The internet became obsessed with coconut oil. People started to believe that it falls under the category of superfoods. Numerous studies have praised it and confirmed its benefits. Still, there are many questions and concerns around it as to how beneficial it actually is. While some are convinced that coconut oil has multiple health benefits, others claim that it does more harm than good.
When it comes to nutritional facts, coconut oil has 862 calories per 100 grams and is 99% fat, with 90% saturated, 9% unsaturated fats, and 1% plant sterols and other fat-dissolving chemicals. Saturated fats are chemically prone to change when heated, but compared to polyunsaturated fatty acids, they create less harmful compounds (aldehydes). Once ingested, they are metabolized quickly, but they might build up in the body and lead to high levels of bad cholesterol.
The only controversy surrounding coconut oil is that its fats are a bit less harmful than those found in butter or beef. Nevertheless, people globally seem to love its aroma and notice more benefits than adverse effects.
Coconut Oil for Healthier Teeth and Gums
Coconut oil has antimicrobial components, such as lauric acid. Lauric acid is proved to be the most effective when it comes to fighting harmful bacteria in the mouth. It’s especially useful in killing streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus bacteria that cause tooth decay. Coconut oil also reduces plaque and fights gingivitis. Oil pulling with coconut oil for only seven days results in a significant decrease in plaque.
Coconut Oil Helps Treat Itchy Scalp and Moisturizes Dry Skin
Coconut oil helps maintain moisture in the hair. It’s great for itchy scalp, against dandruff, hair loss, and frizz. Since it’s rich in fatty acids and antioxidants and has antifungal properties, coconut oil is beneficial for the skin too. It can fight skin allergies, rashes, yeast infections, and dermatitis. Its hydrating effects are perfect for dry skin. It can also be used for oily skin as a face mask. Rubbing coconut oil on cuticles and brittle nails helps to keep them healthy and strong. It also serves as excellent makeup removal.
Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties of Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil
We’ve already mentioned the lauric acid and the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of coconut oil, but there’s more. Aside from lauric, coconut oil contains capric, myristic, palmitic, and other acids. Some are used in beauty products since they benefit the skin. The way these acids work is by disrupting the bacterial, fungal, and viral cell membranes, leading to cell death. While the research proves that lauric acid doesn’t have the same potential as antibiotics, it can still be used in the treatment of moderate skin infections due to the low risk of side effects.
Coconut Oil Boosts Metabolism
Medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil can help boost metabolism and increase energy levels. Four studies have confirmed the correlation between decreased weight and fat reduction and coconut oil consumption. Even though some studies lacked information, control groups, and were somewhat biased, the overall results were positive. It’s important to note that only virgin coconut oil should be used, as it’s most beneficial. Those who use it should pay special attention to caloric intake since coconut oil is high in calories.
The Versatility of Coconut Oil
To keep your teeth and gums healthy, start oil pulling. It’s a technique where you put a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and then slowly swoosh it around for at least 15 minutes. Be careful, though—it will become liquid in your mouth, but can turn solid again once you spit it out. Therefore, don’t spit it out directly in the sink. Instead, use a bag that you’ll throw away later. You can also make toothpaste with coconut oil by mixing half a cup of coconut oil, two tablespoons of baking soda, and about ten drops of peppermint essential oil.
When it comes to using coconut oil in the kitchen, it’s very versatile. Thanks to its high level of saturated fats, coconut oil can withstand higher temperatures, which makes it perfect for sautéing, baking, roasting, or frying. It has a strong flavor and is a favorite among vegans since it’s an excellent alternative to butter. It pairs well with vegetables, meat, fish, or eggs.
Coconut oil can also be mixed into sauces and salad dressings and can be used with spices for coating the meat or poultry before baking. When it comes to baked goods, it should be used when melted, while all other ingredients should be at room temperature to prevent the batter from clumping. Coconut oil is slow to oxidize and can last up to six months.
Adding coconut oil to coffee, tea, or smoothies can be another way of consuming it. It also enhances the flavor of beverages but increases the number of calories in the drink. Use smaller amounts at first, no more than one tablespoon, and make sure the oil is incorporated well. You can also add it to the blender and blend it with other ingredients of your choice.
Risks Related to Coconut Oil Consumption
Many people ignore potential risks when it comes to coconut oil. Unfortunately, as with any other supplement, some side effects may occur, such as headache, dizziness, swollen glands, joint and muscle pain, upset stomach, or some skin conditions. That’s why it’s recommended to start small and never go over the maximum daily intake of two tablespoons or 30 ml. As with any other oil, avoid refined and opt for virgin type.
Coconut oil can be found in almost every kitchen pantry today. While some people use it to moisturize their skin or keep their teeth healthy, others use it as a food supplement—especially athletes who are on a ketogenic diet. Many studies have shown that the use of coconut oil can be beneficial in the treatment of skin allergies, rashes, yeast infections, dermatitis, and other mild skin conditions. As always, moderate intake is the best option (no more than 30 ml a day).
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