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For as long as we can remember, the ethos on fats has been clear-cut. Saturated bad. Unsaturated, not-so-bad. But times, they are a-changing, with coconut oil – long on the ‘bad’ list with around 90 per cent saturated fat – now being touted as the healthiest oil.
“Coconut oil is unique to other saturated fats as it is a medium-chain fatty acid,” says Tabitha McIntosh, naturopath at Awaken Your Health (www.awakenyourhealth.com.au). While other saturated fats are made up of long-chain fatty acids, the medium-chain structure of coconut oil means it is metabolised into energy soon after eating, rather than being stored as fat. “Medium-chain fatty acids are immediately funnelled to the liver and available for energy production,” says McIntosh. “Hence its more frequent use in research with sports performance in athletes.”
It’s a great health booster:
“Research has shown that the major fatty acids in coconut oil support the immune system and have proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal activity,” says McIntosh. In addition to having immune-boosting qualities, coconut oil can help the body absorb nutrients and improve digestion.
It can help you lose weight:
The body associates fats with feeling full, so healthy lifestyle expert and blogger Sarah Wilson
(www.sarahwilson.com.au) swears by it for dieting or simply daily consumption. Wilson often has two tablespoons around the 3pm ‘slump’ instead of eating sugar, but she says it is important not to get it confused with the hydrogenated version of coconut oil, which is bad.
It’s ideal for cooking with:
When used at high heat, coconut oil – with its high burning point – doesn’t create cancer-causing by-products like oils with lower burning points do, so it’s ideal for frying and baking. “Coconut oil is the only oil that is stable enough to resist mild heat-induced damage, while still helping to promote heart health and support weight loss and thyroid function,” says Wilson. “Use coconut oil instead of butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, margarine or any other type of oil called for in recipes.”
It’s fantastic on your skin:
Coconut oil can be rubbed into the skin and hair for a nourishing, aromatic moisturiser that leaves the skin dewy and hair shiny. Take advantage of antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities by using it as a cleanser, mix with bicarb to make deodorant, or use in a foot bath to treat fungal infections.
It’s available as fair trade and organic:
Most coconut oil sold in Australia is sourced from the Philippines or Thailand, so it probably will have a fair chunk of food miles to consider. However, choosing Fairtrade and Australian Certified Organic will help create meaningful employment in those countries. Try Dr Bronner’s Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil, $15.95, www.drbronner.com.au