Yes, Coconut Oil is Paleo!
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of coconut. It has been a staple food in the Paleo world. It is about 90 percent saturated, 6 percent monounsaturated and 3 percent polyunsaturatedfats and is almost solid in room temperature.
Most of the fats in coconut oil come from the medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), a saturated fat that does not require bile acids for digestion which passes directly to the liver. This means that coconut oil is easily digested and absorbed b y the body. Medium chain triglycerides are high in lauric acid which has antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Coconut oil has been a great source of fat calories. It is stable even under high heat, enabling long shelf life. It can be used for cooking, home remedies and as skin care products.
How is Coconut Oil Produced?
Coconut oil is extracted through dry and wet processing. The quick drying process requires the use of minimal heat, be it fire or sunlight, and press the oil out of the coconut.
The wet process or wet-milling on the other hand uses coconut meat. With this method, the oil is extracted from the coconut meat without drying it first. The oil is then separated from water using methods such as boiling , fermentation, centrifugal separation or enzyme.
Types of Coconut Oil
There are 6 varieties of coconut oil that are available in the market.
- Pure Coconut Oil – It is the most well known coconut oil extracted from dried coconut kernels known as copra. It is pure, unrefined and without additives. It is commonly used for hair and skin care.
- Refined Coconut Oil – Also known as RBD (refined, blanched and deodorized coconut oil), this type is obtained by chemically and mechanically refining, bleaching and deodorizing the crude coconut oil to make it thin, odourless, leaving only pure saturated fats. Bleaching is not a chemical process but rather a filter process to remove impurities.
- Virgin Coconut Oil – This is extracted from the coconut meat using processes such as fermentation, centrifugal separation and enzyme action. It is extracted at a very low to no heat ensuring the highest levels of MCT possible. This is the most trusted variety of the coconut oils
- Organic Coconut Oil – This coconut oil is extracted from coconuts obtained from coconut trees which are raised without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The process of extraction do not involve any chemicals
- Organic Virgin Coconut Oil – This type is typically virgin coconut oil produced from organic coconuts. This is the best and purest form of coconut oil but is rare in the market.
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – Among all the varieties of coconut oil, extra virgin coconut oil is the healthiest and most controversial as there is no standard for the virginity of coconut yet.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a combination of fatty acids that have positive health effects. It has been known to have heaps of amazing benefits including the following:
- Coconut oil is a great source of fatty acids which are thought to minimize the risk of heart diseases.
- Coconut oil can help normalize body lipids and protect the liver for damages caused by alcohol or medications and gall bladder infections.
- It is associated with improved blood sugar and insulin control, therefore preventing diabetes
- Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid which has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of coconut oil are good for the immune system. The lauric acid in coconut oil is converted to monolaurin which has been proven to help deal with viruses and bacteria causing influenza, herpes, HIV and cancer.
- Coconut oil helps in the absorption of other minerals that are important for healthy bones and teeth
- MCT in coconut oil can have therapeutic effects on several brain disorders, Alzheimer’s disease for example. It can also increase the blood concentration of ketone bodies that can help reduce seizures in children
- The fatty acids of coconut oil are metabolized differently which can significantly reduce appetite. It helps in the function of the thyroid and endocrine systems of the body. This is beneficial to those who are looking after their weight
- It promotes healing and repair.
- Coconut oil is energy boosting.
- Coconut oil can be topically applied to protect the hair from damage, promoting healthy growth of hair.
- Coconut oil can be used as massage oil for skin, leaving it moisturized. It helps in treating skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis and other skin infection. Due to coconut oil’s anti oxidant properties, it can help in preventing premature aging.
- Coconut oil is very stable and can be used for high-heat cooking such as stir frying, sautéing and roasting. It also adds sweetness to food.
Not All Coconut Oils Are Created Equal!
Some coconut oils are better than others. We already discussed the varieties of coconut oil available in the market. Apparently, the more processed the oil, the less benefit you can get from it.
In the Paleo diet, it is recommended to choose the unrefined, virgin form. Some refined coconut oils are treated with chemicals and processed in very high heat, therefore compromising its quality.
What Experts Say About Coconut Oil.. Is It Paleo?
“Along with ghee, coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with because it’s almost entirely saturated. In fact, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the so-called medical authorities, we know better. In addition to being a great fuel source for the body, coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine”. – Chris Kresser
“Coconut oil consists of about 92 percent saturated fat and is therefore nearly solid at room temperature. It can be used in cooking, but is also a common ingredient in home remedies and skin care products. Although it gets a bad rap in some circles for its high saturated fat content, we know that such fats can offer many health benefits”. – Mark Sisson
All you ever wanted to know about Coconut Oil and Paleo
Paleo Leap. Coconut, an optimal source of fat?
The Paleo Diet. Coconut Crackdown: Friend or Foe
Mark’s Daily Apple. Coconut Oil and Ghee: Together At Last
Mark’s Daily Apple. The Definitive Guide to Oils
Chris Kresser. 5 fats you should be cooking with – but may not be
Mark’s Daily Apple. Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil
Chris Kresser. 9 Steps to Perfect Health – #2: Nourish Your Body
Paleo Grubs. Is Coconut Oil Good for You?
Eat Drink Paleo. Your Ultimate Guide To Coconut Oil: Benefits,Types & Uses
Good Food. Coconut oil: paleo superfood or health fad?
Paleo Diet Plus. Paleo Guide to Coconut Oil
Stupid Easy Paleo. Coconut 101: Everything You Need to Know About Coconut.
Paleo Diet Basics. The Complete Paleo Guide to Coconut Oil
Living Paleo. Health Benefits of Coconut Oil.
Real Food Kosher. The Complete Guide to Fats and Oils – What to Cook With (or not), What to Avoid and Why
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photo credit: Dầu dừa