Coconut oil is a saturated fat, solid at room temperature. Although, it has a unique chemical structure that separates it from other saturated fats. Coconut oil is composed primarily of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), whereas most other saturated fats known to contribute to health concerns, are long chain fatty acids. If not used as an immediate fuel source, most fats in the foods we eat are stored in our bodies.
However, MCFA, such as those in coconut oil, are used immediately for energy production and don’t often end up in fat stores. It is believed by many researchers that MCFAs do not have a negative effect on blood cholesterol and can actually help guard against heart disease.
Saturated fats are more stable (as they are not missing a hydrogen atom), and are not as vulnerable to oxidation (think apple or avocado turning brown), and thus free radical (“renegade molecule that can attack our cells”) formation. Free radicals have been attributed to many conditions related to inflammation and disease. Saturated fats are often used in cooking because they are more stable and less vulnerable to damage than other oils, thus making them more harmful to our health. (See Facts about Fats for more info.)
Coconut oil has a great reputation with far-reaching health benefits from skin care to ridding diseases. While, coconut oil is known for its many healing properties, it is particularly known for having anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It is a known remedy in many parts of the world, such as Jamaica as a tonic beneficial for the heart.
In Indian and Ayurvedic medicine, coconut and coconut oil are used to assist in such conditions as burns, skin fungus, dysentery, wounds and ulcers. Many cultures have already been using coconut and coconut oil for centuries, and only more recently has it been gaining popularity in the United States.
Coconut oil may:
help mineral absorption
assist in hormone balance as virgin coconut oil contains fat-like substances called sterols similar to pregnenolone – the “mother of all hormones”
promote a healthy metabolism
help eliminate yeast and fungi infections such as diaper rash, candida, ringworm and thrush
aid digestive and nutrient absorption disorders
assist the body in eliminating tapeworms, lice, giardia and other parasites
aid in loss of excess weight
promote healthy skin, and reduce damaging effects from radiation (wrinkles, age spots, etc.)
Fife, Bruce. The Coconut Oil Miracle. New York, NY: Penguin Group, Inc, 2004.