Coconut oil offers significant benefits for many cognitive, mental and physical health conditions. Learn how to buy and use coconut oil in your diet.
For decades, coconut oil was considered an unhealthy fat that clogged arteries and caused heart disease.
Now coconut oil is being hailed as a superfood that can cure everything from Alzheimer’s to tooth decay.
Why the flip-flop on the health benefits of coconut oil?
And does it live up to its reputation as the latest cure-all?
Let’s take a look at how dietary advice about fats has evolved, the truth about coconut oil, and what this means for your brain and overall health.
How Coconut Went From Being the “Tree of Life” to a Killer
Coconut trees are found around the world in the tropics and subtropics.
This versatile palm, Cocos nucifera, is the “Swiss Army knife” of the plant kingdom.
Virtually every part of the coconut tree has an important use.
Traditionally coconut water, oil, and meat have been used for nourishment.
Coconut husk and fronds are used to make everything from rope to roofs.
Coconut oil has been used to promote health as part of India’s ancient Ayurvedic healing tradition.
It’s been used for beautiful and healthy skin and hair as well.
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According to Dr. Jon Kabara in The Coconut Oil Miracle, “Even today the Asian Pacific community, which may represent as much as half of the world’s population, uses coconut oil in one form or another.”
People who make coconut a major part of their diet are extraordinarily healthy with low incidences of heart disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions. (1, 2)
Coconut is so important to people in these areas, they call it the “tree of life.” (3)
But here in the West, coconut oil has been considered a cause of heart disease to be avoided.
How did coconut go from being the tree of life to a killer?
Saturated Fat Myths That Are Making Us Sick
There are three big dietary myths concerning dietary fat that wrongly vilify coconut oil.
These myths have also contributed to making the US one of the fattest countries on earth, and the least healthy among wealthy countries. (4, 5)
Let’s bust these myths about dietary fats.
Myth #1: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease
It’s “common knowledge” that saturated fat, the kind found in meat, lard, butter, and coconut, causes heart disease and should be avoided. But it’s not true.
This idea came from a highly flawed observational study from the 1950’s in the Seven Countries Study which speculated that saturated fat was the cause of heart disease.
This idea took hold and fueled the theory that “low-fat = heart-healthy” and that saturated fat causes heart disease … even though this has been disproven time and time again. (6, 7)
Since coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, it was high on the list of foods to avoid.