By: Sherika Tenaya
In examining the relationship of food with bodily health and wellness, perhaps there is no greater food heralded for its healing properties than coconut oil.
Widely touted for its anti-aging properties, undoubtedly due to its fatty acid content as well as its potent antioxidant vitamin E content, coconut oil is the perfect moisturizer, both for skin and scalp. Our All Natural Lip Balms are the perfect blend for moisturizing your lips. Not only does this nourishing oil block 20% of UV rays making it an effective light sunscreen, but it has been shown to slow down the aging process, reduce sagging skin, gives shine and suppleness to hair, and even relieves chronic dandruff.
Coconut oil has even been shown to help treat more serious skin conditions. According to this well articulated article, “[Coconut oil] helps in preventing degenerative diseases and premature aging due to its well-known antioxidant properties. It also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. For that exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams that are used for skin care.” Using products such as bath soaks that use coconut oil and coconut milk can help in rejuvenating dry, flaky skin.
Aside from its beauty applications for skin and hair, coconut oil has also been shown to boost dental health when used in the same manner as mouthwash in a process referred to as oil pulling. Long used as a traditional Indian folk remedy and in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling was demonstrated in a study done by the Journal of Indian Society Pedodontics and Preventative Dentistry to be “an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health” as it reduced the presence of Streptococcus Mutans in the saliva and plaque of children.
Once ingested, the health benefits of coconut oil only begin to compound upon themselves. Full of healthy saturated fats and energy boosting medium chain triglycerides, coconut oil has been demonstrated to improve everything from heart health to weight loss to immune system optimization.
While it was once thought that saturated fats were bad for the body, recent science has totally debunked this myth. Not all fats are created equal and the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil provide an easily accessed source of alternative energy, called ketones, that breaks down quickly and efficiently in the body and provides longer, more sustainable energy. One study found that MCTs found in coconut oil can actually increase the amount of calories you burn more than the same amount of other fats, resulting in improved weight loss. If you’d like to read more about the weight loss benefits of coconut oil, check out this highly informative article.
If better teeth and weight loss aren’t convincing enough, coconut oil is a formidable opponent to harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. About half of the fatty acids found in coconut oil are lauric acid. When ingested, lauric acid turns into monolaurin and this, in turn, has been found in studies to kill harmful pathogens including Staphylococcus Aureus, a persistent and dangerous pathogen, and Candida Albicans, most commonly associated with yeast infections.
Coconut oil has even been implicated in boosting brain health in a landmark 2004 study that showed that ingesting MCTs such as those that are found in coconut oil actually resulted in a pretty immediate cognitive boost in people with milder forms of Alzheimer’s disease.
While more studies need to be done, it appears that Alzheimer's, to some degree, is a result of the brain’s increasingly reduced ability to use glucose, or sugar, as energy. Since the brain is easily one of the most energy-hungry organs in the body, an inability to synthesize energy from our most commonly used source of it - sugar - equates to major cognitive problems.
However, as mentioned previously, MCTs break down into energy molecules called ketones that come from fats, not sugars. It is because of this highly efficient alternative energy source derived from fats that MCTs have been studied for not only Alzheimer’s patients, but also children with epilepsy.
Whether used as a sensual massage oil, a hair mask, a cooking oil or weight loss agent, coconut oil has rightly earned its status as highly revered superfood. However, as with all other food items, the quality of the coconut oil is paramount. Not just any kind will do. Always look for organic, extra virgin, cold expeller pressed coconut oil. The less processed, the better. You will thank yourself for taking the steps toward greater health and wholeness.