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Elina Fuhrman | Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Alberto Pomares | April 25, 2013
Getting real about the benefits of coconut oil
Although coconut oil has been used as both food and medicine throughout Asia for years—it’s a staple of India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicinal system—I clued into its healing miracles just a few years ago, when my daughter came down with a sinus infection and the doctor suggested the oil as an Rx.
But, you may be wondering, doesn’t this debunk the popular U.S. belief that high amounts of saturated fat—like that found in coconut oil—increases cholesterol, and is bad, very bad? New research is disproving old myths. Coconut oil boasts so many health benefits, it’s hailed as a panacea—credited for everything from boosting metabolism to soothing rough shaves. “Coconut has passed the test of time, and its health benefits have clearly been demonstrated in many cultures,” affirms Dr. Gez Agolli, a naturopath and director at Dunwoody’s Progressive Medical Center. “Coconut oil has ‘good’ saturated fat, and its moderate consumption is healthier than once thought.”
Ageless A-listers like Dr. Oz, Angelina Jolie and Gisele Bündchen have jumped on the bandwagon, espousing the glories of coconut oil at every turn—and looking damn good doing it. Obviously, this is a pretty attractive endorsement, but there’s more. Here, some reassuring reasons to go nuts for coconuts, from Dr. Agolli and registered dietitian Nicki Strovinskas.
“It’s a superfood!” exclaims Dr. Agolli, who recommends consuming at least a spoonful of room-temperature coconut oil a day. Strovinskas, on the other hand, says she likes her clients to take two to three tablespoons. Some easy ways to get your fix? Simply add it to your morning smoothie, swap it in for butter in baked goods or use it to sauté your fave veggies.
Getting old is a drag, but what if we said that eating more fat will keep you looking young? Of course, you wouldn’t believe it, but you should. According to Dr. Agolli, coconut oil is packed with antiaging antioxidants, a youth serum for your skin. Adds Strovinskas, “Coconut oil is resistant to oxidation and helps keep your connective tissues strong.” For you, this means a fresher face—think reduced fine lines and wrinkles.
Boost Brain Health
“We are all fat heads,” jokes Dr. Agolli. But, coconut oil is no laughing matter—it provides an alternative energy source, thus promoting brain health. Studies show that it improves cognitive function and stalls (in some cases, even reverses) neurodegenerative diseases in early stages. It also helps balance your mood and hormones.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fat that is also found in breast milk. Our bodies convert lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-microbial, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties, according to Dr. Agolli. Translation: Enjoy coconut oil, and you’ll be warding off illness like nobody’s business.
No need to spend money on expensive products—just follow the example of sexy celebs, like model Miranda Kerr and actresses Zoë Kravitz and Gwyneth Paltrow, who use coconut oil on their hair, nails and skin; as a post-bath lotion; and as a nightly face cream.
This just in: Eat fat to lose weight. When it comes to coconut oil, it’s all about medium-chain fatty acids that help speed up metabolism. “They are smaller, easier to digest and are sent directly to your liver to be converted as energy, rather than stored as fat,” explains Strovinskas. The result? You feel less fatigued, and your athletic performance improves.