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Coconut, or Cocos nucifera as it’s known to the science community, is a fruit that grows in tropical climates from palm trees. Coconuts are grown abroad in places such as Australia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands as well as domestically in Florida, California, and Arizona. Coconuts grow in a hard shell but have a fleshy white meat as well as a clear fluid dubbed coconut water. Some of the most popular ways to consume coconut is raw, as milk, in refined oil, and as an extract. Best of all, fresh coconuts and coconut oil are wildly nutritious with many wonderful health benefits. Take a peek at some of the ways you can improve your health by simply incorporating coconut or coconut oil into your diet.
Important Note: As with all research-supported analyses, this one is based on the most current scientific research at the time of its publication.
Helps Burn Fat
Although when eating for weight loss or -management it’s wise to avoid overly processed saturated fats, there’s some indication that certain saturated fats may actually be beneficial. Saturated fats are divided into three categories: long-chain triglycerides, medium-chain triglycerides, and short-chain triglycerides. Coconut oil is rife with medium-chain triglycerides, a type of saturated fat, that may actually help you to burn fat. There is evidence that indicates the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil may help you to burn more calories than not. Unfortunately, there are too few studies to say with any certainty if this is the case. The working theory is that because pure medium-chain triglyceride oil is fat-burning and coconut oil has a 65% medium-chain triglyceride content, maybe coconut oil will provide the same results. The only downside to this theory is that coconut, although a healthier oil than other oils, is high in calories so consuming too much could have adverse effects.
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. While scientific theories suggest that coconut oil may help you to burn fat, there are too few studies supporting this claim.
The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil may have fat-burning effects as well as antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Specifically, coconut oil contains lauric acid which makes up roughly 50% of those medium-chain triglycerides. Scientific studies suggest that lauric acid is useful in warding off disease-inducing microorganisms. Some of the illnesses that lauric acid may remediate include Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Helicobacter pylori to name a few. A few interesting studies conclude that lauric acid, which is found in coconut oil, may be able to prevent the multiplicity of disease-causing bacteria. In some studies, lauric acid has been integral in killing harmful bacteria.
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Although this field of study is promising, there are very few studies connecting coconut oil to remediating harmful bacteria and fungi.
Improves Skin Health
Coconut in terms of skincare really comes down to coconut oil applications and additives. The most obvious cosmetic use is as a moisturizer. Coconut oil can be used topically to remediate dry skin, inhibit water loss, and also to create a barrier between the dermis and exterior bacteria and allergens. One study showed that subjects who regularly moisturized their hands with coconut oil following daily use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers were able to maintain hydrated skin. Other studies have indicated that topical use of coconut oil may temper symptoms associated with inflammatory skin illnesses such as dermatitis and eczema.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. Several studies tout the benefits of coconut oil used topically for both routine skincare and the remediation of skin illnesses.
Good For Your Hair
It’s no coincidence that coconut is featured as an ingredient in so many hair products; it’s in shampoos and conditioners, hair masks, and even smoothing serums. Both eating fresh coconut and applying coconut oil to your hair can stimulate growth as well as prevent split ends and breakage. Moreover, coconut oil deeply penetrates hair strands giving them flexibility and durability; the effect of this is that hair strands are less brittle and less likely to be damaged. Applying coconut oil to your hair moisturizes your follicles and strands leaving you with beautifully shiny, healthy hair. Another interesting benefit of using coconut oil in your hair is that when applied to your scalp it protects against bug bugs, lice, and dandruff.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Hundreds of studies link coconut consumption and topical use of coconut oil to improved hair protection and overall health.
Packed With Nutrition
Without a doubt, coconut is a very nutritious tree fruit. Despite being high in carbohydrates, fat, and calories, coconut meat is also packed with vitamins and minerals essential to your overall health. For starters, coconut is high in protein, B vitamins, and many useful minerals. Coconut contains high levels of manganese which is good for bone health and metabolism as well as copper and iron which are good for the for formation of red blood cells. Other notable nutrients contained in coconut include selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Coconut is a nutritious fruit with many useful vitamins and minerals; despite being high in fat, the fat content is the good, medium chain triglyceride type of fat.
Great Source of Antioxidants
Whether eating whole, raw coconut meat or using coconut oil, either is an excellent source of antioxidants which are integral in protecting your body from harmful free radicals and oxidative stress. Specifically, coconut meat is rife with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that neutralizes the dangerous compounds that could lead to chronic illnesses. In one scientific study, it was determined that coconut consumption may even protect against DNA damage. Yet another study showed that using coconut oil successfully protects cells from death or damage from oxidative stress.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. While it’s true that coconut is full of antioxidants, this source alone will not provide you enough to entirely ward off illness.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
Gives a Quick Energy Boost
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Although it’s true that the natural sugars in coconut may give you a quick boost of energy, eating foods high in sugar too frequently isn’t the most beneficial to your health.
Could Reduce Hunger
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. Although some studies suggest that coconut consumption may quell your appetite, there are too few studies to conclude with certainty just yet.
May Reduce Symptoms Associated With Alzheimer’s Disease
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. While a few studies have concluded that coconut oil may improve cognitive functions in subjects with Alzheimer’s Disease, more research is indicated.