News is circulating about the many benefits of coconut oil. This blend of beneficial fatty acids is being touted as the “cure-all” for an array of health woes—from digestive ailments to poor immunity, skin conditions, thyroid disease, heart disease and even high cholesterol.
Chalked full of vitamins (i.e., vitamin E), minerals (i.e., iron), essential lauric and saturated fats, this velvety tropical oil (when consumed in moderation) is becoming a go-to for health nuts and foodies galore.
So let’s take a look at the 20 amazing health benefits that will make you go nuts for coconut oil…
1. Increase “Good” Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol — LDL “bad” cholesterol which forms plaque that blocks the arteries and HDL “good” cholesterol which removes LDL cholesterol. It’s true that coconut oil contains saturated fats, but it contains lots of HDL cholesterol which means it helps remove the bad cholesterol from the body, explains Health.com.
However, WebMD does warn that coconut oil also contains LDL cholesterol and that the American Heart Association still warns people to limit their saturated fat intake to no more than 13-grams a day. So we suggest consuming only about 1-tablespoon of coconut oil a day.
2. Relieve Skin Irritations
Coconut oil can be used as an effective DIY remedy for some common skin irritants like dry skin and conditions like eczema. It can also be used as a moisturizer, sunscreen, and face cleanser. Healthline refers to studies that found coconut oil was able to improve the moisture in the skin and relieve dry skin, as well as reduce the symptoms of eczema. One specific study published in the International Journal of Dermatology monitored the results of coconut oil on children with eczema and found that 47-percent of the patients had major improvements.
The way it works is that the “fatty acids (caprylic and lauric) in coconut oil reduce inflammation internally and externally and moisturize, making them a great solution for all types of skin conditions,” writes Dr. Axe. It is also able to protect the skin with its many antioxidants which also make it ideal for healing, but we’ll explain that more later. “In addition, the antimicrobial properties balance out the candida or fungal sources that can cause many skin conditions,” explains the source.
3. Improve Brain Function
Coconut oil can be used to boost brain function and even improve memory. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Neurobiology of Aging found that the MCFAs in coconut oil were successful in improving memory in older patients, most notably their recall ability.
In addition to improving memory, the source states that coconut oil has been shown to be effective as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s. “The digestion of MCFAs by the liver creates ketones that are readily accessible by the brain for energy. Ketones supply energy to the brain without the need to process glucose into energy,” writes Dr. Axe. Basically the ketones from coconut oil will give an alternative source of energy for the brain.
4. Protect Your Skin From the Sun
In addition to relieving the skin from irritants like eczema and dry skin, coconut oil can also be used to protect the skin from the sun. Healthline cites a study that found coconut oil to be as effective as a weak sunscreen, blocking out about 20-percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
5. Good for Hair
There are just as many beautifying tricks from coconut oil as there are health benefits! One of the best is that it nourishes hair and promotes softer skin. According to Health.com, coconut oil has essential proteins that nourish damaged hair. To reap these benefits, massage coconut oil into the scalp to alleviate dandruff. It’s also a beneficial antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties making it good for the skin. It has the ability to prevent ageing and create softer skin.
Dr Axe recommends an easy DIY coconut oil hair remedy that will thicken hair and get rid of dandruff. The source advises mixing 1-tablespoon of coconut oil with 10 drops of rosemary essential oil. Massage it into the scalp for 3-minutes and rinse it out 30-minutes later.
6. May Increase Fat Burning
One of the most exciting benefits of coconut oil that is often talked about is that it can be used to help burn fat. Dr. Axe cites a 1985 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health which found that capric acid caused “initially rapid, then gradual decrease in food consumption and a parallel loss of body weight” in male rats. So how does this work? Dr. Axe explains “the key to understanding this phenomenon lays in the multidimensional ability of the MCFAs to control a variety of physiological processes.” For example, capric acid improves thyroid function which then works to lower our heart rate and help the body burn fat.
