Whether you bake with it, cook your vegetables in it, or incorporate it into raw treats, coconut is a staple in any health foodie’s diet. What makes the tropical fruit so amazing is largely in part to its chemical makeup. In other words, it’s a medium chain triglyceride (MCT). There are two other types of fat: short chain (think butter and ghee) and long chain (olive oil or other vegetable oils, animal fat, manufactured fats found in processed food). From a metabolic perspective, MCTs are unique. With the consumption of long chain triglycerides, enzymes are responsible for breaking down long chains in to shorter chains. This is just part of the digestive process of those fats. Anything that is not broken down has a higher probability of getting stored as fat (one of the many reasons we should be eating those fake fatty processed foods). Because MCTs are smaller/shorter, they have a different digestive process. They go straight to the liver because they don’t need to be broken down by enzymes. As a result, they are quickly converted to energy when digested. Studies show this difference has positive implications for metabolism and endurance.
Other benefits include:
Blood Sugar Management: Coconut helps to regulate blood sugar by improving our body’s sensitivity to insulin. This is what we want in order to avoid excess insulin levels in our blood. Chronically elevated insulin (due to insulin resistance and blood sugar mismanagement) can negatively impact our energy, cravings, weight, and overall health.
Thyroid Function: Improves thyroid function by raising body temperature. High body temperature leads to our body’s ability to more easily perform necessary chemical reactions and therefore a higher metabolism. Side note: I used to suffer from loss of circulation in my fingers until I incorporated coconut in my diet.
Cholesterol: Helps to improve cholesterol, which is the exact opposite of what we have been told about saturated fats. In short, MCTs contain Lauric Acid, which works to raise HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (known as the “bad” cholesterol, although we need both). In this way, total overall cholesterol is lowered because it helps to convert cholesterol for the production of hormones. Yes, we need cholesterol, especially for hormonal health!
Hair and Skin: Coconut is very nutrient rich and an excellent moisturizer. I use coconut oil exclusively to remove the makeup from my face!
Immunity and Digestion: Coconut is both antibacterial and anti-fungal. MCTs contain specific fatty acids that destroy viruses and bacteria. Secondly, given that it is anti-fungal, this makes the body a less attractive environment for the bad bacteria in our gut.
Satiety: Coconut is so energy dense it will help you feel fuller longer. This is specific to MCTs. Studies have shown that increasing coconut in the diet helps people eat less and less often, which can aid in weight loss efforts.