Saturated fats may be bad but coconut oils have medium chain saturated fatty acids which are healthy

Image Credit: COCONUT DEVELOPMENT BOARD CDB, India www.coconutboard.nic.in

Eating a lot of saturated fat can increase the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, which includes heart attack and narrowed arteries also called atherosclerosis. Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by your liver and carried around the body in the blood. The fats in your food you eat can affect the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Another way to phrase this, is that saturated fatty acids have all their carbon (C) atoms fully added with hydrogen (H) atoms. A carbon atom has four bunds when all four bonds are taken up by hydrogen atoms then it becomes a saturated molecule. Usually any fat has more than one carbon atom in the chain. First the carbon to carbon gets attached then other bonds are taken up by either hydrogen atoms or oxygen atoms. When C=C carbon to carbon bond is double then it is un saturated carbon bond.

Foods that are high in saturated fat include fatty meats, lard, full-fat dairy products like butter and cream, coconuts, coconut oil, palm oil and dark chocolate.

Actually, “fats” contain a combination of different fatty acids. No fat is pure saturated fat, or pure mono- or polyunsaturated.

 Many health organizations advise against the consumption of coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada.

What’s in coconut oil?

Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises total blood cholesterol levels by increasing both the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Although this may create a more favorable total blood cholesterol profile, this does not exclude the possibility that persistent consumption of coconut oil may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through other mechanisms, particularly via the marked increase on blood cholesterol by lauric acid. Because the majority of saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, coconut oil may be preferred over partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are used in the diet.

Coconut oil is really healthy

Medium-Chain Fatty Acids: These saturated fats are the best things that coconut oil has to offer. I know, many of you will raise your eyebrows at the very notion of saturated fats, but believe me, not all saturated fats are bad. These saturated fats in coconut oils are actually medium-chain fatty acids like capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, and lauric acid which can do wonders for you. This is an oily, colourless or yellow liquid, C 6 H 12 O 2, with an odor likelimburger cheese, usually obtained from fatty animal tissue or coconutoil, or synthesized: used chiefly in the manufacture of flavoring agentsThey increase the rate of metabolism in your body, thereby aiding in weight loss, increase the level of good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) and lower the level of bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins). They are also great sources of energy.

Though coconut oil has a high saturated fat content, it is said to be good for weight loss. What are the properties of coconut oil that make it so special?

For the proper utilization of anything, it is essential to have complete knowledge regarding that substance. The case is obviously the same with Coconut oil. Before you use coconut oil, it will be quite beneficial if you get yourself acquainted with the properties of coconut oil first. Broadly, the properties of coconut oil can be classified in the following ways.

Physical Properties

These properties of coconut oil are known to almost everyone. That being said, there is nothing wrong with refreshing your memory.

Colour: Coconut oil is colourless at or above 30o C. It is white when in its solid form.

Melting Point: Coconut oil melts at 25o C (76o Fahrenheit). It is solid below this temperature.

Smoking Point: 1770 C (3500 Fahrenheit).

Solubility in Water: Coconut oil forms a white homogenous mixture when beaten well in a little water. Otherwise, it is insoluble in water at room temperature.

Chemical Properties

Coconut Oil is predominantly composed of saturated fatty acids (about 94%), with a good percentage (above 62%) of Medium Chain Fatty Acids among them. The table showing the types of fatty acid in it is displayed below

Chemical Composition: Among the chief constituents, coconut oil also has;

I. Vitamin-E: The thing which you always wanted for silky hair and smooth, younger looking skin.
II. Moisture: The amount of moisture present in Coconut oil varies greatly depending upon the moisture content of the source, such as Copra or Fresh Coconut; including the method of extraction and also on the processing done on it. But obviously, coconut derived from well-dried copra will have less moisture than that from less dried copra or from fresh coconuts (virgin coconut oil). Similarly, the oil subjected to heat will have less moisture than that which was not exposed to heat.
III. Fatty Acids:

Reactivity: Coconut oil shows oxidation and reactivity with acids and bases.

The proportion of various fatty acids, vitamins, moisture and other nutrients may vary with the quality of coconuts, the method of extraction, the presence of heat, as well as pre-processing and post-processing.

Medicinal Properties

Coconut oil is useful in the treatment of a number of medical conditions, some of which are explained in greater detail below.

Cures fatigue: The saturated fats present in coconut oil, being great source of energy, effectively cure fatigue and energy malnutrition.

Antioxidant and Anti-Aging Properties: The antioxidant properties of Coconut oil come from its saturated fats like Capric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Caproic Acid, and Myristic Acid. They counter adverse effects of ageing, macular degeneration, whitening of hair, and sagging of the skin.

Antimicrobial Properties: The acids discussed above convert themselves into great antimicrobial and anti-fungal agents like mono-caprine and monolaurin when acted upon by certain enzymes. These derivatives protect our body, both internally and externally, from conditions like Athlete’s Foot, rashes, itches, ringworm, and dermatitis.

Reduces Hair Loss: This property of Coconut oil is the most famous, at least in India and on the Indian Subcontinent. It keeps hair black, prevents it from whitening and hair loss. Have you seen the beautiful long black hair of some Sri Lankan village beauties? The parasites or “thadi” on hair  are combed out easily.

Candida: The antimicrobial properties of Coconut oil, discussed above, have been found to be effective against Candida.

Vermifuge: Coconut oil can be used against intestinal round worms and tape worms.

Dandruff: It prevents peeling away of the skin on the scalp and conditions like dandruff by keeping the skin moist and smooth.

Digestive Disorders: This oil, taken regularly in proper quantity, can help cure chronic digestive problems.

Cancer: The saturated fatty acids, discussed above, help protect against many types of cancer. These are the same fatty acids that are found in Mother’s milk.

HIV: Quite recently, some rays of hope have been seen while using Coconut oil against the HIV infection, again due to the presence of those fatty acids.

Blockage in the Arteries: The Medium-chain triglycerides present in Coconut oil lower the level of bad cholesterol and help clear blockages, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks. Thus, despite all the negative comments against Coconut oil due to its saturated fats, it is actually cardiac friendly.

Cracking of Skin: Coconut oil is undoubtedly the best skin care agent you can use. That being said, a small amount of people are allergic to coconut oil, and can show irritation. Its stability, antimicrobial properties, moisture retaining capacity, and ability to solidify below 240 C makes it an ideal protective agent against cracking of the skin. Vitamin-E adds to this property immensely.

Obesity: Coconut oil speeds up the metabolic activities and thus burning of fats in the body, resulting in weight loss.

Other properties: Coconut oil is found to help absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and glucose in the body, aid proper secretion of insulin, improve circulation and fight tumours, colitis, ulcers in the stomach and food pipe, correct renal infections, reduce inflammation due to rashes or contact with foreign substances. It is also very effective in curing and relieving bruises and small cuts.

That was an overview of the properties of coconut oil which are useful in day-to-day life of the common man.

Most Sri Lankans use coconut oil for various types of cooking and frying so many things such as fish, dry fish, making “seeni sambol” and cutlets and many more things. These takeaways are still quite new to Sri Lanka because most of the time they cook their food at home. Of course they eat from restaurant and hotels when they go out but quick takeaways are fairly new. Your comments are welcomed This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr Hector Perera


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