Coconut oil, also known as copra oil, is an edible form of oil that is obtained from the meat or kernel of coconuts. Coconut oil has been known to be very beneficial and has a wide range of applications. It has a very long shelf life of up to six months, if stored at an optimum temperature of 24 °C. This is because it is rich in saturated fat. As a result of the high saturated fat content, coconuts tend to oxidise slowly. The slow oxidization, in turn, slows down the rancidification process.
Though most medical experts advise people not to consume coconut oil because of the excessive saturated fat content, it still offers a fair number of benefits.
The health benefits of coconut oil
Coconut oil is believed to be helpful in reducing chances of cardiovascular disease. In a clinical experiment, it was found that people consuming coconut oil had higher levels of HDL or good cholesterol. The experiment was conducted on 40 volunteers, who were divided into two groups.
• One group was asked to consume two tablespoons of soybean oil per day for 12 weeks.
• The other was asked to consume two tablespoons of coconut oil per day for the same period.
• At the end of the study, it was found that the soybean oil group had higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.
• The coconut oil group, on the other hand, displayed higher levels of HDL or good cholesterol.
Similarly, it was also found that coconut oil can help with weight loss. In the same soybean oil vs. coconut oil experiment, it was noted that both groups had lost weight. However, the group consuming coconut oil was the only group to show a reduction in waist size.
In another study, a group of participants were asked to consume 18-24 grams of coconut oil based MCTS (Medium Chain Triglycerides) per day. They had to do this for 16 weeks.
• It was observed that the group enjoyed both, fat and weight loss. The results were compared with a similar experiment done with olive oil.
• It was found that coconut oil was more effective for weight loss.
• The study indicated that oils rich in MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides), especially coconut oil, were relatively better than LCT (Long Chain Triglycerides) rich oils.
The nutritional value offered by coconuts
The USDA National Nutrient Database shows that a single tablespoon of coconut oil has 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat.
• Of the 13.6 grams of fat, 0.8 are mono-unsaturated, 11.8 are saturated, and 0.2 are poly-unsaturated.
• There are 0 proteins, 0 carbohydrates, 0 sugars, and 0 fibres in coconut oil. Mineral and vitamin content is minimal as well.
In other words, coconut oil is 100% fat. However, the saturated fat structure in coconut oil is not the same as the one found saturated animal fat. Coconut oil has high amounts of MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides), which cannot be converted into stored fat very easily, unlike LCT (Long Chain Triglycerides). Also, MCTs are easier to burn as well.