27 AUG 2014 / LEARN

Coconut oil is more than just a superfood

One of the truly remarkable turnarounds in dietary advice in recent years has been the return into vogue of coconut oil. Once derided as "unhealthy" because of its high saturated fat content (over 90 percent), further studies and publicity from books such as "The Coconut Oil Miracle" by Bruce Fife has transformed thinking on the coconut oil's health properties.

Indeed coconut oil -- far from being considered a health risk -- is now thought of as being highly beneficial, not just to the diet, but also for body care needs. Known as the healthiest dietary oil on the planet, coconut oil has been shown to improve digestion; increase the body's natural immunity; provide protection from heart disease; help control blood sugar and diabetes among a whole host of benefits.

But this remarkable oil is more than a superfood and has properties which make it useful in a range of diverse categories such as the following:

•    Weight loss
•    Dental hygiene (Oil pulling)
•    Pet health and maintenance
•    Cooking

Weight loss

Central to the dramatic about turns for coconut products -- including coconut oil -- has been the change from health experts' advice that it was likely to contribute to weight gain to its now accepted status as being a product that helps in removing weight.

How did this occur? The basis for the almost complete turnaround has been a better understanding of the fats that make up coconut oil. What makes coconut oil so fundamentally different from others is that it is the highest natural source of medium and short-chain fatty acids. According to Bruce Fife, whose research has done as much as any expert to increase the awareness of the health benefits of coconut oil, it is the presence of these fatty acids that sets coconut oil from the rest and "...gives them their incredible health promoting properties".

Coconut oil also increases the body's metabolism. The medium chain fatty acids actually act to shift the body's metabolism to a higher gear thereby causing the body to burn more calories. This truly remarkable property of coconut oil means it is a type of fat that can actually help promote weight loss.

Oil pulling

Oil pulling is actually an ancient form of medicine with its roots in Indian folk medicine. Using mostly sesame or sunflower oil as a mouthwash, oil pulling has been used to help rid the mouth of dangerous bacteria which are removed into the oil. However coconut oil has become more popular in this process in recent times, as its anti-bacterial properties have become more well known.

This is due to the lauric acid -- the oil's main form of saturated fat. Using coconut oil to wash around the mouth for 10-20 minutes will help remove bacteria that causes tooth decay and harmful plaque buildup.

We'll have more on oil pulling in coming weeks.

Coconut oil for pets

The health benefits of coconut oil is not just restricted to humans though. It may be used both internally and externally and helps pets (such as dogs) with their digestion, energy levels and any skin maladies. Pets also benefit from regularly applying coconut oil to the skin and coat to promote healthy looks and help prevent ticks and lice from taking hold. Coconut oil taken internally will help manage weight gain and improve the skin and coat.

It is also possible to loosen matted hair using coconut oil rubbed into the skin, making it easier to remove before it becomes a real problem for the pet. Aussie Health Products stocks the Banaban Pet Tonic Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for pet owners, a high quality oil designed for animal use.

Cooking

As well as its many health benefits coconut oil is also extremely stable during the cooking process. This is because of its high smoking point (175 degrees Celsius), much higher than monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils which oxidise at high temperatures creating harmful free radicals.

Just about all foods may be cooked below this temperature including stir fries and fried food and coconut oil will not only be a healthier choice for this form of cooking but also will add a unique taste to the food.

Latest research has dispelled previous misconceptions about coconut oil as a harmful fat and it has benefitted from research which shows sugar as being the chief dietary culprit in our diet (see our sugar articles Part One and Two).

Further studies comparing populations from the Pacific Islands who subsisted on coconut as a main part of their diet have shown the lack of many present day maladies such as diabetes and high blood pressure. This has unfortunately changed as the traditional Pacific diet has been replaced in many island communities by the Western diet.

Unfairly criticised in the past for its high saturated fat content, coconut oil has now become one of the key "superfoods" which is gaining in popularity in the Western diet as people recognise not just its health benefits but also its great taste. Aussie Health Products has a range of healthy coconut oil products for both human and pet consumption and use. Contact us here for more details.

Interested in more about coconut oil. Check out these titles -

Coconut Oil Books

Miranda Gray

Article by Miranda Gray

Miranda has a background in health and wellness, and is the founder of Aussie Health Products.

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