While many people may be avoiding coconut oil because of warnings about saturated fat, they may not have heard that recent scientific evidence separates natural, unrefined saturated oils from hydrogenated trans fatty acids.
The Importance of Fat Intake
Fat intake is vital to healthy fertility. Instead of worrying about how much fat we eat, we need to be concerned with the types of fats we eat. We need a certain amount of saturated fats to produce cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed for formation of healthy cell membranes and is a precursor to all steroid hormones (progesterone, estrogen, FSH, etc.). We cannot have proper hormonal balance without adequate amounts of saturated fats. We cannot conceive a child or have a healthy pregnancy without proper hormonal balance.
We have all heard to stay away from saturated fats. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fats are found in dairy, red meat, poultry and processed foods, but coconut oil and palm oil also contain saturated fat. We have also heard we should eat monounsaturated fats, which are most commonly found in olive and canola oil. The buzz is that olive and canola oil are “healthy” and are “good fats” because they may help to decrease LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol.
The problem with both olive and canola oil is that they are unstable at high temperatures for cooking. When you cook with these oils, they oxidize. Eating oils that have oxidized leaves the body susceptible to oxidative stress. Monounsaturated fats when heated, have the potential to convert to trans fatty acid. The body is unable to metabolize trans fatty acids. Oxidative stress leads to cell damage in the body.
Monounsaturated fats also have a shorter shelf life, they oxidize in a shorter amount of time than coconut oil. Studies have shown coconut oil is stable at high cooking temperatures and has a shelf life of 1 year.
The FDA and the US Department of Health estimate that artificially hydrogenated trans fats, the type found in fast food, processed junk foods and pastries cause hundreds of fatal heart attacks every year. These are the dangerous saturated fatty acids that we should be limiting in our diet, not naturally pure, healthy coconut oil.
Coconut is a medium-chain fatty acid, which makes it easily metabolized by the body. Coconut oil is an excellent replacement for butter and oil in baking and stir-fries. I have made the switch to coconut for my cooking needs and my family loves the taste! Once you use this oil you will find that you can’t even taste it in most dishes.
Coconut Oil Shown to Support a Healthy Body
Long-term studies have shown that cultures that eat coconut oil regularly have lower total cholesterol levels than people living in the United States. These cultures get a large part of their calories from coconuts and coconut oils, with no increase in heart disease or any elevated cholesterol levels.
Coconut oil and cream have been shown to support health through a variety of ways, including:
- Weight loss, promotes a healthy balanced weight
- Balancing metabolism through thyroid support
- Heart health
- Creating hormones, maintaining hormonal balance
- Cellular health
- Supports proper immune system function
- Balanced cholesterol levels
- Increased energy
- Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal
- Supports adequate fat stores for pregnancy and lactation
- Shown to increase lauric acid content in breast milk
Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Scientists have studied the effects of coconut oil consumption on different types of cholesterol and blood lipids. Consumption of the recommended serving size of coconut oil along with a healthy diet and lifestyle helps maintain normal levels of cholesterol.
High in Lauric Acid
Lauric acid is a rare medium-chain fatty acid found in human breast milk that supports healthy metabolism and is now being studied for its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial health-protecting properties. Coconut oil contains lauric acid as well, which is extremely rare for a plant! Some researchers predict that lauric acid will become as well known in health circles as Omega-3 is today.
Support Hormone Production and Healthy Weight Management
Body fat and consumption of good fats is essential for the body to manufacture hormones and maintain hormonal balance. Women who are underweight have low body fat. A study from BJOG showed that underweight women were 72% more likely to miscarry. Coconut oil has been shown to support adequate fat stores.
On the flip side, women who are overweight may have problems conceiving due estrogen dominance, which may cause menstrual cycle irregularities, anovulation, inadequate building of the lining of the uterus. Eating coconut oil has been shown to help women to lose weight by supporting a healthy metabolism, while balancing hormones.
Whether you are at a healthy weight, low body weight or overweight, coconut oil has been shown to support a healthy metabolism by nourishing the thyroid gland. Because metabolism and hormonal balance go hand-in-hand it is wonderful that a plant oil can help to support both.
