat which has been shown to be uniquely good for you by many different studies.
Similarly, it’s important to note that plenty of research fervently disputes the notion that saturated fats are “bad” for your overall health. One comprehensive analysis from The British Journal of Medicine, for example, points out that saturated fats likely do not contribute to your risk for developing heart disease. Another major study found that saturated fats derived from natural sources, such as plants and animals, do not increase your risk for developing heart disease.
You’re probably asking: “If there’s so much room for debate, why has the AHA so quick to condemn coconut oil?”
This is an important question to ask – and it’s one that Food Babe writer Vani Hari explores in depth in this exceptional article.
As Vani points out, it’s absolutely essential to always question the source behind major announcements like this. And when it comes to the AHA, there’s a lot of room to be suspicious. After all, as she notes, this is an organization that has certified tons of sugary foods and processed oils as being “heart healthy,” and which has many corporate connections to major “Big Food” and “Big Pharma” companies, from Pepsico to Nestle to Pfizer.
She also points out that the authors of this controversial AHA advisory “are riddled with conflicts of interest.” In a lot of ways, it may help to consider the Food Babe’s advice:
“It’s important to recognize squarely where the AHA’s loyalty lies. They are protecting industries from which they receive millions of dollars. When their primary sources of revenue come from Big Food and Pharmaceutical companies, you’ve got to question the veracity of their opinions on what constitutes healthy food.”
So, What’s the Bottom Line?
In the end, the choice is yours when it comes to coconut oil!
Many experts – including scientists, dieticians, and researchers – agree that coconut oil is as healthy as you’ve always heard. Remember, a lot of the “controversy” around this product comes from one source, which has its own hidden agenda to push.
It is fair to say that, no matter which side of the debate you fall on, more objective, unbiased research is needed to completely understand this fascinating tropical oil, and all of the ways it can fit into a healthy diet and fitness regimen.
In the meantime, the Enrollment Specialists would love to hear from you over on Facebook! How do you use coconut oil in your daily life? Do you cook with it? Have you added it to your beauty routine? We’d love to hear all about your healthy coconut oil hacks!
Want to keep the health and wellness conversation going? Looking for answers about all things health and life insurance? You’ve come to the right place! Get in touch today to see what the Enrollment Specialists can do for you!