Coconut Oil’s Bad Wrap (and why it’s just what the Doctor Ordered)
Weight Loss. Ridding lice. Removing moles. Curing yeast infections. Moisturizing skin. Curing acne. Fighting plaque.
Oh yeah, and causing heart attacks.
Coconut Oil is one of the most misunderstood oils on the market. It has been demonized for over a decade, and suddenly, it has made a triumphant return as the cure for, well, just about everything.
The story behind Coconut Oil’s fall and rise in the American consciousness is dramatic for something I spread on whole wheat toast with honey and cinnamon in the morning. Ten years ago it was blamed for clogging arteries faster than a fried Twinky at a county fair. Now, health nuts everywhere are clamoring for a high-priced jar.
The Oil Wars
The reasons behind Coconut Oil’s villainization are murky. One story goes that corn, soybean, and canola oil producers created a smear campaign against tropical oil producers to eliminate the competition. That’s a little too much of a conspiracy theory for me (Michael Pollan fans may disagree).
What we do know is that Coconut Oil got thrown in with butter, cheese, cream, and Palm oil – the dreaded Saturated Fats of the 1980s. But, the oils being studied then were hydrogenated coconut oil instead of virgin coconut oil, and the studies reported to the public didn’t bother to differentiate. When scientist found the correlation between saturated fats and heart disease, all coconut oil was thrown under the bus.
Nearly thirty years later and half a world away, researchers noticed that residents of a small island off of Papua New Guinea, who ate a lot of coconut calories, had very low levels of heart disease. A more recent study looked at the population in another area of the South Pacific – all devoted Coconut eaters – and found almost no incidents of stroke or heart disease. People eating ungodly amounts of saturated fats weren’t keeling over. Something was up.
Shaking up the Coconuts
Coconut oil does have saturated fats – the same fatty acids in fact that are found in mother’s milk, which are prized for antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. It’s the man-made Trans-fatty acids that are the real problem, which are found in margarine. Coconut oil itself has no trans fat, and studies have shown that natural saturated fats are good for you in moderation.
So what about all those health benefits coconut oil supposedly bestows?
Well, it’s not all truth, but it’s not all fiction either. Coconut oil has what are called medium chain triglycerides (MCT) that do in fact stop bacterial growth, fungi and viruses. MCT oils actually enhance the immune system by fighting off bacteria, viruses, and even parasites.
But, from the limited studies that have been conducted to prove those attributes, people have extrapolated many claims that haven’t been tested. Does coconut oil work as a toothpaste to fight plaque? I haven’t seen the study on it, but you’re welcome to try!
Want more coconut oil in your diet? Try spreading it like butter on whole-grain toast with cinnamon and honey – two other ingredients with great health benefits!
Contact us at Intelligent Gourmet to find out how we can help you eat healthier and live happier the smart way.