Health Benefits of Acai Berries

Acai berries are slightly smaller than grapes, although look fairly similar. The trees that they grow on are found in the Amazon Basin, particularly in Brazil. Acai berries have been consumed by various indigenous peoples of South America for thousands of years, but recently have become popular and fashionable throughout the world as a health supplement.

However, the health benefits of acai berries have been disputed, after some irresponsible producers began promoting them as being able to develop penis size, cause miracle weight loss, cure diabetes, and generally being an all-round miracle product. Acai berries do have some genuine health benefits, which are listed below. However, some of the claims made by manufacturers should be treated with more than a pinch of salt!

Acai Berries

Acai seeds and powders act as anti-oxidants against various forms of toxins. This means that they decrease the risk of developing some forms of cancer and heart disease. Other minerals found in acai products are also found to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. However, the scientific research into this area is currently in its infancy.

Acai berries are high in B vitamins. B vitamins contribute towards healthy skin and hair, and help maintain red blood cells. B vitamins are also particularly useful in guarding against pancreatic cancer.

Acai berries are very high in fibre too. Fibre is essential for the body’s digestive system, as it helps food to be processed through the colon; a lack of fibre can cause constipation and increase the risk of developing more serious conditions, such as bowel cancer. Acai berry supplements may not have as much fibre as the raw fruit, however – check the fibre content of any product before you buy.

The vitamin B in acai berries also help to maintain a healthy metabolism – this and other vitamins and minerals found in acai lie at the root of claims that it is a powerful weight loss aid. While acai does undoubtedly contain minerals that do help weight loss, you are extremely unlikely to lose a significant amount of weight purely by upping your consumption of acai products.

Another popular claim of acai berry producers is that the fruit can reduce the aging of skin and the appearance of cellulite. Some of the vitamins and minerals found in acai berries do indeed act to decrease the effect of aging free radicals and promote the flow of oxygen around the body, which also helps you stay young. However, acai berries can form part of a diet that maintains healthy skin, and are not a magic bullet.

Acai berry products are readily available from health food stores, and they are one of the most popular and trendy products on the market at this present time.  Acai berries can be found as the sole or major component of pills, powders, patches, teas and juices. Some stores sell frozen berries too – these can either be eaten raw, or consumed as part of a smoothie.

Garlic Health Benefits

Garlic is famous for giving you pungent breath – bad enough, of course, to keep away vampires! It’s a versatile ingredient, added to stews, pasta dishes, soups, and used in spare quantities in salad. You can roast garlic and eat it. In some cities in the Baltic States, you can find restaurants where everything is flavored with garlic – even the ice cream! There’s no shortage of ways to eat garlic, and it’s also very healthy too.

Garlic is believed to be very good for the heart. It’s true that countries that use a lot of garlic in their national cuisines tend to have very low rates of heart disease – these include Italy, Middle-Eastern cuisines, France and many more countries around the Med. However, the connection between garlic and heart disease is currently inconclusive. Garlic is unlikely to do you any harm, but it shouldn’t be relied upon to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Garlic is an antioxidant. It can help to cleanse your blood and liver of nasties found in the environment, and in cigarette smoke and alcohol.

Garlic is a natural antibiotic. It’s much weaker than medically prescribed antibiotics, so should not be used in lieu of them. However, regular consumption is believed to reduce your risk of catching an infection. It can be used against salmonella, listeria, streptococcal infections, and candida.

Consuming garlic can reduce your chance of being bitten by insects, particularly midges. Some campers in Scotland swear by a course of garlic pills ahead of any encounters with these vicious pests. Although garlic can help in fairly mild midge swarms, you’re also advised to take smoke coils,very strong insect repellent, citrus candles and just about anything else you can lay your hands on if you’re going to areas with high midge levels.

Garlic is very effective at preventing blood clots from forming. This means that regular consumption can reduce your risk of having a stroke. This property of garlic means that it can interact with anticoagulant drugs – however, you’d need to be eating vast quantities of garlic or garlic supplements for this to happen, so don’t let it stop you adding garlic to your spaghetti Bolognese or curry.

