Welcome to Q+A Tuesday! If you’re ready to get your spring and summer on, let the warm thoughts of coconut oil take you away…
Q: “Coconut oil: Is it really as good as all the hype claims it to be?” —Aron B.
A: Good question, Aron! And yes it can be, depending on how the coconut oil was processed in the beginning and how and what it will be used for in the end.
First, Coconut oil contains a few key different types of saturated fatty acids: palmitic, caprylic, capric, and lauric acids. The last three make up 2/3 of the fat profile in coconut oil, which also happen to be the beneficial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil contains the most concentrated amounts of MCTs, and the MCTs are the fats that have primarily been linked with benefits to cardiovascular, intestinal, digestive, and cognitive health. These beneficial triglycerides require less digestive function to break down and absorb, plus they are not stored as fat but burned as energy, which is great news for athletes and people concerned about their fat intake. With regards to improving reduced cognitive function due to age, the MCTs aren’t used by the brain directly but converted into a ketone-like substance that can stand in for the decreased usage of glucose by the brain, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, which in some cases is now being referred to as Type III diabetes. Coconut oil can also help improve insulin usage by the body in general and support the usage of thyroid hormones, helping to maintain a balanced metabolism.
In terms of taking care of our outer layers, coconut oil has been used by many cultures as an all-natural skin moisturizer and hair treatment. The benefits to the skin and hair may also be fortified by the consumption of the oil itself.
Secondly, in terms of cooking oils, both refined and unrefined coconut oils offer unique benefits and versatility, especially through their different smoke points. If you wish to maximize the health benefits of consuming coconut oil, unrefined coconut oil will contain the most MCTs if used at a temperature of no more than 350°. With refined coconut oil, you lose the concentration of MCTs but gain significantly more slack with your smoke point and can cook with it up to temperatures of 450°, which makes it great for sautéing and as a plant-based substitute for butter, lard, or shortening in cooking. In addition, most refined coconut oils have had the coconut aroma neutralized if you’re not a big fan of the taste of coconut oil with all of your fried foods. But remember that with refining, you are also sacrificing some of the beneficial substances naturally occurring in coconut oil.
To choose the best coconut oil for you, be sure to read the label closely and choose refined or unrefined accordingly. And who says you can’t be armed and ready with both among your kitchen arsenal of healthy fats, right? And in terms of choosing between virgin and extra-virgin, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the quality from what I’ve read, unlike olive oil.
So whether you’re spreading coconut oil on your toast or on your skin, it’s a great fat with many benefits and versatility. But as with everything, usage in moderation is your best bet.
Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!
Much love and wellness,