Coconut Oil Use in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Use coconut oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as part of a healthy nutrient dense whole food diet. Coconut oil supplies rich amounts of saturated fat with high amounts of lauric acid. Not only will your body benefit, but your baby will receive the same benefits. The saturated fat content helps you to build-up adequate fat stores in pregnancy and in preparation for breastfeeding. Fat stores are vital to maintaining adequate energy and proper body function for both pregnancy and lactation. During pregnancy and lactation, your baby is going to get vital nutrients and calories from your body, what is left is used by your body. This is why a healthy diet is vital to caring for not only your health, but the health of your child.
Lauric acid found in coconut oil and breast milk has been found to have antiviral, antibacterial and parasiticidal (kills parasites) properties that support proper immune function. This may help to protect your and your baby’s health in pregnancy. The benefits of lauric acid continues on during lactation, as those benefits are directly passed to your baby through your breast milk. Breast milk is comprised of about 20% lauric and capric acid, these help to protect your baby from illness.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that lactating mothers who eat a diet rich in coconut oil and other coconut products, to have significantly increased levels of lauric acid and capric acid in their breast milk. Results of the study showed that, “A single meal of coconut oil can significantly affect the breast milk fatty acid compositions for 1 to 3 days, with the maximum increase occurring during the first 10 hours.” This study proves that foods we eat greatly impact the health of our babies, which includes foods that have a positive effect. It sounds like coconut oil really helps to make rich breast milk!
We are huge advocates for breastfeeding, but it is interesting to note that one of the ingredients in baby formula is coconut oil. This ingredient was no doubt chosen because of its lauric acid content. Coconut oil is easy to digest, and is easy for the body to absorb and utilize.
Not only can you eat coconut oil in pregnancy and during lactation, but you can slather it on your skin to help allow the skin to stretch during pregnancy. Coconut oil may help prevent stretch marks and alleviate itching due to the stretching of the skin of the belly and breasts.
How to Use Coconut Oil
I love to use coconut oil in my fertility smoothies– Add 1 T. to your favorite smoothie blend. This is the easiest way to get coconut oil on a consistent basis. This smoothie fills you up and gives you great energy!
Cook a stir-fry using coconut oil– Use coconut oil in a hot pan to sauté your favorite veggies and proteins. The oil has a high tolerance to heat, so it is one of the best oils for frying and cooking.
Use as a spread– Mix with raw chocolate powder and make your own chocolate spread, eat with fruit.
Use coconut cream in place of milk– Coconut cream is one of my favorite foods on earth. This white creamy yumminess is great in butternut squash soup, smoothies, cream bases and in coffee or tea. I like to make coconut milk kefir and add that to my smoothies also.
Coconut cream tropical smoothie– Here is the recipe for this tropical delight:
- 1/2 cup Frozen Mango
- 1/2 cup Frozen Pineapple
- 1/2 cup Frozen Papaya
- 1/3 C. Coconut cream or coconut cream kefir (see recipe for making this below)
- Fresh squeezed orange juice
- Add some other fertility super foods like maca, spirulina, royal jelly or flax oil. I use all of them!
- Blend and enjoy!
*Choose organic ingredients when possible.
Drink coconut kefir– Coconut water kefir contains good bacteria and electrolytes.
How to make coconut kefir:
Take 1 Liter of coconut water (you may use the coconut water from tetra packs or fresh water from young coconuts. (If you use the 250 ml tetra packs it will take 4 to make a liter of water.) Add 1 packet of kefir starter (found at your local health food store) and place lid on jar. It will now take 4-5 days for the kefir to culture at room temperature. The coconut water will become cloudy as the culture grows and it will become “fizzy”. When the culture is done, add a twist of lime and a little stevia or organic sweetener of your choice. Then sit down and enjoy this delicious probiotic drink.
1. Black, Jessica K., N.D., The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, Hunter House, Inc., 2006
4. Cindy A Francois, Sonja L Connor, Rosemary C Wander, and William E Connor, Acute effects of dietary fatty acids on the fatty acids of human milk1-3, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998, PDF