Why I Love Coconuts (and You Should, Too!): Part 1

Coconut Oil

For many years coconuts have been vilified for their high saturated fat content.  Perhaps we’ve been too quick to judge…

Saturated fat is an important building block of every cell in the human body.  But, not all saturated fat is created equal.  The saturated fats produced by plant sources, like coconuts, can actually enhance our health, balance our cholesterol, and reduce our risk of heart disease.

But how is this possible?  I thought coconuts were bad for me…

Saturated Fat and Your Waistline

When it comes to saturated fats, bigger isn’t better.  Long chain fats, like those produced by animals almost always go into fat storage.  Plants, on the other hand, produce much shorter and more accessible medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).  These shorter chain fatty acids are prime energy sources for your cells and actually stimulate your metabolism.  When available, they are easily absorbed and readily used by your cells for energy, instead of being stored.  The presence of this type of fuel source allows you maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day.  Consuming MCT’s also regulates hunger by keeping you satiated, helps your body relearn how to burn fat as a fuel source, and ultimately assists with your fat loss goals.

Funny, isn’t it?  For so many years we’ve been told eating fat will make you fat when research is now showing us the exact opposite.  You actually need to eat fat to burn fat.

Coconut Oil and Your Immune System

Coconut oil is one of the densest sources of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid.  When lauric acid is present in the body, it is converted into monolaurin, a compound which exhibits antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties by disrupting the lipid membranes of organisms like fungus, bacteria and viruses, destroying them.

Without a plentiful source of lauric acid, the body cannot produce monolaurin, and all of these important benefits are lost.  Pure coconut oil contains about 50 percent lauric acid and is the most abundant natural source available, second only to human breast milk.  It is the high concentration of lauric acid in human breast milk that is likely a factor in the decreased numbers of infections of all types seen in breast-fed babies.

Coconut Oil, Healthy Hair & Healthy Skin

Moisturize your skin from the inside out and the outside in with coconut oil.  Increased fats in your diet keep your skin balanced and your hair glossy without any extra lotions or conditioners.  Need a little extra moisture when your hair or skin is feeling dry?  Try coconut oil as a moisturizer or leave-in conditioner.

The saturated fat and lauric acid content of coconut oil makes it an ideal facial moisturizer.  It is deeply nourishing while discouraging bacterial growth – thereby preventing pimples – on your skin.  Continued use encourages a youthful glow and promotes skin elasticity for a smoother complexion. But don’t leave out the rest of your body!  The intense moisture provided by coconut oil is perfect for elbows, heels, and knees along with shoulders, backs and legs.  Just remember, a little goes a long way!

Get this 16 oz jar of organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil at Trader Joe’s for $5.99.

Is your hair feeling particularly thirsty? Try warming a pea size dollop of coconut oil in your hands and applying to the ends of dry hair.  Need more moisture?  Warm 2-3 tablespoons and spread through your hair concentrating on the ends.  Wrap your head in a hot towel for 30 min and wash as usual.  Is dandruff or dry scalp and issue?  Concentrate the warm oil on your scalp and massage in thoroughly.  Leave for 10 minutes then wash your hair as usual.

The best parts of using coconut oil as a beauty care product?  It is all natural – you know exactly what you are putting on your skin and hair, no chemicals!  It smells great – like you are on vacation sitting on the beach in the sun and it is inexpensive.

Getting More Coconut Oil into Your Diet

In order to reap the greatest benefits coconut oil has to offer, integrate 3 tablespoons of coconut oil into your diet daily.  Right now you may be thinking, hold on – this is a huge amount of calories I am adding to my daily intake.  And, you are correct.  However, coconut oil, like all fats is a powerful appetite controlling agent.  You will likely find that, with this increased fat intake, your hunger levels and calorie intake decrease.

So, how can you get those 3 tablespoons in?

Try cooking with coconut oil.  Unlike olive oil and other oils liquid at room temperature, coconut oil is solid at room temperature.  This makes it ideal for cooking at high temperatures without worrying about creating cancer-causing chemicals.  It has a very mild flavor and compliments most dishes.  Try replacing butter with coconut oil in any of your recipes.

In fact, coconut oil is so delicious you can eat it right out of the jar.  A friend of mine uses a small handful of almonds as mini scoops for her coconut oil.  Since it is solid at room temperature and liquid at body temperature, it is shelf stable for months, even years, in the right conditions.  For the highest quality look for an organic, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil like these from Amazon.com.

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