Coconut oil has shot to the top of the trendy ingredients chart in the last few years and has been hailed as a superfood by celebrity chefs and bloggers. So what’s the deal, what’s the lowdown? Why is coconut oil good for you when it is high in saturated fat?
Let’s have a look.
Saturated fat was always the baddie. The one that drew the sharp intake of breath and appeared in the same sentence as the words ‘dicky heart’ and ‘cholesterol’. The one, the medical profession said, would clog up your arteries – create strokes, heart disease and angina.
Why is coconut oil good for you when it’s 90% saturated fat?
But let’s not get hasty. All is not equal in the saturated fat world. Fatty acids are the basic building blocks of fats. All fats (saturated or otherwise) can be sorted into groups according to their molecular structure and the number of carbon atoms (I know… zzz, deja vu double chemistry when I was 16).
- Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) have fewer than 6 carbon atoms.
- Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) have between 6 and 12 carbon atoms.
- Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs) have more than 12 carbons atoms.
LCFAs take a long time to break down and have to be digested along with enzymes from the liver, therefore not quickly available for energy. They are also more likely to be stored as fat. Double trouble.
SCFAs and MCFAs are fats which are very easily digested, quickly absorbed into the blood stream and readily available for energy (rather than skulking off to be stored as fat).
Lauric Acid and Capric Acid are two such medium chain fatty acids.
(Oooh, things are looking up…)
…and both are powerful zappers of bacteria and virus. They permeate cell membranes quickly and get to work jolly sharpish, doing their good deeds and stimulating the body’s metabolism which we all know leads to increased body efficiency and decreased levels of body fat.
50% of the fat contained in coconut oil is lauric acid. Bingo!
But it doesn’t stop there. Stick with it… this is riveting.
MCFAs are converted in the liver into ketones. This all happens quite swiftly, as there isn’t the need for it to be mixed with bile (as long chain fats are)… hence the process is quicker. Your liver will then chuck the ketones into the bloodstream and they head for the brain as fuel. It appears from research that that ketones are the preferred fuel for the brains of patients who are suffering from Alzheimers.
So, next time someone queries the sat fat content of Coconut Oil, you can tell them that half of the fat is Lauric Acid which is a do-gooder in the fat world and will help keep them not only healthy, but firing on all cylinders. Bandy the medium chain thingy around too, that’ll raise an eyebrow.
Quick Summary Of Glorious Coconut Oil:
- It increases our levels of good cholesterol, and helps turn the bad cholesterol into the good version.
- Because it is metabolised quicker in the body than other longer chain fats, it provides pretty much instant energy. Add a teaspoon to your morning porridge, to your coffee or your protein shake.
- It fights many types of bacteria and virus.
- Current research shows it can help with the prevention of brain disorders such as Alzheimers.
- It aids weight loss. It increases the metabolic rate and isn’t readily stored as fat, thanks to its convertibility to ketones.
- And plaster it on your hair, your shins, cuticles… anywhere that’s dry and crispy and you will wonder where it’s been all your life
But Let’s Not Diss The Rest…
Olive Oil is great for drizzling (not frying, it destroys the valuable omega 3 essential fat).
Rapeseed Oil is also good for frying and drizzling (depends whether you think the flavour is a bit strong).
Both contain monounsaturated fats which help raise levels of HDL (the good stuff which sweeps up excess cholesterol and prevents it from clogging up your tubes).
- Transfats – These are trans fatty acids which have been artificially (bit of a clue in that word) formed when oil undergoes a process of hydrogenation. These can be found in processed foods.
- You don’t need much of any of these fats. At 9 calories per gram, fat is very calorie dense, so easy on the glugging.
- 5g is one teaspoon, that’s enough to cook your family’s meat dish and provides around 45 calories.
- For drizzling, just add one teaspoon of olive oil over your salad with a big squirt of fresh lemon juice.
So there you have it. Some things are not quite as they seem Coconut oil is good for you!