Coconuts oil has long been shunned by people in the health arena because it is high in saturated fat. Like butter, the saturated fat in coconut oil and other foods has received a bad rap because it is thought to be a cause of heart attacks and other cholesterol-related health maladies. But we are learning more about the benefits of saturated fat and specifically the health advantages this wonderful product gives us. The benefits are known to include improving skin health and metabolic health, and now boosting liver health. But there are a few caveats that we must be aware of.
The first of those caveats is to understand just what healthy coconut oil is. The healthy oil that we are talking about is derived from the coconut’s meat. This virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh mature coconuts without using any high temperatures or chemicals. Refined coconut oil is to be avoided at all costs; it is not healthy because the partial hydrogenation process creates Trans fats, which are known to contribute to bad cholesterol levels and heart attack and strokes. So be sure that it is not partially hydrogenated, and that goes for any other food you eat.
So how did the saturated fat in this oil suddenly become so good for us? New research has found that coconut oil is unusual because it is a medium-chain fatty acid. These fatty acids have unique chemical structures which allow them to digest more easily than regular saturated fat. In other words, these fats can be absorbed intact and used by the liver directly for energy. This can help prevent liver disease by reducing the liver’s workload and by preventing fat accumulation in the liver. Fatty liver disease is one of the primary causes of liver issues in people today.
There are some things to consider when adding coconut oil to your diet. Some people are allergic to coconuts and others when first taking this oil might have nausea or gastric discomfort. It is also necessary to use in moderation. It is still a saturated fat, and even though we are disproving the strong link between saturated fats and heart attacks, they still must be taken in moderation. USDA dietary guidelines at this time still suggest completely avoiding saturated fats, but again tests are causing us to take another look at this. According to experts people can safely substitute coconut oil for up to 50% of their dietary fat. As good as it is it does not contain all of the essential fatty acids necessary for good health, so other fats should be included in the diet.
So how do you get coconut oil into your diet? Primarily it should be a valuable kitchen staple for cooking. It has a smoke point of about 350°F, or about the same as extra virgin olive oil and quite a bit higher than butter. The smoke point of your cooking oil is important; as it is the temperature at which the oil decomposes and where possibly toxic compounds are formed, so look for certified organic. Organic virgin coconut oil has a pronounced coconut flavor with a soft coconut aroma that most people will really enjoy.
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