Like coconut butter and coconut milk, coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut. What is left, is a fat source that is almost entirely saturated fat. Although many health organizations, including the American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association, still advise against consuming large amounts of saturated fat, those of us in the Paleo community know better. Even proponents of conventional wisdom are starting to see that saturated fat is beneficial, not harmful.
Polyunsaturated vs. Saturated Fat
Unlike polyunsaturated fats, saturated fat remains stable even after exposure to light and heat, meaning that saturated fat is much less liable to oxidize. Consumption of oxidized fat has a tendency to lead to oxidized cholesterol in the bloodstream, which in turn is a precursor to cardiovascular disease. Consumption of stable saturated fats, on the other hand, leads to more stable blood cholesterol, as well as higher levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL.
Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)
Specifically, the saturated fat found in coconut oil is composed largely of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat that is easily absorbed by the body. As a result, MCTs are commonly used to treat malnutrition and malabsorption syndromes. They are also great for those who are looking to lose or maintain weight because it promotes fat oxidation (when your body breaks down fat cells in order to access the nutrients stored there). MCTs are also beneficial for treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by providing energy for neurons and slowing their decline.
Mark Sisson has a post on the health benefits of coconut oil and how to choose a good coconut oil product when grocery shopping.