Everyone has gone ‘Coco-nuts!’

Coconut products have become much more readily available and can be found in all supermarkets, whether its coconut water, coconut milk, coconut bars even coconut beauty products. The coconut derivative receiving most speculation however is coconut oil.

In the past coconut oil was misunderstood and received bad press because of its high saturated fat content. 90% of the fats within coconut oil are saturated, giving it one of the greatest saturated fat contents of all food sources. Intake has long been thought to be linked to cardiovascular disease, in particular atherosclerosis. However recent studies have painted saturated fat in a new light and suggest saturated fat and coconut oil may  have been wrongly convicted.

Not all saturated fats are equal as they have different structures and are therefore processed differently within the body.  The saturated fats found in coconut oil are what are known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) which are different to the Long chain triglycerides (LCT’s) found in a cheeseburger. The shorter chain length of MCT’s means they require less processing by the digestive system and can be quickly absorbed. This allows MCT’s to be quickly converted to energy and used to fuel the body rather than being stored like others fats.

Coconut Oil and Fat burning…

It has been suggested that the MCT’s in coconut oil give it ‘thermogenic’ properties. The medium chain fatty acids cause our bodies us to expend more energy than consuming the same amount of calories from other fats.

This doesn’t mean you should go mad and add a couple of spoonful’s of coconut oil to all your meals. Coconut oil just like all fats is highly calorific therefore adding masses of coconut oil to your usual diet will likely result in you consuming an excessive amount of calories and cause you to gain fat rather than lose it. Replacing a fat source currently in your diet such as sunflower oil with the same amount of coconut oil is a better approach.

Cooking with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great for cooking with because of its high saturated fat content. Saturated fat is more stable at high temperatures than unsaturated fats. Other oils such as olive oil and other vegetable oils which contain more unsaturated fat go rancid when exposed to high temperatures, this produces harmful compounds known as free radicals. These compounds have been linked to the development of a number of diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.