Coconut oil is enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to its healthful reputation. Here's 'oil' you need to know about this real food ingredient and why it makes a great alternative to conventional cooking oils.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is an extremely versatile fat which is derived from the white meat or flesh of the coconut. This can be fresh or "copra", dried coconut kernels.
As the oil can be extracted by cold pressing or squeezing, coconut oil can be completely unrefined without the need for intense processing or high heat treatment.
Coconut oil is a white, solid fat which begins to melt at temperatures of around 25C. It has a higher smoke point which makes it ideal for using in high-heat cooking such as roasting, baking and frying.
Uniquely for an oil, it's delicate flavour and buttery texture also mean that coconut oil is a favourite in sweet recipes as well as savoury. It is a great alternative fat to use in baking, for people who do not include dairy in their diet.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is extracted from real coconuts, which means that it enjoys some of the same nutritional benefits as coconuts themselves.
Here are some of the main health benefits of coconut oil.
🥥 Source of healthy fats
Coconut oil is 100% fat and around 90% saturated fat. It is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). In fact, MCTs are found in coconut oil in higher concentrations than any other food.
MCTs have a shorter chemical structure which means that they are easier to absorb and are rapidly used as energy in the body. Studies have shown this can increase satiety, improve metabolism and prevent fat storage.
As a pure, natural fat with zero carbs, coconut oil is a great source of energy for Low Carb, High Fat diets such as Paleo and Keto.
🥥 Antimicrobial & Antibacterial properties
Research has shown that the fatty acid composition of virgin coconut oil, particularly its high Lauric acid content, can help to fight harmful microorganisms.
Studies have found that coconut oil is both antimicrobial and antibacterial, helping to prevent bacteria from multiplying, as well as even killing off bad bacteria altogether.
This is so much so that coconut oil has been deemed as a safe and effective alternative to mouthwash, killing bacteria found in plaque to promote oral hygiene. Coconut oil has also been shown to destroy harmful bacteria in the gut and within skin.
🥥 Boost energy levels
MCTs found in coconut oil are rapidly transported to the liver where they are efficiently used as energy. This is a process more similar to carbohydrate digestion than fat digestion - which is usually slower and less efficient.
This means that coconut oil is a great source of energy for athletes or anyone into their fitness, as well as a good alternative to carbohydrate energy for anyone following a Low Carb diet such as Keto or Paleo.
🥥 Promotes weight loss
Swapping refined veg oils for coconut oil may be a good swap for anyone who would like to maintain a healthy weight.
This is because coconut oil typically contains a higher amount of short and medium chain fatty acids.
The more rapid digestion of these fats, particularly MCTs, increases ketone production. Ketones are molecules which have been shown to increase satiety by lowering levels of ghrelin - a hormone which signals hunger to the brain.
Therefore, by reducing hunger and so food intake, coconut oil could be helpful to anyone trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight in the long-term.
🥥 Glowing skin & shiny hair
As well as helping us to feel good from within, coconut oil can also be applied topically to help us look our best.
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory which helps to reduce skin redness and breakouts. Applied to skin, it creates a protective layer which is hydrating and also helps to protect our skin's natural oils.
Using coconut oil to pamper your hair helps to lock in moisture in both the hair and scalp, for stronger and shinier hair. Some research has also shown that coconut oil can accelerate hair growth.
What's more, making coconut oil part of your daily beauty regime will help to reduce the need for synthetic, chemical-filled and unnatural cosmetic products - which is great news for the planet too.
🥥 Natural & Unrefined
As well as what you will find in coconut oil, it is also a healthy choice based on what you won't!
Choosing an unrefined or virgin coconut oil means that there is just one ingredient - coconut oil. This is cold pressed so does not undergo any high heat treatment, which can alter the fatty acid profile of oils and create inflammation in the body.
It also means that coconut oil does not need to be bleached, deodorised or subjected to any harmful chemical additives. These are often used to improve the colour and texture if refined veg and rapeseed oils.
Therefore, coconut oil is a great store cupboard swap for less healthful oils like rapeseed. You can learn more on this below:
👉 Is rapeseed oil unhealthy and inflammatory?
👉 Is rapeseed oil the same as canola oil?
👉 The best canola oil substitutes for cooking
Is Coconut Oil Paleo Friendly?
Unrefined or virgin coconut oils are a welcome addition to your Paleo diet. They are a great alternative to inflammatory and heavily processed oils such as refined veg and seed oils. Coconut oil is also ideal for using in sweet recipes as an alternative to butter, to replace dairy in a Paleo diet.
Always be sure to check that your coconut oil is virgin or unrefined, to rule out any processing such as bleaching, deodorising, neutralising and degumming. These are methods used to produce poorer quality coconut oils, which are not only less nutritionally beneficial but are also unsuitable for Paleo lifestyles.
Is Coconut Oil Keto Friendly?
Yes! As a pure fat, coconut oil is a great way to increase your fat intake on a Keto Diet without intaking any incidental carbs.
MCTs found in coconut oil are also readily converted into ketones, helping to keep the body in ketosis - the main aim of a ketogenic diet.
You can use coconut oil or MCT oil to make your own Keto fat bombs, for a boost of energy you can enjoy on the move. Check out the recipe below for some inspiration.
👉 Chocolate coconut MCT oil fat bomb recipe
Coconut Oil vs MCT Oil: What's the difference?
Coconut oil and MCT oil are sometimes used interchangeably but it is important to recognise that they are different.
Although coconut oil is a good source of MCTs, it also contains some other fatty acids which are not as beneficial.
On the other hand, MCT oil is an extraction of pure MCTs from coconut oil - so it is 100% MCTs and nothing else. Therefore, owing to more potent health benefits which are associated solely with the MCT aspect of coconut oil.
You can learn more about the difference between coconut and MCT oil in our article below:
👉 MCT Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Which is best?
We now know about coconut oil what we have also learned about red meat - not all fats are created equal and not all saturated fats are bad for us. In fact, including coconut oil in your diet can provide a number of health benefits, especially when combined with a Low Carb diet like Keto or Paleo. To obtain the benefits of coconut oil and MCTs in particular, try adding a glug of Hunter & Gather MCT Oil to your real food recipes.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.