Do you enjoy eating coconut fruit?
Did you know that an oil can be produced from coconut?
What do you know about coconut and its oil?
Is coconut oil part of your regular diets?
Do you think that coconut oil is healthy enough for human consumption?
Or do you belong to the school of thought that coconut oil is unhealthy for human consumption?
Well, this write-up throws light on some important facts you need to know about this nature's gift to humanity. Read through to ascertain if the coconut oil is healthy or unhealthy for your consumption. You will also find out the different types of coconut oil, the amazing benefits of coconut oil as well as the various methods you can produce coconut oil from the comfort of your kitchen.
So, what is coconut oil? Coconut oil is the oil extracted and processed from the pulps of the coconut fruit. Coconut, which is botanically known as Cocos nucifiera L. belongs to the palm tree family of Arecaceae. The term coconut is obtained from a Spanish and Portuguese term coco and this connotes a skull or head. Unlike as its name suggests, coconut is a drupe and not a nut and it is the only living species of the genus Cocos. Cocoanut is the antique name for coconut, which can either mean the coconut palm tree, the fruit or the seed. Coconut palm is a rainforest tree that is often referred to as the tree of life due to its wide range of uses. It is a global fruit and its products are increasingly popular all over the globe. There are varieties of coconut products but the most common one is the coconut oil. Coconut oil is a popular vegetable oil that belongs to a group of oil products known as lauric oils. Notwithstanding the numerous benefits of the coconut oil, its use for human consumption raises a lot of argument.
Watch this Short Clip on the Amazing Benefits of Coconut Oil
The use of coconut oil and its impacts have been an on-going debate amongst health professionals largely because of its high constitution of saturated fatty acids (90%) mostly believed to be harmful to health. Saturated fatty acids are claimed by many individuals to contribute to the onset of cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis. But the question is, how true is this claim? Several interesting clinical studies have also confirmed that there are numerous positive impacts of this oil on our health. It may interest you to know that the high amounts of lauric acids found in coconut oil are directly absorbed by the enterocytes thereby preventing the fat from depositing in the blood vessels. Likewise, the polyphenols and flavonoids found in this oil are essential for reducing the oxidative stress involved in the etiology of several diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Approximately 95% of coconut oil is fat, of which 92% of the fat is saturated fat. But the good news is that the saturated fats in coconut oil are different from that of the animal fats thereby designating it healthier for consumption.
More than 50% of coconut oil fats are medium-chain triglycerides, which are produced from fatty acids of chain length. When these fats are digested in the small intestine, they tend to yield monoglycerides (lauric acid) and saturated medium chain free fatty acids. Only a minimal amount of these fatty acids tend to promote the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries. Unlike the long chain fatty acids, the lauric acid medium-chain free fatty acids and monoglycerides are well absorbed by the small intestines, thus they do not undergo the re-esterification and degradation processes. Because coconut oil is not stored as fat deposits, it is highly valuable to consumers especially dieters. Coconut oil has varying uses such as in infant formulas, intravenous lipid infusions, energy production in the body and for athletic nutritional drinks.
Coconut oil can be produced from dried coconut pulp known as the copra but the one from fresh coconut milk, referred to as the virgin coconut oil (VCO) is presently becoming increasingly popular. Coconut oil, especially the virgin coconut oil (VCO), is a vital source of several biologically active compounds such as phenolic, tocols and sterols compounds. Virgin coconut oil is a functional food oil produced from fresh coconut milk of a mature coconut kernel either through natural or by a mechanical method, in the presence or absence of heat without altering the nature of the oil. VCO does not necessarily require further processing such as deodorizing, bleaching or chemical refining, thus it can be eaten in its natural state.
VCO is distinctive with its natural coconut aroma, colourless and without sediments. It has medium chain fatty acids of which the most important one is the lauric acid. Studies reveal that the lauric acid has potent anti-microbial properties that are able to destroy disease-causing bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Since time immemorial, the coconut oil has been used in traditional medicine for dealing with all sorts of illnesses and diseases. Interestingly, the oil can be therapeutically used as an anti-cancer therapy and for tackling Alzheimer's disease. Studies reveal that coconut oil prevents premature ageing, minimizes the onset of degenerative diseases and protects our bodies from free radical damage.
Coconut is multifunctional thus used in several industries such as pharmaceuticals, food, agriculture, energy, cosmetics, construction and chemical industry. Considering the fact that coconut is used in varying ways makes it necessary to have a lucid knowledge of the various types of coconut oil. Traditionally, coconut oil is produced through dry extraction, after which the generated oil is further treated either by deodorizing (RBD), bleaching or refining method. On the other hand, wet extraction of coconut milk from fresh coconut pulp and subsequently breaking the milk emulsion to generate oil is an interesting approach. Based on the fat extraction process from the coconut, the various types of coconut oil can be distinguished.
