Coconut oil has fast become a store cupboard essential in our kitchens, but as it’s a fat, there is still debate about whether it is good for us.
Pure virgin coconut oil is 92 per cent saturated fat, but compared with animal fats and butter, it does appear to have some impressive health benefits. As with all fats, though, it should be consumed in moderation – the NHS recommends no more than 20g saturated fat a day for women. One tablespoon of coconut oil is about 12g saturated fat.
Coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids known as short-chain and medium-chain triglycerides, and this unique combination is what provides its health benefits. When consumed, coconut oil is metabolised differently to other saturated fats; it passes straight to the liver from the digestive system, where it is used as a quick source of energy.
It has also been shown to have a therapeutic benefit for brain disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) may also aid weight loss, as they can
boost metabolism and feelings of fullness, as well as stabilise blood sugars. The MCT lauric acid may also support the immune system, as it can help to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
Coconut oil does not contain cholesterol, but it can increase both our LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
A 2011 study indicated that coconut oil intake among pre-menopausal women was positively associated with HDL cholesterol
and therefore may have some beneficial effects on blood lipid profiles. However, it was not significantly associated with LDL.
So, all in all, a lot more research is needed into this little beauty, as its full benefits have not yet been discovered.