Coconut oil gets a bad and undeserved rap for its high saturated fat content, but it has a host of health benefits. You can take coconut oil supplements or use it in your cooking to give rice and other island-inspired dishes a delicate coconut flavor. Don’t be dismayed by its solid white form; coconut oil melts quickly into a clear, viscous liquid.
Coconut oil is almost 50 percent lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid with several health benefits. Breast milk is the only other significant source of lauric acid in nature.
Because of its high lauric acid content, coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. The body forms lauric acid into monolaurin, which is responsible for destroying viruses. Coconut oil has been studied in HIV/AIDS patients, and according to Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit, it “can beneficially reduce the viral load of HIV patients.”
Lauric acid is prevalent in mother’s milk, helping infants to fight infections. The lauric acid in coconut oil strengthens the immune system, which protects the body against sickness. Because the average American adult’s diet is generally low in lauric acid, coconut oil is an easy and potent source of the substance, and a healthy, natural way to improve the immune system.
Natural virgin coconut oil can lower bad cholesterol levels while promoting HDL, or good cholesterol. A 1980 study by Dr. Hostmark showed that rats whose diet consisted of 10 percent coconut oil produced less bad cholesterol and more good cholesterol than rats whose diet was made up of 10 percent sunflower oil.
A side-effect of modern medicine is the development of microorganisms that resist the strongest man-made antibiotics. Staph infections are an example of this, as are penicillin-resistant strains of pneumonia and gonorrhea. A 2005 study from Georgetown University showed that the lauric acid in coconut oil was better than antibiotics at treating these infections in mice.
References and ResourcesCoconut Oil in Health and Disease
Mary Enig: Coconut Oil and the Immune System
More Good News on Coconut Oil