Hailed as a superfood, coconut oil is said to have so many health benefits that it’s recommended for everything from boosting your metabolism to baking to shaving your legs.
It didn’t take me very long to commit to coconut oil. I used to have a variety of cooking oils in my pantry, but the more I researched the ingredients I used to make my meals, the more I realized that many oils had no room in my kitchen. I have to be honest, having grown up in the former Soviet Union, I’m not good at tossing food - it doesn’t feel right to me. But when I learned that many of the oils I used and thought were perfectly fine actually sabotaged my health, I was happy to say good-bye to them.
I don’t want to scare anyone and tell stories of GMO-laden oils that populate the market today…but I will say that I only feel good when cooking with coconut oil. Only in my salads and raw dishes do I use extra virgin olive oil, flax oil and unrefined expeller pressed sesame oil.
Here’s the scoop on coconut oil: it has Omega-3s, which most of us know are good for us, because they help keep our membranes elastic, protect our cells and promote healthy cell function (i.e. gives us a shield against illnesses and diseases). Sounds good, right? But when I started googling “coconut oil” I found all kinds of conflicting information, like that it has ‘saturated fat’ and raises cholesterol, and could potentially not be as good as I thought. So I called one of my favorite naturopaths, Dr. Gez Agolli, Director of Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta, to set the record straight and get the answers.
Dr. Agolli assured me that coconut oil is safe and is actually almost miraculous for us; it boots metabolism, is great for baking and even prevents aging. Here are some of its properties:
Weight Loss and Energy Boost
Losing weight by eating fat? Really? When it comes to coconut oil, it’s all about medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that help speed up metabolism. They are smaller, easier to digest, and are sent directly to your liver to be converted as energy rather than stored as fat. The result? You feel less fatigued and it enhances your athletic performance.
Brain Health and Thyroid Support
Coconut oil provides an alternative energy source that promotes brain health. Studies show that it improves cognitive function and stalls (and in some cases reverses) neurodegenerative diseases in early stages. It also keeps your moods in balance and balances hormones.
Immune Boost and Protection from Disease
Lauric acid in coconut oil is the panacea. It’s a fat that can also be found in breast milk and we all know how great breast milk is for babies. Which means coconut oil is great for us! Our bodies convert lauric acid into monolaurin, which has “anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and soothing properties,” according to Dr. Agolli.
Great for hair, nails and skin
No need to spend money on expensive creams -- just follow the example of celebrities including Miranda Kerr, Zoe Kravitz and Gwyneth Paltrow, who use coconut oil as a lotion after a bath or face cream at night. It leaves your skin baby smooth…try it!
Getting old is a drag, but what if you were told that eating more fat will keep you young? Don’t believe it? Dr. Agolli says coconut oil is packed with antioxidants that prevent the ageing of the skin. Coconut oil is resistant to oxidation and helps keep your connective tissue strong and that means reduced fine lines and wrinkles.
The question is…how much coconut oil do we consume? Dr. Agolli recommends at least a spoonful of coconut oil a day. The best part is that there is no downside. Just add it to your smoothie, sauté your favorite veggies in it and watch your health improve.