Coconut Oil: Midlife’s Superfood or Just Another Trend?
Coconut Oil: Midlife’s superfood or just another trend?
There has been so much chat about coconut oil recently. It has been hailed as a superfood, helping with fat loss and those blood sugar spikes I’ve talked about before.
Today I’m going to unravel some of the debate around coconut oil and tell you how it works for me, so you can decide whether this could be a secret weapon in the battle against midlife weight gain.
Extracted from the "meat" of the coconut, the oil is a white solid at room temperature and easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day.
Studies have shown that 2 tablespoons a day of coconut oil increased fullness, increased metabolism, and reduced belly fat - all great news for Midlife Menu fans!
Explaining the Science
Coconut oil has been top of the superfood pile for a while but there’s a lot of uncertainty because it’s over 80% saturated fat. That raises alarm bells because saturated fats increase cholesterol and that’s bad for you and your heart, right?
The beauty of coconut oil is that it’s high in something called lauric acid, which is a Medium Chain Triglyceride or MCT - (triglyceride is just the scientific word for fat). You can get long. short and medium chains triglycerides and they get processed differently, which is important to remember. In fact, 65% of the fat in coconut oil are these MCTs.
What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolises them; they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, where they go straight to the liver and they're burned for fuel or converted into "ketones."
This metabolic process, unique to MCTs, is what sets coconut oil apart from other fats.
Coconut Oil MCTs may help with fat loss
Coconut oil’s MCTs have been shown to have a few different fat loss benefits.
It helps to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to a natural reduction in the amount of food you eat.
Due to their unique metabolic route, MCTs can also increase the number of calories you burn; this happens when you compare the calories burned after eating the same amount of other fats. In fact, a few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5%.
Some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”).
Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reducing other fats and oils!
Studies Of Coconut Oil
As with any so-called superfood, which claims to have all kinds of benefits, there is controversy around whether it really works.
On the one side, Dr Michael Mosley - who you might have seen on programmes like Trust Me I’m a Doctor and author of books like The Fast 800 and The 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet - found in a study that although coconut oil didn’t actually do much to lower LDL (so called ‘bad’ cholesterol, linked to higher cholesterol and heart disease), it did increase HDL - the good cholesterol which carries the bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.
On the other hand, Harvard Professor Karin Michels was highly critical of coconut oil, arguing that it “poses a greater risk to heart health than lard as it is almost entirely made up of saturated fatty acids” which can block our arteries. She pointed out that an analysis of over 100 studies found that saturated fats raised LDL (bad cholesterol) in seven controlled trials.
You can read more about my thoughts on cholesterol levels in this blog post.
My Take on Coconut Oil?
Hands up - I’ve got a big jar of coconut oil in my kitchen and I use it for all kinds of things - not just cooking! The term superfood suggests the more you have the better it is for you, but I’m not sure I would go that far. Here’s how I use it …
In the kitchen
1. Cooking at High Temperatures
It’s really useful for cooking at high temperatures because it’s stable so if you’re going to fry it’s better than olive oil which has a lower smoke point.
But be warned - because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, like most saturated fats so you have to melt it first. If I’m frying onions for example, I’ll use coconut oil instead. It doesn’t have a particular coconut taste so it’s not going to affect what you eat in terms of taste. If someone hates coconut they could probably taste it and if you eat it on its own, you would know.
2. Instead of Butter or Margarine
I’ve got my husband using coconut oil on his crackers rather than margarine and butter and he’s fine with it now! You can sort of spread it but it’s a bit harder so you have to splodge it on a bit!
3. Reducing sugar cravings
It’s also useful for putting in with foods that are high carb as it’s a fat that can bring down and balance the spikes of blood sugar levels which can result in sugar and carb cravings. I know someone who puts a spoonful in their porridge because the additional fat lowers the blood sugar spikes.
The idea is that a lot of easily digestible carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes, followed by blood sugar dips which in turn triggers carb and sugar cravings. The coconut oil slows the rate at which the carbs are converted to sugar and avoids those blood sugar spikes which can make you crave sugar. Fats and proteins are digested slower which reduces the blood sugar spike so by adding fat to a high carb food you reduce that.
And if you want to know more about blood sugar make sure you read my special blog on the Glycaemic Load and Glycaemic Index and how being aware of them can make a huge difference to your long term health. Coming soon!
If you’re struggling with sugar and carb cravings, why not get the FREE 5 day sugar free programme to help curb those cravings?
4. As a Coffee Creamer
Believe it or not, you can use coconut oil just like a coffee creamer. Sometimes people will have black coffee with a spoonful of coconut oil mixed into it and it makes it go frothy and almost like a white coffee. As caffeine potentially spikes your blood sugar levels it’s a way of giving you more sustainable energy.
Out of the kitchen
1. Moisturiser/Make-up Remover
It’s a really good moisturiser and also good make-up remover as well, although you might find it a little bit oily.
2. As a Mouthwash
Some people use coconut oil like a mouthwash. You swish it round your mouth for 15-20 minutes first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten anything and it helps reduce the harmful bacteria in your mouth.
I’m convinced - what kind of Coconut Oil is best?
There are so many coconut oil options available in supermarkets and health shops these days that it can make it difficult to know which is best. I would always go for the virgin and organic versions. I tried one that’s wasn’t and it tasted slightly chemically. So it’s always good to think about the quality of what you’re buying.
Three Ways You Can Use Coconut Oil This Week
1) Use it as the fat of choice for high-temperature cooking.
2) Introduce it in other ways to your daily routine - bear in mind it has more than just a culinary usage - use it as a moisturiser as a good natural product.
3) Consider maybe adding it to food that would spike your blood sugar levels as a way to regulate that a bit. And get further support for curbing those sugar cravings by signing up for the FREE five day ditch the sugar programme below…
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.