Coconut Oil


Coconut Oil—the Most Stable Oil for Cooking and a Aid to Metabolism and Weight Loss

Unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil is one of my favorite oil for cooking because, of all generally available oils, it is the most highly saturated.  Coconut oil is 90 percent saturated, which means it holds up well to high heat, thus limiting the risk of free radical damage.  Coconut oil is also an extremely rich source of anti-microbial lauric acid (a protective component also found in mother’s milk).  In addition, unlike animal fats, coconut oil contains no cholesterol (coconut trees, of course, have no liver, hence, no cholesterol).

 

 

Composition of Nut and Seed Oils1:Saturated Fats and Omega Oils
Unsaturated: Super- Poly- Mono-
Name Omega-3 Omega-6 Omega-9 Saturated Lauric
Use: (Table Use) (Table Use) (Low-temp). (Cooking) Acid
Flax 58% 14% 19% 9% 0
Evening Primrose 0 81 11 8 0
Sesame 0 45 42 13 0
Peanut 0 31 49 20 0
Rape (Canola) 7 30 54 7 0
Almond 0 17 78 5 0
Olive 0 8 76 16 0
Avocado 0 10 70 20 0
Coconut* 0 3 6 91 44
Palm Kernel* 0 2 13 85 47
Safflower 0 75 13 12 0
Sunflower 0 65 23 12 0
Corn 0 59 24 17 0
Soybean 7 50 26 15 0
Wheat Germ 5 50 25 18 0
Pumpkin 7 50 34 9 0
Pecan 0 20 63 7 0
Cashew 0 6 70 18 0

 

Why is it that coconut oil so highly saturated?  Most likely in hot tropical climates nature had to design the coconut tree for the leaf to have sufficient body to withstand intense heat.  Tropical oils—coconut and palm kernel oil—are, therefore, in a category all their own:

 

Of all fats and oils, coconut and palm kernel oils are the only available sources of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs).  In contrast to long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) found in most animal fats and in seed oils like corn, soy, and canola, MCFAs metabolize rapidly as a quick source of energy, so their calories are less likely to be stored as fat.  Studies show that MCFAs aid in weight loss because they boost energy and metabolism.2   Because coconut oil can increase energy, body temperature, and metabolism, it can be an effective therapy for people who are hypothyroid.  A tablespoon can also be added to a cup of hot water to provide heat and energy, an especially soothing remedy for cold winter days or in over-chilled buildings during the summer months.  Apart from cooking, coconut oil can be used at the table—simply drizzle it over vegetables, grains, and soups to boost metabolism, sustain energy, and add extra flavor.

 

Coconut and palm kernel oil were given bad names by the food industry in the early decades of the postwar period when food companies wanted to switch to cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oils.   Palm kernel oil is still used by the food industry, usually as hydrogenated palm kernel oil.  When you purchase coconut oil, be sure to select unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil.  Reliable brands are available at most health food stores.

 

Copyright 2011 Pathways4Health.org

  1. Many of these oils are not available in healthy, unrefined versions.  Listing them here does not suggest we recommend their use. []
  2. St-Onge, M.P, & Jones, P.J.H, 2002.  Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides:  potential agents in the prevention of obesity.  Journal of Nutrition, 132 (3): 329-332. []