In an attempt to eat healthier and reduce the intake of foods that contribute to the development of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, people are increasingly having a difficult time in choosing a healthy fat to cook with. Of course, the monounsaturated fat in olive oil makes it a healthy choice, but it is best used in dressings and other dishes that are not cooked, as the high heat used during cooking damages the oil’s delicate fats and can generate unhealthy free radicals that have been shown to cause damage to our body’s cells. Other vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which we already get too much of in our Western diet. In addition, most vegetable oils have been damaged in the refining process, making them more easily prone to free-radical production when they are used in cooking. So what oil can you cook with that will not harm your health? Coconut oil!
Why Coconut Oil Is Better for Cooking
Of all the vegetable-based oils, coconut oil is the best to cook with. The reason coconut oil is so beneficial to use in cooking is that it has a relatively higher smoke point (the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke). This makes the oil more stable and not prone to the production of free radicals. It also provides a slight sweet and nutty flavor, which complements many different kinds of stir-fried dishes, particularly Indian and Asian cooking.
Better Than Antibiotics
Coconut oil possesses the highest amount of natural lauric acid of any food. Lauric acid is a healthy medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) that has been shown to have significant antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. It works by destroying the lipid membranes of pathogens, effectively killing them. The only other source of lauric acid that is comparable is in breast milk, which is one of the reasons why breast-fed babies are healthier than their formula-fed counterparts. Studies have shown that coconut oil is more effective in killing many antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as MRSA than the strongest antibiotics.
Guards Against Heart Disease and Obesity
The high amount of saturated fat in coconut oil (92%) does not negatively affect health. In fact, in those populations who have the highest amount of coconut oil intake, such as people from the Pacific Islands, cardiovascular disease is practically unknown. Levels of “good” HDL cholesterol are improved with an increase in coconut oil consumption, while at the same time, levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol are decreased. It also has healthy levels of antioxidant polyphenols, which work to remove cell-damaging free radicals from the body.
Not all saturated fats are alike. Coconut oil’s MCFAs are smaller and more easily broken down than the long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) that are found in most other vegetable oils. This means that they are quickly broken down by the liver and used for energy, without causing insulin to spike and speeding up the metabolism. LCFAs on the other hand, tend to be stored immediately as fat. One study found that a meal rich in MCFAs increased metabolism by 48 percent, on average. Not only that, in obese subjects, this same meal increased their metabolism by as much as 65 percent. So coconut oil can be an effective aid in helping the obese attain a healthy weight.
Coconut Oil for Healthy Hair and Skin
Coconut oil is not only healthy when eaten, it is beneficial to the hair and skin as well. It is an excellent product to massage into the scalp if you have dandruff, as it not only provides moisture to a dry scalp, but its antifungal properties attack the root cause of problem dandruff, which is fungal infection. It also gives the hair itself plenty of shine.
When coconut oil is used on the skin, its medium-chain fatty acids allow it to penetrate deeply into the dermal layer, providing a layer of protection to the skin and reducing the amount of damage from free radicals. It also protects the skin from UV damage by up to 20 percent and can be used to help treat skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.