Recently I was asked by a reader to help explain more about coconut oil and how it can be so healthy for us? Getting past the idea that it is a saturated fat does give some people problems after being taught that saturated fats are bad for years. But understanding and changing our conceptions of things in the light of expanded information is what we are humans excel at.
First let me say the whole saturated fat issue is easy to explain when you look at the root of the issue, which was avoided when the first studies were performed. People in America had started dieing of heart disease at an increasing rate in the 1950s. Studies were done to find the cause which did not completely surface, but some result was needed so saturated fat was chosen to be the scapegoat. Diet became the focus, but no one looked past the fat issue to the food. What am I talking about? Well… man has eaten more or less the same way for thousands of years, but with the advent of the industrial age processed food was invented. Never before in history has food been so mass produced and changed from its natural state.
So could it be that how food is grown, raised, prepared, etc… that is the problem? We can look at study after study and see that many cultures are healthy till they develop the “modern diet” of processed and fast food. After all we are all humans and our bodies will process food the same no matter where we live in the world. An example of how fats can change when animals are not raised as they are meant to be is discussed in What Are 60% of Americans Missing from Their Diet? Just feeding cows grain instead of letting them eat natural grasses changes the omega 3 and omega 6 balance and suddenly the fat in grain fed red meat is not healthy.
When we look at coconut oil which is a saturated fat, why is it good for us? Coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFAs) which the body burns as energy. We covered the details of the science and benefits of coconut oil in the article Eat This Fat And Your Body Will Thank You! But lets hit the main difference between MCFAs and Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFAs) such as vegetable oils. MCFAs can be metabolized easily by the body vs. LCFAs that have to be processed and combined with carrier proteins which require special enzymes to be metabolized.
Coconut oil aids in raising the bodies metabolism, while LCFAs do not give this benefit. Consuming coconut oil will encourage a person to be more active. Where I am going with this idea is that activity can be come a side-effect of consuming coconut oil, but activity is not required to release the benefits of coconut oil. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying you don’t need to exercise just because you eat coconut oil. We all need exercise as a part of our lives, I am just saying some foods help you to be more active. A word of caution, don’t eat large amounts of coconut oil right before bed or you may find that you have too much energy to sleep.
Let’s join in with cultures that consume coconut oil and coconut products as a large part of their daily diet to enjoy the health benefits.