by Laura Lavalle, R.D.
Remember the old song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts?” (It still lives on You Tube, if you don’t remember.) Coconut and coconut oil are becoming such increasingly popular foods, I think this silly song from the 1940s may make a comeback.
There are many claimed health benefits of coconuts and the oil made from them, but traditional medical advice is to avoid coconut oil because it is so high in saturated fat.
This fat is a blend of medium chain and long chain fats, and is very tolerant to high heats, meaning it won’t promote free radical activity in your body. So coconut oil is great for cooking, but is it bad for cholesterol?
Medium chain fats seem to lower cholesterol while long chain fats seem to raise it, so studies on coconut oil not surprisingly are a mixed bag; some have shown that it lowers cholesterol, some that it raises it and some that it has no effect.1
The confusion may have arisen because some of the older studies on coconut oil used hydrogenated coconut oil. (Hydrogenation destroys essential fatty acids in the oil and produces harmful trans fats in their place.)
In newer studies that have used virgin coconut oil, the results have been favorable, finding extremely beneficial effects on lipids like lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and oxidized LDL, while increasing beneficial HDL.2 Newer studies have also shown virgin coconut oil can lower other heart disease risk factors like lipoprotein (a) levels and plasminogen activating factor, a substance in the blood that promotes clotting.3 These benefits are being observed despite coconut oil’s saturated fat content.
Another claimed benefit of coconut oil is that it may aid weight loss, and indeed several studies using a purified form of the medium chain fats from coconut oil, called MCT oil, have found that it helped subjects lose fat weight specifically, while improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels.4,5
In one of these studies, not only did the MCT group lose more body fat compared to a group who used olive oil in their diet, there was a lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure, and three subjects had complete reversal of metabolic syndrome, compared to two in the olive oil group.6
Another claim that is strongly supported by numerous studies is that coconuts are good for immunity. The primary fatty acid in coconuts, lauric acid, converts to a substance called monolaurin that has antifungal properties and is so effective against the yeast Candida that it is being evaluated as an alternative to the antifungal medication, fluconazole.7
In addition, monolaurin has been shown to have potent antiviral and antibacterial properties.8 Studies have shown that it is effective against viruses like the one that causes Epstein Barr and bacteria including H. pylori,9 the cause of ulcers and heart burn. Monolaurin is now available in supplement form. At LMI we use it with great results in our patients whose immune systems need a boost.
Overall, I believe the new evidence shows that coconuts and coconut oil can be eaten safely and in fact seem to have numerous health benefits. I know I have been making an effort to include more coconut products in my diet, plus I really enjoy them.
But as for that lovely bunch of coconuts, I buy the products that are already packaged and ready to go. Coconut oil is great for cooking and even for frying, but make sure to look for virgin oil, which is processed in such a way that the oil retains the healthy components.
Shredded coconut makes a great salad topping and can be used in trail mix blends; I just avoid the sweetened ones. And coconut milk can be used as a milk substitute in almost any application from baking to using it in your coffee for a different flavor twist.
This article appears courtesy of Early to Rise's Total Health Breakthroughs, offering alternative solutions for mind, body and soul. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.totalhealthbreakthroughs.com
[Ed. Note: Laura B. LaValle, RD, LD is presently the director of dietetics nutrition at LaValle Metabolic Institute. Laura and her husband, Jim LaValle, R.Ph, CCN, ND have developed the powerful and life-changing Metabolic Code Diet - containing step-by-step, easy to follow recommendations for harnessing optimal metabolic energy and turning your body's chemical make up into a fat-burning furnace. To learn more click here now.]
Make Your Cholesterol Harmless With This Fat!
Cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease… damaged or oxidized cholesterol can be!
A study of over 3,000 people found that those eating a diet rich in this fat had 19% lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol than those not eating this healthy fat.
Learn more about how this fat guards your heart on p. 29 of Fats That Heal, Fats That Harm and see 20 Lifesaving Tests Your Doctor Hasn’t Performed (And Should) to learn how to get your oxidized LDL levels tested. It’s covered by insurance so don’t delay!
Click here to learn more...