We often assume that fat is bad for us and strive to eliminate it from our diet wherever possible. However, our body needs a regular supply of ‘good fats’ to provide it with fuel, produce hormones, promote a healthy immune system, protect our internal organs, lower our cholesterol levels, assist in the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) required for healthy growth and development and finally, to maintain healthy skin and hair. So, if you want to benefit from sound health, reflected by beautiful looking skin, it’s important to know which fats to include in your diet.
Unsaturated versus saturated fats
Fats are commonly divided into two categories – unsaturated fats, which are found mainly in vegetable oils such as olive oil, and saturated fats which come from both animal products, including butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream and fatty meats, and a variety of vegetable sources such as coconut and palm. It’s often claimed that unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats and that eating saturated fats will raise cholesterol levels and even put you at risk of heart attack. This is only half the story though, as saturated fats that don’t contain trans fats (the harmful fats that form when vegetable oils harden) are essential for providing a vital source of energy and in creating the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, ultimately resulting in strong bones, a healthy liver, heart, lung and nerve signal function, in addition to a robust immune system. In fact, a study performed in India in 1988 showed an “alarming” increase in the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease in Indians who replaced traditional cooking fats such as coconut oil, with refined vegetable oils promoted as healthy because of their polyunsaturated fatty acid content.
Coconut oil – an ancient source of saturated fat
The coconut palm is an ancient tree that thrives in the saline soils of coastal regions in South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Polynesian and Hawaiian islands. The coconut palm was called ‘Kalpa Vriksha’ in ancient Sanskrit, or ‘tree that provides the necessities of life’ and indigenous populations have been harnessing the myriad benefits of coconut oil for generations.
Coconut oil is exceptionally rich in vegetable saturated fatty acids that help maintain healthy skin, prevent heart disease, fight infection, strengthen the body’s natural immunity and actively promote weight loss. It contains no trans fats, sugars, carbohydrates or salts and is the most healthy variety of oil for frying, stir frying and roasting, healthier even than organic extra virgin olive oil, as it can survive extremely high temperatures without losing any of its nutritional value or oxidising. As some saturated fats can raise cholesterol, the use of extra virgin coconut oil is strongly recommended. This contains predominantly medium chain fatty acids, which don’t adversely affect cholesterol levels.
Coconut oil for beautiful looking skin
Coconut oil is hypoallergenic and exceptionally nourishing for skin, hair and lips. The medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are easily absorbed into the skin, where they help restore its natural fat content at a cellular level and prevent wrinkles, sagging and age spots. The Polynesians have been using coconut oil as a moisturising skin ointment and sweet smelling massage oil for thousands of years, as it produces reliably soft, smooth and radiant skin.
According to the British Association of Dermatologists, around half of the UK population suffer from some form of skin condition, the most common being acne, eczema and psoriasis. Coconut oil is extremely useful in the treatment of such skin complaints and sunburn, when applied directly to the skin. Indeed, the lauric acid contained in coconut oil is currently being developed as a new treatment for acne. Lauric acid also boasts powerful antibacterial properties, which is why coconut oil is often exploited as a natural deodorant or used as a soothing baby lotion that is completely safe when breastfeeding.
Coconut oil and a healthy colon
Coconut oil consists largely of medium chain fatty acids, which have proven highly effective in improving both nutrition absorption and eliminating parasitic infections. Its anti-microbial properties can prevent an excess of bad bacteria and fungal infections in the gut, making it a powerful method for cleansing the colon. The lauric acid in coconut oil, which protects against inflammation, bacteria, viruses and fungi, also transforms into antimicrobial agents in our digestive tract, where it kills off bad bacteria and promotes balance and optimal colon health. Coconut oil is also thought to combat a number of digestive disorders including Cohn’s disease (for which there is no known cure) and irritable bowel syndrome. Dr. L.A. Cohen from the Naylor Dana Institute for Disease Prevention in Valhalla, New York, claims that the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil “have found use in the clinic as a means to provide high energy lipid to patients with disorders of lipid digestion (pancreatitis), lipid absorption (Crohn’s disease), and lipid transport (chylomicron deficiency).”
These medium chain fatty acids also need significantly less bile and enzymes to break down, making them easier to digest and highly suitable for those with digestion or absorption problems. Coconut oil actively improves the absorption of essential minerals too, particularly iron, calcium and the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. For this reason it is often recommended to combine coconut oil with fish, phytoplankton, AFA algae, chia seeds or hemp seeds, as these are all rich in omega-3 and omega-6.
Coconut oil – promoting thyroid health
According to the NHS, 15 in every 1,000 women and 1 in 1,000 men suffer from an underactive thyroid, caused by a lack of hormone production. Left untreated, an underactive thyroid can lead to swelling of the thyroid (a condition known as goitre), heart disease, mental health problems and even infertility. Coconut oil actively helps in both the regulation and production of hormones and its medium chain fatty acids increase both metabolism and body temperature, making it an ideal tool in the management of thyroid disorders. Many people have reported significant improvements to their thyroid health, in addition to weight loss and increased energy, after including just two to three tablespoons of coconut oil in their daily diet.