People usually give me a strange look when I tell them I cook with coconut oil. I get an even stranger look when I tell people I drink coconut oil with hot water and honey. It is almost as if they think they can see my cholesterol rising and my risk of heart attack creeping up. Most people in America have been convinced that coconut oil is an evil, fatty, dangerous oil to be avoided at all costs. The evidence though is much to the contrary and I am always thrilled to share the REAL information with anyone who will listen.
Coconut oil has a long history of use for both pharmaceutical and consumption purposes spanning nearly 4000 years. It was used in the US until the tide began to change based on some research in 1954 by David Kritchevsky. His research indicated that there were beneficial effects of consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids from the oil of corn, soybeans, safflower and sunflower seeds for the lowering, at least temporarily, of cholesterol in the blood. The Soybean and corn industry jumped on this in a blink of an eye. Coconut and tropical oils became the supposed catalyst of heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats became the saving grace. Strangely, our rates of heart disease and obesity have continued to rise in this country despite these claims from the influencing soybean and corn industries. If you ask me, it's all about money, power and influence, which is a shame when we are considering the health and well being of our population.
Let's take a closer look at Coconut Oil and its properties. Coconut oil is indeed a saturated fat. What the money makers in the US have failed to tell you though is that not all saturated fats are bad for you. I won't go into the details of lipids and atoms. If you would like detailed information on the difference between fats you can go here. Saturated fats come in three subgroups: short, medium and long chain fatty acids. Each subgroup is vastly different and offer different benefits metabolically, biologically and nutritionally.
What is often lost in the great debate over saturated fats is the fact that not all subgroups of saturated fats are created equal. Coconut oil happens to be 62% medium chain fatty acid (MCFA)which actually makes it healthier than unsaturated fats which are mostly composed of long chain fatty acids. MCFA put less strain on the digestive system by requiring less energy and enzymes for absorption. MCFA are also transported directly to the liver where they are consumed as an energy source. They aid in the absorption and retention of calcium, magnesium and amino acids and has also been shown to benefit thyroid function. Aside from all of the biological systems that are benefited by MCFA, modern research indicates that some MCFA (Coconut Oil included) benefit and strengthen the immune system and aid in fighting bacteria, fungus and viruses in the body.
My absolute favorite "talking point" about Coconut Oil is the majority presence of Lauric Acid (48% of the MCFA in CO). The antimicrobial benefits of Lauric Acid was noted in 1966 by Dr Jon Kabara. In the last several years we have learned even more about its powerful and beneficial benefit of fighting bacterial and viral infections. Lauric Acid converts to Monolaurin once digested. Monolaurin is attracted to viruses, attaches itself to them and then breaks the fluid membrane open, killing the virus.
The powerful benefits of the MCFA in Coconut oil is found in only one other natural product and that is a human mother's milk. The benefits of monolaurin have been documented with dental care, HIV/AIDS, Herpes, liver disease, Hepatitis C, and Prostatic Hyperplasia.
The fact is in the scientific literature that Coconut oil boosts the immune system and provides benefits only found in breastmilk. It also has not shown to raise cholesterol, heart disease or obesity. It is consumed predominantly in countries whose rates of each of these health issues is dwarfed by those of the US. I guess the choice is yours. Do you want to cook in and consume unsaturated fats which are seriously inferior to the benefits of coconut oil? I for one will continue to cook in and consume coconut oil knowing that it is not only tasty but is providing myself and my nursling healthful benefits.
Links for more information on Coconut Oil:
Coconut Oil Research
More Coconut Oil Research