Dr. Axe also lists a study published in the Obesity Research Journal which looked at the effect MFCAs have on the breakdown of fatty cells and that it was pretreated with caprylic acid. “They observed that fat breakdown occurred at such a significant level that it literally mimicked the characteristics of fasting.”
In addition to this, coconut oil can also be used for weight loss because it helps keep us full for longer periods of time which then causes a person to eat fewer calories throughout the day. Just remember, coconut oil should never be used as a replacement for eating healthy or regular exercise, but rather as an additional component to these lifestyle factors.
7. Boost Immune System, Fight Infection
The lauric acid in coconut oil is what makes it antibacterial, anti-microbial, and antiviral. Dr. Axe explains that because many diseases are caused by the overgrowth of bad bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites, it’s also what makes it good at warding off potential illnesses and boosting the immune system, says Health.com. The source also refers to studies that show it can boost white blood cell counts to fight viruses and infections.
Healthline cites one specific test-tube study that found coconut oil to be effective in stopping the growth of an intestinal bacteria called Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, which is responsible for causing diarrhoea.
8. Help Heal Wounds
There are tons of great skincare benefits that come from using coconut oil. We talked about how it can be used to treat skin irritations and protect against the sun, but in addition to all that, coconut oil can also be used to heal wounds. Healthline cites a study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology that found wounds treated with coconut oil “had a reduction in inflammatory markers and increased production of collagen, a major component of skin. As a result, their wounds healed much faster,” writes the source.
To reap the benefits, just apply a little bit of coconut oil directly to the wound and cover it with a bandage.
9. Good for Dental Health
You might remember hearing about oil pulling a while back when it surfaced as one of the new trendy beauty and health crazes. It’s a process that’s been used for centuries as a way to clean the mouth and rid it of bacteria, and it’s back! This process can reduce bad breath and improve overall dental health. Dr. Axe explains that coconut oil is the best for oil pulling because it has a high concentration of antibacterial MCFAs.
“By swishing the oil in your mouth, the oil denatures the bacteria and sticks to it,” writes the source. “Removing oral bacteria greatly reduces your risk of periodontal disease.” Dr. Axe recommends using coconut oil for oil pulling about three times a week for 20-minutes a day.
10. Treat UTI, Kidney Infection, and Liver Damage
We’ve already mentioned that coconut oil can be used to fight infection, and this includes urinary tract infections, kidney infections and potential liver damage. “Coconut oil has been known to clear up and heal urinary tract infections and kidney infections. The MCFAs in the oil work as a natural antibiotic by disrupting the lipid coating on bacteria and killing them,” writes Dr. Axe. “Research also shows that coconut oil directly protects the liver from damage.” Doctors have even used coconut water for hydration, promoting healing, and to clear up kidney stones.
11. Reduce Hunger
We already talked about this a little in the slide about fat-burning, but when it’s not being used to help burn fat, coconut oil is commonly used as a way to suppress hunger to avoid snacking while trying to lose weight. It works to reduce hunger in the way “the fats are metabolized because ketones can have an appetite reducing effect.”
There are studies to back this claim up, the first being one that found men who ate more MCTs were able to eat fewer calories per day. Healthline also lists another study that monitored 14 healthy men who ate more MCTs at breakfast and found that they also were able to eat fewer calories at lunch. The source notes that while these studies were taken over a short period of time, the hope is that if coconut oil were used over a longer period of time, it could help encourage weight loss.
12. Improve Bone Health
Coconut oil has the ability to improve bone health because it can help with the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the body. These are both incredibly important for teeth and bones, says Health.com.
A 2012 study found that coconut oil “not only increases bone volume and structure in subjects but also decreased bone loss due to osteoporosis.” Dr. Axe also lists that it can be used to prevent osteoporosis because it contains antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress and free radicals which also happen to be two of its biggest culprits.
13. Reduce Inflammation
Coconut oil is one of those magical foods that actually contains anti-inflammatory properties which means it’s great for reducing inflammation and battling the pain associated with conditions like arthritis. There are several animal and human studies that back this claim up. “Human studies suggest that eating coconut oil may reduce markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, especially when compared to highly unsaturated oils,” writes Healthline. The source also admits that much more research needs to be done.
