What is Coconut Oil?
After a few decades of bad press, fats like coconut oil are making a serious comeback as their many health benefits are coming to light. So – what the heck is coconut oil? Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the edible, fleshy “meat” of a coconut, which is actually the “kernel” of the coconut. This oil is extracted through a variety of methods, which is why you’ll find different types of coconut oil available for purchase, including refined and unrefined. At room temperature, coconut oil is typically solid because it’s melting point is 76 degrees F. It’s completely shelf stable, making it a great fat to cook with or use for skin care. Coconut oil is a saturated medium-chain fatty acid, meaning the fatty acids chains are between 6-12 carbons in length. Almost all other natural unsaturated and saturated fats we consume are long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil’s unique medium-chain fatty acid composition is what sets it apart as a nutritional powerhouse with properties unlike any other fat we consume. Research shows medium-chain fatty acids can provide a sustainable “boost” of energy because they are sent straight to the liver to be to be burned as energy, and aren’t processed or stored like other fats in the body. They’ve also been shown to stimulate metabolism, preserve insulin sensitivity, and some studies suggest they can increase endurance and performance when consumed regularly. To add to that, one of the medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, lauric acid, has antimicrobial properties. As a result, coconut oil may reduce inflammation and improve immune function when consumed regularly, and has been shown to be an effective treatment for certain types of acne and skin conditions when applied topically. And while there’s still much to be discovered, preliminary evidence suggests coconut oil may greatly improve cognitive function for those suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s.9