Health Benefits of Cooking with Coconut Oil

Discover the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil. Over the past few decades, coconut oil has been demonized as a saturated fat, which is connected with an increased rate of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity.

Image by Phu Thinh Co
Image by Phu Thinh Co

Good news . . . recent research has shown that different types of saturated fats have different effects; some are dangerous and should be avoided, while others are actually beneficial. Coconut oil falls into the second category.

Studies conducted with populations such as the Polynesian islands of Pukapuka, and Tokelau – all of which consume a high amount of pure coconut oil, making up 30% – 60% of their daily calories, show that they are primarily free from cardiovascular diseases. The main source of energy for both these groups is coconut oil, 34% for the Pukapuka dwellers, and 63% for the Tokelau dwellers. In spite of the high amount of “saturated fat” intake, no evidence was found that could link the intake to vascular diseases. In fact, they are extremely rare in both the populations.

Now that we are aware that there is very little, if any, health danger from cooking with coconut oil, let’s look at the advantages it offers over other cooking oils.

Vegetables oils are hydrogenated to reduce the chance of rancidity and prolong their shelf life. This is primarily done to increase profits for the manufacturers, but has no nutritional benefits to the consumer. In fact, partially hydrogenated oils contain trans-fats, which decrease the cholesterol levels of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and increase the levels of the Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), which can block arteries and cause strokes.

Image by Beth

Almost 50% of the fat in coconut oil is a fatty acid called lauric acid, which increases the good cholesterol (HDL) levels in the body, more than other type of fatty acid. In the body, lauric acid is converted to a compound called monolaurin, which has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-protozoa and anti-viral properties. This may be the reason behind the overall superior health of populations who consume coconut oil.

Other than coconut oil, the only other natural source of such high concentrations of lauric acid is breast milk, which may be why babies who are breast fed tend to be healthier overall during infancy.

In addition to the natural health benefits offered by coconut oil, it also remains stable at high temperatures making it ideal oil for cooking. Common vegetable oils such as soy, corn, and sunflower, are damaged at high temperatures while cooking. The oxidation that results poses many health risks for the body. The antioxidants are also lost. Olive oil is also prone to damage by oxidation while cooking. Another more recent health hazard with oils is that most vegetable oils are now made from genetically modified crops.

Replacing the vegetable oils used in the kitchen with coconut oil can also help in achieving your weight loss goals. Research shows that coconut oil is helpful in optimizing body weight and reducing the risk of developing diabetes. Farmers in 1940’s tried to use cheap coconut oil to make their livestock fatter, but the move backfired and the animals became leaner and more active.

If nothing else convinces you, here is one that may lead you to abandon all the other oils and reap the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil. In a 2009 study it was discovered that women who ingested two tablespoons coconut oil every day for 12 weeks had no weight gain, and actually shed some of their abdominal fat – NICE . . .