Pure Coconut Oil is a crude and unrefined oil generated from dried coconut kernels (copra). This type of coconut oil is mainly obtained by compressing some dried coconut kernels in a mill. The oil is edible thus can be consumed whole in salads, baking, confectionaries or for cooking. The oil can also be massaged on the skin as a moisturizer, ointment or lotion, applied on the hair and used for producing medicines, soaps and shampoos.
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is an unrefined oil obtained by extracting milk from fresh coconut pulp instead of copra. This can either be through the centrifugal separation, enzyme actions or fermentation processes. VCO has no deodorizing agents, chemical solvents or any bleaching agents in it and it contains a high amount of bioactive compounds. VCO is suitable for use in aromatherapy, for boosting metabolism, for individuals that want to lose weight, for those with digestive disorders, for skin and hair care and for fighting infections. The numerous medicinal benefits of coconut oil are attributed to the high amounts of lauric acids, capric acids, vitamin-E and caprylic acid therein.
Refined Coconut Oil or RBD coconut oil is a refined, deodorized and bleached type of coconut oil. It is produced by using coconut oil extruder after which the oil is further processed by refining, deodorizing and bleaching. Undergoing these processes render the coconut oil odourless and tasteless with a very high smoke point. Refined coconut oil can be used for cooking food, and in the cosmetic industry for manufacturing lotions, soap, body cream and detergents etc.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is an organically processed virgin coconut oil that is extracted from organic coconuts. This type of coconut oil serves a similar purpose as the others.
Organic Coconut Oil (OCO) is the type of oil obtained only from coconut palm trees grown strictly on organic manure without fertilizers and synthetic additives. There are usually no chemical or artificial additives in the extraction and processing of the organic coconut oil. OCO serves the same purpose as the other types of coconut oil.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Improves Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative progressive disorder where dementia symptoms slowly worsen over years. Memory loss is usually mild in the early stages while in the later stage (Alzheimer's), patients lose the ability to effectively converse and react to their environment. A group of researchers examined the changes in the main cognitive functions of patients with AD disease post-consumption of a coconut oil enriched Mediterranean diet. The 44 AD patients selected for this experiment were randomly divided into two homogenous groups of 22 patients each. The first group is an experimental group of patients that were strictly placed on a coconut oil enriched Mediterranean diet for 21 days while the other is the control group. To ascertain the cognitive changes post-intervention, a 7 Minute Screen was also carried out so as to analyze the temporal orientation, semantic and episodic memory and visuospatial and visuoconstructive abilities. The results after the intervention with coconut oil showed some improvements in the episodic, temporal orientation, and semantic memory. It was also observed that the positive impact was more prevalent in women with a mild-moderate state. Nevertheless, there were other improvements in males with the severe state shown. Conclusively, the isocaloric coconut oil enriched Mediterranean diet appears to have improved the cognitive functioning of the AD patients.
Increases High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Level
Some folks believe that an intake of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). HDL cholesterol is also known as the good cholesterol that scavenges for harmful radicals in the bloodstream. While doing so, it eradicates the harmful bad cholesterol from unwanted locations. High HDL levels minimize the onset of cardiovascular diseases while low levels increase the onset of the disease. Some researchers examined the impact of a daily consumption of virgin coconut oil on plasma lipoproteins levels and adverse events. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either (i) 15 mL of virgin coconut oil or (ii) 15 mL 2% carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) solution (as control), twice daily, for a period of 8 weeks. At end of the 8 weeks period, the participants had an 8-week washout period and then crossed over to take the alternative regimen for another 8 weeks. It was observed that a daily consumption of the virgin coconut oil significantly increased the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol compared to the control regimen. However, there wasn't any difference observed in the total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglyceride levels between the two regimens. Conclusively, a daily consumption of virgin coconut oil increases the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Therefore, this oil is potentially useful for reducing the onset of cardiovascular diseases.
Treatment of Infections
Due to the antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties of coconut oil, it is very useful for fighting against infections. Studies reveal that coconut oil kills the bacteria that cause gonorrhoea, ulcers, pneumonia, influenza, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and throat infections. It also tackles harmful bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Listeria monocytogenes and protozoa (Giardia lamblia). The oil kills the virus that causes herpes, SARS, influenza, hepatitis and measles. It is also powerful against fungi and yeast that cause rash, thrush, candidiasis, athlete’s foot and ringworm. Moreover, the lauric acid in coconut oil inhibits against the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes that live in the sebaceous glands of the facial skin. These acnes cause inflammatory response as lumpy cysts. Researchers have proven that the application of lauric acid inhibits bacterial growth, reduces oedema as well as inflammation. Thus, coconut oil is believed to be therapeutically useful for treating infections.
