Perhaps you’re sick of hearing about how coconut oil is essentially the Second Coming. It’s loaded with saturated fat, you think, because you’re a wellspring of nutritional knowledge.
Still, there are plenty of health gurus who praise this oil that tastes neither like cocoa nor any kind of nut, really. What gives?
“People everywhere are embracing coconut oil by both consuming it and using it topically,” says Cassie Bjork, a Minnesota-based registered licensed dietitian.
On the other hand, Sharon Palmer, a registered licensed dietitian from California, admits she’s “not a fan.”
“I don’t think it’s a healthful trend, and there is no evidence to support all of the current hype,” Palmer says.
We got elbow-deep in coconut grease to find out that science says coconut oil really does have some amazing health benefits. Check out our favorites:
It can help you lose weight
One of the most widely touted health benefits of coconut oil is that it helps people shed pounds. A PLoS ONE study published this year found that mice gained less weight when on a diet with coconut oil compared to soybean oil.
It’s free of cholesterol
Coconut doesn’t contain cholesterol, but is high saturated fat, and research has shown that saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, which is linked to strokes and heart attacks.
“Despite what we’ve been told for five decades, saturated fat does not increase your risk for heart disease,” Bjork contends.
Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and nutritionist based in Las Vegas, agrees.
“Since it is high in lauric acid, [coconut oil] it isn't the cardiovascular terror some make it out to be,” he says.
It’s a great nondairy alternative to butter
If you’re looking for a plant-based alternative to butter, coconut oil is great. Bellatti said it replaces butter wonderfully in baking. Hit the road, Crisco.
It helps lower high blood pressure
A 2015 study reported that eating coconut oil and exercising lowered blood pressure in fats. When combined, however, they were able to bring blood pressure back to normal levels.
It kills tooth decay bacteria
According to research presented in 2012 at a Society for General Microbiology conference, the antibiotic characteristics in coconut oil could be added to dental care products. Coconut oil stopped most strains of Streptococcus bacteria from growing, including a nasty strain that causes tooth decay. Smile!
It heals acne
That good ol’ lauric acid in coconut oil was found to help with facial acne. (Side note: Lauric acid is also in breast milk. Use your imagination.)
It may help slow brain aging
Eating coconut oil may not make you a rocket scientist, but a 2014 study found that mice on a high-fat diet had delayed signs of brain aging including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
It’s good for the bowels
A 2009 study found that it could help protect from digestive tract inflammatory diseases, such as colitis and Crohn’s.
It makes a fantastic natural deodorant
Let’s say you got hyped about coconut oil and bought a Costco-sized tub of it…but now you don’t want to eat the stuff. You can always just slap it on your armpits, because it’s a fabulous deodorant. Go ahead. Do it.
It kills yeast
Women can also apply it topically to kill candida, which can cause yeast infections: The antifungal nature of coconut oil makes it a messy (but effective) remedy.
It’s a great skin moisturizer
Not ready to go south? Slather coconut oil on your skin as a moisturizer. It can wreck staph infections that often accompany psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions.
It will make your hair look like it should have its own commercial
Fine, your hair won’t get a 30-second Super Bowl spot. But in addition to smoothing flyaways, coconut oil can protect your hair from regular damage.
It makes for a delicious massage
Don’t miss the opportunity to give or receive a massage. Out of that fancy lotion your significant other loves? Dart for the pantry and pick up the coconut oil!
Like I said from the start, there’s a heated debate as to whether or not coconut oil is “good” for you. If you decide to try it, just use it in moderation.
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