Updated: Feb 28
Coconut oil has become a must have health food, and like any of these in-focus foods, some of the information is confusing. So what is it about this oil that has created so much of a flurry?
Coconut oil is the most stable oil of any oil because it is a saturated lipid or fat. This means that it can be safely heated without distorting the molecular structure to the point of creating dangerous and harmful cells in our bodies. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils differ in this way, particularly polyunsaturated oils because their molecular structure reacts to heat and light causing trans-fatty acids that in turn become carcinogenic. These include vegetable oils such as cottonseed, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, sesame, pumpkin and flax. For this reason, these oils have a short shelf life. Monounsaturated lipids are also heat and light sensitive and change their molecular structure, but to a lesser degree. Oils like olive, avocado and various nut oils can be used with a moderate heat and still be safe to consume.
From a scientific perspective, coconut oil is the ‘safer’ oil to use in cooking because it is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) while it’s colleagues contain long chain fatty acids (LCFAs).
Coconut oil boasts many benefits. The unique properties make it antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and anticarcenogenic. Its uses range from roasting vegetables to baking to facial cleanser to toothpaste.
Coconut oil can be taken safely with herbs as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is like a tonic for our body as it provides vital nutrients in a more concentrated way. The coconut oil acts as a carrier to allow the adaptogenic herb to be absorbed more easily. Think medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga, or the balancing and brain fruit of Schizandra.
It should be said that an oil is an oil. This means that whilst the benefits of this tropical nut are amazing, it is a saturated fat. We need to consume some fat daily in what we eat as part of the essential daily macro nutrient combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat intake. Fats are where we derive our energy, it produces red and white blood cells and is responsible for production of certain hormones as well as transporting vitamins. However most adults only require 15-20% fat.
If possible, try to purchase organic virgin oil to ensure you are getting the purest quality. And ideally select the oil in a dark coloured glass container. Yes coconut oil is the most stable of all the lipids but it is still susceptible to light and heat causing it to go rancid, and glass is always preferred over plastic as it has been known to leech unwanted chemicals.
Choose wisely. Live vibrantly.