The coconut is one of the best-known gems of tropical nature. Though not exceptionally large, these little nuts (or fruits or seeds, depending on who you are) come packed with protein and nutrients in a variety of different layers.
Once you break through the shell, you’ll uncover a reservoir of coconut milk, which is light, none-too-sweet, and refreshing. Beneath that is the meat of the coconut – firm layers of white, semi-sweet protein that makes all the difference if you’re stranded in the wild.
But it is coconut oil, processed from coconut kernels, that is the most useful – it comes loaded with fatty acids, proteins, and a variety of other components, which support the widely-held belief that the coconut is, in fact, a superfood.
Here’s a visualized summary of the benefits:
PS! You can read further explanations below the infographic.
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#1 Stress Reduction
Some preliminary evidence suggests that virgin coconut oil might be capable of reducing stress and fighting depression.
Because of high antioxidant levels, coconut oil is believed to have anti-stress capabilities. Further, the medium-chain fatty acids, which are numerous in coconut oil, have been proven to be an antidepressant food.
But, virgin coconut oil doesn’t just reduce feelings of depression and stress, it can also be used to treat stress-related post-exercise injuries. While these studies have yet to be conducted on humans, the results still look positive.
#2 Appetite Reduction
As I already mentioned, coconut oil is loaded with fatty acids. And fatty acids have a strange, yet useful, appetite-reduction property.
Scientists have yet to determine why, exactly, the fatty acids found in coconut oil are so good at reducing hunger levels, though it is thought to be related to how these fats are metabolized.
A variety of small studies have found that men who eat coconut oil eat, on average, around 250 fewer calories a day. These studies were not conducted on a large scale, yet the results still appear to be positive proof of the weight-loss properties of coconut oil.
#3 Fat Loss
Part of a hunger-reduction is a fat reduction, but this specifically refers to abdominal fat.
Abdominal fat refers to excessive fat buildup around your stomach and is incredibly harmful – the fat sits in your stomach and envelops your organs – over time, your organ function grows limited. This is how many western diseases progress.
And coconut oil seems to be especially effective at removing that harmful belly fat. Several studies have shown a significant reduction in waist sizes after a steady, consistent consumption of coconut oil. These are small studies, but the results still cannot be ignored.
#4 Fat Burning
Coconut oil, because of its high concentration of fatty acids, helps boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities.
Medium-Chain Triglycerides, of which coconut oil has plenty, are especially effective in boosting and improving your body’s ability to burn fat.
Basically, you’re looking at a metabolic boost – your body will simply burn a greater quantity of fat if you consume a greater quantity of Medium-Chain Triglycerides, something this study proved.
#5 Brain Boost
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is commonly associated with a sudden inability for your brain to utilize energy properly. Coconut oil might be able to provide energy to the brain, giving it an overall boost.
Ketones are soluble molecules produced by fatty acids. Scientists believe that these ketones can provide an energy source alternative to glucose to the brains of patients with dementia.
The result, they predict, is a reduction in malfunctioning brain cells and overall dementia symptoms. One study showed that the consumption of these triglycerides resulted in improved brain function in patients with dementia.
However, the research here is minimal and less-than-certain.
#6 Cholesterol Boost
The natural saturated fats found in coconut may be able to raise your ‘good’ cholesterol, improving overall heart health.
Cholesterol is split into two categories: the good kind (HDL) and the bad kind (LDL). Coconut oil, similar to olive oil, contains high levels of HDL cholesterol.
So, consumption of coconut oil will not only increase your levels of good cholesterol, but it will also reduce your levels of bad cholesterol.
Several studies have demonstrated these results pretty solidly – where many of the benefits of coconut oil are more in the realm of the speculative, this one is pretty much confirmed.
#7 Immune Boost
The chemical make-up of coconut oil allows for a general immune boost, in that it produces a substance that targets and removes bacteria.
I’ve mentioned that coconut oil is crammed with fatty acids, and that those fatty acids are the root of many of the benefits of coconut oil.
Well, about half of those fatty acids are lauric acid, which, when digested, forms a substance called monolaurin. Monolaurin, as well as lauric acid, target and kill pathogens, viruses, and bacteria, resulting in an overall boost in your immunity.
#8 Seizure Reduction
Those same ketones I mentioned earlier are an integral part of a specialized medical diet that is designed to combat epilepsy in children.
Now, this doesn’t involve coconut oil on its own, but coconut oil does factor in. The diet that is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy involves very low levels of carbs and very high levels of fat.
The goal is to produce a ton of ketones, which will help reduce the symptoms of epilepsy. Coconut oil, which is already loaded with fatty acids, results in high levels of ketones, which then works to combat epilepsy.
#9 Blood Sugar Control
There has been a rather limited amount of studies in this area, however, there is tentative proof that describes how coconut oil might be linked to insulin preservation.
This related back to those Medium-Chain Triglycerides I mentioned earlier. A variety of studies have found that, because of its high MCT content, coconut oil might actually be able to keep your blood sugar in check.
Of course, there has not been an extensive amount of research in this area, and there is some level of contradiction in regards to the results. However, it can’t hurt to try.
#10 Healthier Teeth
Some recent research has found that coconut oil is a great preventative for a variety of oral/dental diseases.
Any dental benefits you might hope to achieve will come as a result of oil-pulling, which involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and swishing it around for a long stretch of time.
If you do this on a regular basis, you can protect yourself against cavities and gingivitis, all while keeping your levels of oral bacteria in balance.
#11 Better Liver
Some research is suggestive of the fact that some property or properties of coconut oil may result in improved liver health.
Hepatosteatosis, a newer form of liver disease which is characterized by insulin resistance, among other things, is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in our society.
But, based on rodent studies that were conducted in 2017, coconut oil, specifically virgin coconut oil, has been shown to reduce the chances of obtaining this disease.
Coconut oil has a wide variety of benefits – this list is not all-inclusive. Plus, as an oil, it is exceptionally easy to incorporate into your diet.
You can get your coconut oil via a spoon every morning with breakfast, or you can cook with it, incorporate it into recipes and meals; it’s not a hard thing to start eating.
It’s also a great replacement for butter. If you often cook with butter, or some brand of non-stick cooking spray, coconut oil, which at room temperature, is a solid, is a great way to keep your dishes from sticking to the pan.
It also provides an interesting flavor profile to any meal; it may be a bit of an acquired taste, but the benefits of it should help you adjust quickly.
And while many of the potential benefits of coconut oil are not necessarily confirmed by recent and consistent research, the capacity of coconut oil to boost your overall health in some way definitely exists.
This is due to two things: the fatty acids and the Medium-Chain Triglycerides. This combination provides the groundwork for a variety of sweeping health benefits.
So, even if the research is a little flimsy, adding a little coconut oil to your diet will never hurt.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.
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