"The Tree of Heaven"
In Sanskrit, coconut is called kalpavriksha - the tree of heaven. Virtually every part of the coconut can be used or consumed, and it is a staple food to almost a third of the world's population.
Coconut Oil has a chemical make-up that is readily absorbed both internally and externally by the human body, and has a naturally sweet and clean aroma. A great source of healthy fats, over 50% of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, making it the richest source of lauric acid after breastmilk.
The antioxidant properties of coconut oil come from its saturated fats like capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, and myristic acid. They counter the adverse effects of ageing, macular degeneration, whitening of hair, and sagging of the skin.
The acids discussed above convert themselves into great antimicrobial and anti-fungal agents like monocaprin 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.
Coconut for the hair and skin
This nourishing oil has been used for centuries on hair. It’s rich in Vitamin E, which promotes silky hair. Being a linear triglyceride, coconut oil has a strong affinity for hair proteins and is able to penetrate into the hair shaft because of its small size . This oil also moisturises your head in order to eliminate the scratchy, dry scalp that causes dandruff.
The unique fat composition and natural antioxidant properties make coconut oil great for conditioning your skin and dealing with skin irritation. It has also been shown to stimulate collagen production and replacement.
Cooking with coconut oil
Coconut oil is a stable oil that doesn’t break down easily at high temperatures like other oils. It has a long shelf life and amazing nutritional properties, making it a great substitution for butter, margarine, or vegetable oil.
The science behind coconut oil
Most of the fats in coconut oil are saturated, but they are in the form of MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides, also called MCFAs). Most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed. Coconut oil is high in short and medium chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production.
Because MCFAs are sent directly to the liver for digestion, no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food even for those with diabetes or those who have gallbladder problems. MCFAs can help increase metabolism since they are sent directly to the liver and give the body an instant source of energy.
What are the MCTs in coconut oil?
This beneficial fat makes up 40% of coconut oil’s total fat composition, making it one of nature’s highest natural sources. The body converts lauric acid to monolaurin, which is beneficial for immune function. Lauric acid can help destroy the bacteria leading to stomach ulcers, dental cavities, and food poisoning.
Another healthy fat with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
This converts to monocaprin in the body and has immune-boosting and antimicrobial properties.
These three rare oils are naturally free of cholesterol and hard to find in nature. This may be part of the reason that coconut oil is so beneficial; it isn’t digested or stored in the same way as other fats and is more available for use more quickly.
Coconut oil is also a decent source of several fat soluble vitamins (mainly A and K) as well as healthy polyphenols.