Acts as Insulin Resistance
Coconut oil is one fat that diabetic patients can tolerate as it regulates their blood sugar. It improves the secretion of insulin thus useful for preventing and treating diabetes. The fact that the coconut oil is easily absorbed in the absence of insulin or enzyme makes it useful for supplying energy to the body cells. Consumption of coconut oil boosts the insulin activities as well as improves the binding affinity, unlike other oil. Moreover, this oil is considered a natural antioxidant thus useful in regulating the blood sugar. The healthy fat in coconut oil slows down the digestive process post-consumption of carbohydrate food for steady blood sugar levels. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil release energy and do not store, unlike the long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is highly recommended for diabetic patients.
Coconut oil appears to be one of the base ingredients of skin care products such as body creams, soaps and lotions. Coconut oil prevents premature ageing due to its high antioxidant properties. Coconut oil can be used as a massage oil and moisturizer for the skin. It creates a barrier against infections, moisturizes and keeps the skin softened. It protects the skin from sagging, wrinkling and developing age spots. It keeps the skin glowing for a cleaner complexion, prevents skin flaking, prevents skin dryness as well as protects the skin from harmful UV rays. Coconut oil is also a powerful oil for treating several skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis etc. It is noteworthy that the application of coconut oil on the skin has no adverse effects.
Tackles Cardiac Disorder
Coconut oil is beneficial for the heart due to its constituents of approximately 50% lauric acid that helps to prevent diverse heart problems including high blood pressure and high cholesterol level. There is an ongoing debate among many individuals that coconut oil is not ideal for the heart due to the high amount of saturated fats in it. But in reality, the amount of saturated fats in coconut oil is beneficial for the heart due to the lauric acid found in it. The saturated fats in coconut oil are not harmful to the heart, unlike other animal oils. Coconut oil does not increase the LDL levels and it minimizes the risk of damage to the arteries thereby preventing atherosclerosis.
Suitable for Athletes/Dieters/Bodybuilders
Coconut oil is useful for athletes, dieters and bodybuilders because it has low calories, unlike other animal oils. Even though coconut oil contains saturated fats, yet these fats are easily converted into energy thereby leading to no accumulation of fat in the arteries and heart. Being that the coconut oil is easily digestible in the small intestines, it therefore, aids energy production and ultimately boosts the overall performance levels of athletes.
Suitable for Weightloss
Coconut oil is ideal for a weight loss plan as it has short and medium-chain fatty acids that keep excessive weight at bay. The oil is also easily digestible and it promotes the healthy functioning of the endocrine system and thyroid. It also increases the body’s metabolic rate by soothing stress on the pancreas while producing more energy. These processes help the overweight and obese individuals to lose excessive weight. This is part of the reasons why those living in the tropical coastal part of the world that often include coconut oil in their everyday cooking tend not to be obese or fat.
Suitable for the Liver
The medium chain fatty acids and triglycerides found in coconut oil are useful for preventing liver diseases. This is attributed to the fact that these substances can be easily converted into energy upon their arrival at the liver, thereby lowering the activities of the liver while preventing the accumulation of fat.
Coconut oil promotes the healthy functioning of the digestive system. As a result, several stomach and digestion-related issues such as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are kept at bay. Moreover, the saturated fats found in coconut oil exhibit antimicrobial properties thus useful for tackling bacteria, parasites and fungi that could cause indigestion.
Coconut oil is an essential oil for hair care as it helps to maintain a healthy hair growth. Coconut oil is a good hair conditioner and it provides the proteins needed for healing, nourishing and growth of damaged hair. A regular massage of the hair with coconut oil prevents dandruff and keeps the scalp free from lice and its eggs. Coconut oil provides a shiny complexion on the hair and also prevents the hair from unnecessarily falling off. Coconut oil is an essential ingredient in the cosmetics industry for manufacturing assorted hair products such as hair conditioner, dandruff relife creams and hair shampoo.
Boosts the Immune System
Coconut oil is highly recommended for boosting and strengthening the immune system. This is attributed to its high constituents of lauric acids, capric acids, caprylic acids and antimicrobial lipids, which exhibit antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
Coconut oil forms a chemical layer once topically applied to infected areas. This offers protection to the infected parts of the body from bacterial attack, viruses, fungi, air and external dust. Coconut oil speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues thus effective for treating wounds, cuts and bruises.
