If you wait long enough, something you thought was good for you will be deemed bad—and vice versa. Such is the case with coconut oil, which until this summer, was considered to be a miracle food. Then the American Heart Association told us otherwise. What are we to believe? Are there really amazing benefits of coconut oil?

The History of Coconut Oil

Some historians believe Egyptians were the first to use the coconut and its oil, and while that cannot be conclusively proven, we do know that native peoples in areas where coconuts proliferated have enjoyed the benefits of coconut oil—as well as its meat and milk—for centuries.

Coconut oil on its own gained traction in the 1950s in the US. At that point, home chefs used butter, lard, and coconut oil for frying foods. And it might have continued that way if it weren’t for some medical studies that warned us of the dangers of saturated fats. At that point, polyunsaturated vegetable fats took center stage, and these are what most of us ingested as we were growing up.

Unfortunately, many of the fats deemed bad in the mid 20th century weren’t really all that awful. The blanket statement that saturated fats increase cholesterol referred specifically to hydrogenated fats. What you might not know is that virgin coconut oil doesn’t fall into that category.

The Real Story on Healthy Fats

It’s true that coconut oil is fat. It’s pure fat. But it contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), which allow your body to burn its own fat more efficiently. It turns out that fat may not make you fat! These MCFAs also don’t raise cholesterol or contribute to heart disease.

While you may have been raised on a low-fat diet, the truth is our body needs fat to thrive. Fat is the main source of fuel for the brain, and it acts as a lubricant for our joints. Low-fat diets, while suggested in the best interests of the populace, often lead to the same health issues the scientists were trying to avoid! By choosing low-fat foods, you usually end up eating more fillers, such as carbohydrates—often in the form of sugar—and sugar is a deadly drug that’s primarily to blame for our country’s issues with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

True Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be used both internally and externally, both of which offer many benefits. Internally, it provides a natural source of fat, which feeds your body the nutrients it needs. When added to foods or just taken a spoonful at a time, coconut oil has been shown to improve digestion, increase immunity, aid in weight loss, prevent candida and liver disease, control blood sugar, boost energy, and help the body better absorb vital minerals.

Externally, coconut oil can be used on both the hair and skin. It can be applied to skin as massage oil, a gentle cleanser, and a moisturizer. Massage coconut oil into the scalp to thwart dandruff, or on the ends of hair to tame frizz and repair split ends. A tablespoon can even be used as a mouthwash to whiten and clean teeth.

Look for virgin coconut oils, which retain all of the health benefits. Hydrogenated coconut oils are not the choice you want. Your oil should be liquid at warmer temperatures and naturally solid in cooler seasons.

If you don’t like the taste of coconut oil, choose a refined option, which is free of odor and tastes. You’ll still get all of the great benefits without feeling like you’re sucking on a coconut.

Round Out Your Healthy Lifestyle

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