If you haven’t tried coconut oil for cooking yet, you’re missing out on using the most versatile health food on the planet. Not only is it my favorite oil for cooking and baking, but the health benefits of using this oil are numerous.
There is a myriad of studies proving the health benefits of using coconut oil in cooking and these include:
10 Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil
1. Boosts Immune System
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid which provides for strong antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties that have an immune boosting effect. These antifungal properties have been shown to help reduce candida and yeast in the body and fight yeast infections. In a recent study, researchers found that coconut oil was active against species of Candida at 100% concentration, greater than the drug fluconazole.1
Coconut oil is easy to digest and contains compounds that destroy bad bacteria, promote the growth of probiotics, and helps to heal what is called “leaky gut”.
3. Balances Cholesterol Levels
The healthy fats in coconut oil have been proven to increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol, which in turn helps support heart health.2
4. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Coconut oil can help balance blood sugar levels, by encouraging efficient secretion of insulin from the pancreas which, in turn, improves the symptoms of diabetes. A new study by the Garvan Institute demonstrates that a diet rich in coconut oil protects against ‘insulin resistance’ in muscle and fat. It also avoids the accumulation of body fat caused by other high-fat diets of similar calorie content. These findings are important because obesity and insulin resistance are major factors leading to the development of Type-2 diabetes.3
Coconut oil supports both a healthy liver and kidneys. It has been shown that Kerabala, an ayurvedic formulation from virgin coconut oil has an inhibitory effect on chronic inflammation – one of the leading causes of many chronic diseases.4
6. Balances Hormones
The healthy fats in coconut oil support the thyroid and adrenal glands which can lower cortisol to naturally balance hormones. Coconut oil helps to suppress inflammation while supporting healthy metabolism – two things that are essential for balanced hormones. According to a recent study, virgin coconut oil is effective in preventing bone loss in estrogen-deficient rats.5 6
7. Boosts Metabolism
Coconut oil can help boost metabolism. Since it travels directly to the liver, it is used for energy and not stored as fat. It also helps a feeling of satiety and can assist in weight loss.7
8. Treats Alzheimer’s
A 2015 study reported in the journal Nutrition states that this study, although preliminary, demonstrates the positive influence of coconut oil at the cognitive level of patients with Alzheimer’s. This means that coconut oil may be an effective natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.8
9. Helps In Cancer Protection And Defense
Coconut oil and medium-chain triglycerides have been shown to provide anti-tumor effects to the immune system. Not only can coconut oil act as a tumor inhibitor, but a recent animal study explored the antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of coconut oil against oxidative stress and liver damage induced by the anticancer drug methotrexate (MTX). The results showed that antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of coconut oil supplementation improved the antioxidant defense system – that’s good news for those on chemotherapy.9
10. Helps Sick Pets
Just like their human caretakers, dogs and cats can benefit from the addition of coconut oil to their diet. Pets with digestive upsets can benefit from a teaspoon or two of coconut oil mixed into their food.10
That makes coconut oil a superfood with a powerhouse of uses in cooking alone. So how do we use coconut oil and what is the best way of using it? From a culinary and health perspective, coconut oil is an invaluable cooking oil because it’s just so versatile. It can withstand high heat, replace butter in baked recipes, and can be eaten raw too. Here are some tips for cooking, frying, and baking with coconut oil in your kitchen.
Tips For Using Coconut Oil
Cooking At High Heat (Sautéing And Frying)
Coconut oil is great for cooking at a high heat because of its high smoke point. Heat, along with light and oxygen, can destroy the beneficial fats in some oils. Polyunsaturated fats are the most fragile and are not recommended for cooking. Coconut oil, however, being mainly a saturated fat, is able to withstand higher temperatures than other oils, making it one of the best oils for cooking. Many other oils like olive oil can oxidize when heated – that means it goes rancid. “[Rancid foods] lose their vitamins, but they also can develop potentially toxic compounds,” says Eric Decker, the head of the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. These compounds have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease, and cancer. However, because coconut oil is made up of healthy saturated fats, it remains stable under high temperatures. It also gives a delicious taste and superb texture to foods.
2. Replace Unhealthy Fats When Baking
Yes, you can bake with coconut oil too but a healthier choice than coconut oil is coconut butter, which is made from the whole coconut. You can find it at health food stores, usually in the baking section with the dried coconut flakes. Because coconut has a melting point slightly above room temperature, you may need to warm the jar and stir. The oil will separate from the coconut flesh in the same way that natural peanut butter’s oil separates. Simply warm and stir to mix it all together. Use it in cooking, baking or as a butter substitute on toast. Coconut oil is beloved by many a baker, and that’s because its ability to replicate butter’s role in baked goods is wonderful. Because of the high saturated fat content in coconut oil (similar to butter’s composition), you can use it as you would use the butter for many pastry recipes. When substituting coconut oil for butter, use 25% less oil than the butter amount called for. This is because coconut oil, unlike butter, is almost pure fat, and you need to account for that difference in your recipe.
Sauté And Stir Fry
To sauté and stir-fry with coconut oil, simply use it in place of the oil called for in your recipes and you’ll be able to kick up the heat a bit higher than if you were using olive oil. Note that refined coconut oil will withstand cooking temperatures up to around 450°F, whereas unfiltered (virgin) coconut oil has a smoke point around 350°F.
4. Just Heat And Serve
In place of melted butter for your popcorn and lobster, drizzle over your favorite vegetables. Unrefined coconut oil has a somewhat sweet and slightly buttery flavor when heated, which is delicious.
5. Add To Coffee Instead Of Creamer
Unlike adding cold milk or cream, coconut oil creamer doesn’t cool down your coffee. It also does not dilute the flavor, and you will feel energized and alert for longer than you would with just coffee alone.
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Vs Refined Coconut Oil
Refined or processed coconut oil is often chemically processed to increase its shelf-life. Processing the oil changes the chemical makeup and the fats are no longer good for you! Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point and does not have a coconut flavor. These coconut oils are usually mass-produced, typically through a chemical distillation process that starts with desiccated coconut that is not fresh. The coconuts are further bleached and deodorized. These oils known as partially hydrogenated coconut oils are not natural and are associated with increased risks of several chronic diseases.
To enjoy the many benefits of coconut oil, it is essential to choose organic unrefined coconut oil, preferably, produced from a “wet-milling” process. Organic, unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat; not from dried coconut. The oil is then separated from the water, through centrifuge, fermentation, boiling, or refrigeration. Fermentation is the preferred method to ensure that the coconut oil retains its inherent health benefits.
How To Store And Use Coconut Oil
Unlike most unsaturated oils, coconut oil, just like ghee, doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Its high saturated content is resistant to oxidation! As with all oils, coconut oil should be kept in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. Coconut oil has a melting point of 78 degrees, warmer than that and the substance is liquid. So if you live in a warm climate, note that at room temperature your coconut oil may be liquid. Just stir the oil before to mix any solid oil and liquid oil together. When measuring solid or chilled coconut oil, spoon into a measuring cup, pack it down, and then scrape along the top to get an accurate measurement.
As you can see, coconut oil benefits are immense and there are many ways of using it! While it can work wonders using it in cooking, the benefits to eating just two tablespoons a day will have you throwing some in your grocery cart next time you are at the store. However coconut oil is still a fat, so those of you watching your weight – use in moderation.