Treatment of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a disease condition marked by an inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatic damage occurs when the digestive enzymes are activated prior to their release into the small intestine after which they start attacking the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be chronic or acute. Studies reveal that coconut oil is essential for treating pancreatitis.
Maintains Healthy Bones
Coconut oil helps the body to absorb essential minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which are useful for healthy bone development. This justifies why this oil is highly recommended for individuals that are susceptible to osteoporosis.
Coconut oil aids the absorption of calcium by the body, thus essential for developing strong teeth. The oil also prevents tooth decay.
Coconut oil is so soothing thus essential for relieving an individual from stress. Due to its soothing effect, applying coconut oil on the head is equally helpful for eradicating mental fatigue.
Recommended for Cancer and HIV Patients
Researchers reveal that coconut oil is useful for reducing a patient's viral susceptibility to cancer and HIV. Therefore, coconut oil is essential for reducing the viral load of HIV and cancer patients.
Ideal for the Kidney
Coconut oil is essential for the kidney as it helps to keep kidney and gallbladder diseases at bay. The oil is capable of dissolving kidney stones.
Prevents Premature Ageing
Due to the antioxidant properties of coconut oil, it is effective for preventing premature ageing and degenerative disease.
Watch this Video on How to Make the Virgin Coconut Oil!!!
METHODS OF VIRGIN COCONUT OIL PRODUCTION
- Boil four cups of water until it starts steaming.
- Grate two brown mature coconuts.
- Add the grated coconut in a blender.
- Pour the hot water into the blender and close the lid of the blender.
- Blend the coconut to form a smooth mixture.
- Pour the blended coconut over a strainer or cheesecloth that is spread over a bowl.
- Strain the coconut water and allow the coconut milk to drip into the bowl.
- Use either hand to properly squeeze out the coconut water from the pulp or use spatula.
- You can use your hand to wriggle the cheesecloth and squeeze out the coconut water into a clean bowl.
- To extract more liquid, add more hot water into the pulp and squeeze.
- Pour the coconut water into a clean pot or saucepan then place on a burner.
- Turn the heat to medium-high then allow to boil, stirring constantly.
- Continue boiling until the water has evaporated as well as the cream being separated from the oil.
N:B - The cream usually turns brown and it can take approximately 1 hour for the boiling process to complete.
- Alternatively, the mixture can be allowed to separate on its own. Simply pour the coconut liquid in a bowl, cover the container with a plastic wrap then leave it at a room temperature for 24 hours. Afterwards, place content in a refrigerator to allow the oil to solidify and float on the top. Then scoop out the oil from the liquid.
Wet Mill Method
- Add mature brown coconut pulps and water into a food processor.
- Turn the food processor to a medium speed and blend properly.
- Filter the coconut milk using a cheesecloth or filter over a clean bowl.
- Ensure to squeeze out the coconut milk very well into the bowl.
- Leave the bowl in a cool safe place for at least 24 hours.
- The coconut oil separates from the milk and curd layer appears at the top of the jar.
- Place the bowl in the refrigerator or in a cool room so that the curd can harden more quickly.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the curd then discard it.
- The pure virgin coconut oil remains in the bowl.
Cold Press Method
- Grind a coconut into an even paste.
- Slowly stir the paste so that the oil can separate from the solid parts.
- By using a hydraulic press machine, apply pressure to force the oil out.
- The hydraulic press produces more heat and friction so as to shear the oil cells and allow the oil to release itself.
- Cold pressed coconut oils are usually in a heat controlled environment whereby the temperatures are kept below 120 °F.
Natural Fermentation Process
- Grate coconut pulps and blend with water at 70°C.
- Knead the mixture by hand for up to 5 minutes.
- Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth to squeeze out the coconut milk.
- Allow the coconut milk to ferment naturally for at least 16 hours at 40°C.
- Coconut oil usually separates from the fermented curd after which it is then heated.
OTHER USES OF COCONUT
- Edible Purposes: Coconut fruit is edible thus the coconut pulp and coconut water can be consumed. Coconut milk can be obtained from coconut for cooking assorted dishes such as coconut rice, coconut cookies etc. Dry coconut pulp can be milled to form coconut flour, which can be used for baking food products such as bread, biscuit, cookies etc. The coconut water or coconut juice is the clear liquid in a coconut, which is equally good for human consumption.
- Coconut trunks and leaves can be used as building materials for construction purposes.
- The outer layer (husk) of coconut can be used for manufacturing carpets, fibres and ropes.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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