Health.com also states that research published in the Pharmaceutical Biology journal shows that coconut oil “might improve inflammatory diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.”
14. Boost Energy
Coconut oil can be used to boost energy, have energy last longer, and increase metabolism. “When taking a quality unrefined coconut oil, you can get the most coconut oil benefits as its MCFAs are sent directly to the liver to be converted into energy,” writes Dr. Axe.
Healthline goes into more detail and explains that it contains medium-chain triglyceride fatty acids which are digested differently than long-chain triglycerides. “These fats go directly from your gut to your liver, where they can be used as a quick source of energy that won’t raise blood sugar levels,” says Healthline.
To use coconut for boosting energy, mix coconut oil, raw honey and chia seeds (1-tablespoon each) and consume it 30-minutes before exercise.
15. Cancer Prevention and Treatment
The ketones produced by coconut oil during digestion are what make it great for fighting cancer. “Tumor cells are not able to access the energy in ketones and are glucose-dependent,” writes Dr. Axe. It’s also believed that a ketogenic diet has the ability to help cancer patients recover faster.
The other factor that allows the coconut oil to fight cancer, stomach cancer in particular, is that it contains MCFAs. Dr. Axe explains that when they digest the lipid walls of bacteria, “they also can kill the helicobacter pylori bacteria that has been known to increase the risk of stomach cancer.” The source also notes coconut oil has not only been shown to help fight cancer but may also prevent it from developing in the first place.
16. Anti-Aging Benefits
Another seemingly magical benefit of coconut oil is the fact that it can be used for anti-ageing. A study published in the medical journal Food and Function found that coconut oil improves antioxidant levels which is how it is able to slow ageing. Dr. Axe writes that it also “works by reducing stress on the liver and lowering oxidative stress.”
To reap the benefits, Dr. Axe recommends mixing 1-tablespoon of coconut oil with antioxidant-rich berries and enjoying it as a healthy breakfast. You can also apply it directly to the skin.
17. Treat Candida and Yeast Infections
We already talked a little bit about how coconut oil can be useful for fighting infections, but another one that we have to add to the list is candida and yeast infections. A study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found that “the capric acid and lauric acid in coconut oil made for an effective natural treatment for candida Albicans and yeast infections,” writes Dr. Axe.
Dr. Axe recommends using coconut oil as a supplement to treat yeast infections. Take 1-tablespoon, 3 times a day. It also suggests removing sugar and refined grains from your diet and replacing them with lots of healthy fats.
18. Improve Digestion
We’ve all experienced hiccups with our digestion from time to time, but there are some people who suffer from digestive issues on the regular, and even some more serious conditions like stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis. Apparently, coconut oil has the ability to improve digestion as it helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium and magnesium, says Dr. Axe.
Coconut oil works to improve gut health by destroying bad bacteria and candida. “Candida imbalance especially can decrease stomach acid, which causes inflammation and poor digestion. All this together means coconut oil benefits digestive health and helps treat or prevent stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis,” writes the source.
19. May Reduce Seizures
You’ve probably heard of the newest trend in diet culture which touts the benefits and success of the ketogenic diet. This diet is commonly known as a therapeutic application for treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children. “This diet involves eating very few carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, leading to greatly increased concentrations of ketones in the blood,” writes Healthline. “For some reason, the diet dramatically reduces the rate of seizures in epileptic children, even those who haven’t had success with multiple different types of drugs.”
So how does it work? Healthline explains that the fatty acids in coconut oil go into the liver where they are turned into ketones. They are then used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis “while allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.”
20. Balance Hormones
Coconut oil might be able to also help balance hormones because of its lauric acid content. Dr. Axe refers to a study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that “coconut oil may be an excellent fat to consume during menopause and also may have positive effects on estrogen levels.”
The source recommends reducing sugar and grain intake and loading up on healthy fats like coconut, avocado, flax seeds, and ghee. If you’re not a fan of coconut oil or don’t have it on hand, you can also consume coconut butter or coconut water to reap the same benefits.