For centuries people living in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands have been praising coconuts as a food source and both an internal and external medicine. They love coconuts so much they fondly called the Coconut tree, “The Tree of Life”.
So today we are going to look at why coconut oil is so beneficial especially for women in their peri-menopausal years and beyond.
Has your menopausal transition been filled with fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog?
If so, read on, because this simple food is readily available, economic, and effective. This is something that everyone can incorporate. The only exception is if you have a food intolerance or allergy to coconut and this is extremely rare.
Yes, coconut oil is saturated fat and unfortunately, many women grew up with the lie that fats are bad, especially saturated fats. Hopefully, by now you have heard that this is incorrect. There are good fats and there are bad fats. As a general rule natural fats are good and we need an abundance of them in our diet to achieve good health, but altered, deep-fried, man-made fats are bad and there is a special place in hell for these vegetable oil: The 3 C’s Canola, Cottonseed, Corn, and the three S’s Soybean, Sunflower and Safflower oil. If you missed that memo, you may like to check out the book “Deep Nutrition” by Dr. Catherine Shannon. If you have any of these truly bad fats in your home, throw them out now.
Back to coconut oil. To make this oil, they cold-press the white meat of the coconut. You want to buy cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avoid partially hydrogenated coconut oil, this last one turns this natural fat into a man-made altered trans fat, which shouldn’t be consumed.
Coconut oil consists mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT for short) and some long-chain triglycerides.
The difference is how long the triglyceride carbon atom chain is. The longer the chain, the longer it takes your body to break it down into energy. Short-chain fatty triglycerides are the fastest but they aren’t usually used as they often upset the digestive system. Long-chain fatty acids are more abundant in the diets but take longer to digest as they need to be processed via the liver before they can release energy. Medium-chain triglycerides, on the other hand, hit the sweet spot.
Your body converts MCT into ketones. Ketones are an energy source similar to glucose but without the insulin spike or the blood sugar rollercoaster. Ketones suppress ghrelin (your hunger hormone) and increase cholecystokinin which increases the feeling of fullness.
MCT can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide instant fuel to energise your brain. There is promising research looking at this benefit in regard to preventing and treating Alzheimer's. It also plays a beneficial role in treating Multiple Scoliosis, Epilepsy, and other neurological conditions.
MCT’s can help protect the digestive system by blocking bacteria and toxins from entering the bloodstream.
They may help prevent against cardiovascular disease by increasing the “good” HDL form of cholesterol and lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
For the women out there trying to get back into a regular exercise routine, you may find it encouraging to hear MCT oils may reduce lactic acid build-up and its related muscle soreness while helping to increase stamina and endurance.
When starting with MCT oils, start slowly. Start with 1 teaspoon and build up slowly over time to a tablespoon.
MCT comes in a few different forms: C6 (Caprice acid), C8 (Caprylic acid), C10 Capric acid, and C12 (Lauric acid)
Let’s go over the differences, as you can use straight coconut oil, an isolated MCT from the coconut oil, or a combination of isolated MCTs.
I have all of these options in my kitchen pantry and use them at different times.
Straight coconut oil is roughly 50% C12, 7% C10, 7% C8, the rest is long-chain triglycerides - C14 and C16. I only use coconut oil for cooking. The smoke point for extra virgin coconut oil is around 180C or 350F, the refined oil has a higher smoke point but I refuse to use this human-altered oil. This temperature is great for curries and stir-fries but not for deep frying.
To get the health benefits of MCT’s you need a concentrated dose, hence why I don’t take coconut oil as a supplement, instead I look at the concentrated individual MCTs. Personally, I have a combination of these for everyday use like with salads dressings or in my smoothie but I also use a daily tablespoon of straight C8 and you will understand why I do this in a minute. But before we move on you need to know isolated MCTs have a low smoke point and you should not cook with them!
C6 - is not usually used. As it has a tendency to upsets most people's digestive systems, but it does convert rapidly to energy. If you do get stomach upsets from your MCT oil, check there is no C6 in it.
C8 - This is my preferred form of MCT, personally I use a retail product called Brain Octane Fuel. As the name suggests it helps fuel the brain, increasing mental clarity and focus. I put this in my morning coffee to prepare for the day. It also helps me feel full so I can fast longer if it's an Intermittent fasting day. This is the best of the MCT oils, as it only takes 3 steps to turn it into energy and it produces 4 times the amount of ketones than standard coconut oil. More ketones more metabolic stimulation and more energy.
C10 - This is a cheaper version of C8, it still has the same benefits but it takes longer to create energy
C12 - Standard coconut oil is primarily C12, otherwise known as Lauric acid It has some powerful anti-microbial effects. Depending on the health of your gut, you may be able to convert lauric acid to monolaurin. This substance is protective against viruses, bacteria, and fungi. I often recommend it when I see high candida or a general microbial dysbiosis in my patient's GI map results. C12- also has promising results in reducing chronic type 2 diabetic complications such as vision issues and kidney problems.
So to summarise start cooking with coconut oil, if you aren’t already.
The key health benefits of adding the concentrated medium-chain triglycerides to your diet include:
Side note dogs love MCT oil too, I pour some over my dog's foods every night. The biggest change I’ve seen in her is her little paw pads used to constantly crack and peel and she would limp around from time to time. Not anymore!
I hope you have enjoyed learning about coconut oil, if you would like to know more about how food can help transform your transition into menopause, considering joining me on Tuesday 25th May for my Functional Foods for the Menopausal transition workshop as a part of the Natural Medicine Week celebrations. Check out www.naturalmedicineweek.com.au for more details about my event and many more or click here Functional foods for menopause.