A superior cooking oil, coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that combats Alzheimer's disease, obesity, insulin resistance and hypertension, all risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Coconut oil imparts amazing benefits when used in nutritional applications, but it can also be used in the bathroom, replacing many products that are laced with harmful chemicals. As a cleanser and moisturizer, coconut oil moisturizes and hydrates. A natural antimicrobial and antibacterial, it’s also a great deodorant and foot fungus fighter. On bruises, it speeds up healing in damaged tissues.
2 Kinds of Coconut Oil - Commercial Grade and Virgin
The relatively recent interest in the many uses of coconut oil also elicits questions regarding its production. There are two basic types: Commercial-grade and virgin coconut oil. Commercial grade coconut oil is made from copra, which is the dried meat of the coconut. It's usually smoke-, sun- or kiln-dried or a combination of the three. But when standard copra is used to make coconut oil, it's not sterile and therefore unsuitable for human consumption.
It's "purified" or refined through a process known as RBD — refined, bleached and deodorized. According to Coconutdiet.com: "High heat is used to deodorize the oil, and the oil is typically filtered through (bleaching) clays to remove impurities. Sodium hydroxide is generally used to remove free fatty acids and prolong shelf life. This is the most common way to mass-produce coconut oil. The older way of producing refined coconut oil was through physical/mechanical refining. More modern methods also use chemical solvents to extract all the oil from the copra for higher yields."
In comparison, like olive oil, Virgin coconut oil is best when "first-pressed" and "virgin." Like pressing a teabag that's been steeping in boiled water a few minutes, the first water released will contain the most actual extracts. The second time it's pressed, as in the teabag analogy, the result isn't as concentrated. Coconutdiet.com continues: "Virgin Coconut Oil can only be achieved by using fresh coconut meat or what is called non-copra. Chemicals and high heating are not used in further refining, since the natural, pure coconut oil is very stable with a shelf life of several years. There are currently two main processes of manufacturing Virgin Coconut Oil:
- Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil. Using this method, minimal heat is used to quick dry the coconut meat, and the oil is then pressed out via mechanical means.
- Wet-milling. With this method, the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first. 'Coconut milk' is expressed first by pressing.
- The oil is then further separated from the water. Methods which can be used to separate the oil from the water include boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzymes and mechanical centrifuge."
Healing Properties of Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil has been described as having a "haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor (and) even milder and richer-tasting than butter." A New York Times article noted that coconut oil, while once demonized by the "all saturated fats are bad for you" camp, has now become accepted: "The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two. Any number of health claims have been made for lauric acid. According to proponents, it's a wonder substance with possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties that could also, in theory, combat H.I.V., clear up acne and speed up your metabolism."
Even applied topically, coconut oil has healing properties. One interesting factoid is that while antiperspirants containing aluminum are associated with Alzheimer's, coconut oil actually prevents it because of the medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are easily absorbed and metabolized by the liver and can convert to ketones. One study noted:
"Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain, and may be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer's disease (AD) … (It may also) be beneficial in the treatment of obesity, dyslipidaemia, elevated LDL, insulin resistance and hypertension — these are the risk factors for (heart disease) and type 2 diabetes, and also for AD."
Alzheimer's is projected to affect 1 in 4 Americans in the next generation, rivaling obesity and diabetes, but evidence suggests that ketone bodies in coconut oil may help restore and renew neurons and nerve function in your brain, even after damage has set in.
Unhealthy Alternatives to Coconut Oil
Regarding coconut oil in the kitchen, even as a household cleaner, there are a few points to consider:
- Virgin coconut oil has a smoke point of 350 degrees, so for cooking, it's best used at lower temperatures. Olive oil overcooks even as low as 250 degrees, which may cause oxidization, doing your body more harm than good.
- You can substitute coconut oil for butter or olive oil, and most definitely instead of so-called vegetable oils. Here's why: Multiple studies reveal coconut oil to impart amazing benefits when used in nutritional applications. One of the most dramatic changes you can make in your health will be to replace the so-called "healthy" vegetable, soy, corn and cottonseed oils such as canola when sautéing food or baking cake or cookies.
- It's interesting to note that Polynesian populations, who've been using full-fat coconut oil as a diet staple for untold generations, have no heart disease to speak of. Why? It's a direct contradiction to what conventional medicine touted for a few decades, that saturated fats are bad for you, and will lead to obesity, high cholesterol levels, heart disease and Alzheimer's.
The truth is, saturated fat like that of coconut oil and olive oil is natural, not the concocted substances created in a laboratory using methods like hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation that convert polyunsaturated fatty acids to trans fats. Vegetable and seed oils undergo the double whammy of hydrogen atoms and high heat, creating a cheaper oil with a long shelf life that's very bad for your health.
Further, when vegetable oils are heated to a high temperature, the chemical compounds break down, get "stuck" in your cells, oxidize and create dangerous free radicals that lead to disease, including heart disease and cancer.