Garlic can be found just about anywhere. Greengrocers and supermarkets sell fresh garlic, and many also sell jars of ready peeled and chopped cloves and garlic-flavored olive oil. If the smell of garlic bothers you, then you can buy odor free garlic supplements from health food stores. You can also by smoked garlic and other unusual forms of garlic at many delicatessens.

Health Benefits of Almonds

One of the world’s most popular nuts (though it’s botanically a seed), the almond is a well-loved snack in every corner of the globe. The seed itself comes from the deciduous almond tree, which is native to the Middle East and a few sections of Southern Asia. For thousands of years, humans have recognized the value of a diet that includes the almond. Evidence suggests that the first domesticated cultivar of the almond tree appeared sometime between 3000 and 2000 years B.C., well before the majority of other agricultural crops. Cultures from the Ancient Egypt to early European tribes used the almond as a form of sustenance.

Little did these ancient cultures know that in addition to keeping them full, almonds were doing quite a bit to preserve their health. It is common knowledge that nuts in general are a valuable source of good nutrition, but almonds separate themselves as the “cream of the crop”, so to speak. Their unique blend of micronutrients and healthy oils has been the subject of considerable medical study, which has yielded very positive results.

Almonds and Cardiovascular Health

The bulk of testing on almonds has been an inquiry into its cardiovascular benefits. As it turns out, there are a great many – with lots of supporting evidence. It seems counterintuitive at first glance, mostly because almonds are relatively high in fat. A single quarter cup serving contains roughly 18 grams of it. But in this case, it is the type of fat that almonds are heavy in that makes all the difference. The three principal types of fat in the human diet are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fat. The distinction lies in the carbon-to-carbon atom bonds in the long fatty acid chains that make up dietary fat. Carbon chains with single bonds are classified as saturated fat, and have a generally negative impact when consumed in excess. If there are multiple double bonds in the carbon-to-carbon connections, the fat is defined as polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fat, meanwhile, has a single double bond somewhere in that long chain of molecules. This is the type of fat that almonds are heaviest in, and also happens to be the healthiest form of fat one can consume.

While it’s well known that saturated fat can increase levels of cholesterol, medical evidence supports the notion that monounsaturated fat works in the opposite way. In medical testing that appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition, it was found that those with high levels of LDL (or bad cholesterol) were able to maximize their cholesterol reduction over a two week span with the inclusion of almonds in their diet. The same study suggests that this LDL-lowering effect is magnified when they’re eaten along with a healthy overall diet. An additional test with more specific results found that when almonds are put in place of some saturated animal fats, LDL levels can be lowered by roughly 10% in the average person.

Another constituent of almonds’ molecular makeup that supports heart health is magnesium. When consumed, this mineral acts as a sort of pressure reliever in the cardiovascular system. It allows veins and arteries to lighten up on tightness, in effect allowing the heart to work less hard to pump blood. One serving of almonds has almost 100 milligrams of magnesium, which is nearly a quarter of what one needs daily.

Unlikely as it may be, there is actually a third substance in almonds that is believed to support heart health: vitamin E. Biologically, this vitamin has an antioxidant effect for those who get enough of it daily. By slowing the oxidation process by which harmful “free radical” molecules are formed in the body, almonds’ vitamin E help to prevent cardiovascular disease in general. It is also thought that vitamin E inhibits the collection of blood platelets, which is the chief cause of heart attack.

Almonds and Weight Control

Though they are relatively high in calories, growing evidence seems to show that almonds may actually help those making an effort to lose excess weight. In one particular weight loss study, two test groups were put on one of two diets with the same amount of calories, but different macronutrient levels. The first group received more calories from carbohydrate sources, and the second received more of their calorie allotment from healthy fat sources – including almonds. After six months, significant differences were found in their progress. The second test group – the one that consumed almonds regularly – lost 7% more weight on average than the carbohydrate-rich test group. Additionally, the almond group lost 5% more from their waist lines, lost 10% more body fat, and lowered their blood pressure significantly more than the carbohydrate group.

As it turns out, almonds aren’t just good at helping people lose weight, they can help prevent weight gain from happening in the first place. One study conducted in Spain tracked nearly 9,000 people over the course of over two years, following their weight fluctuations and their almond consumption. After this lengthy testing period, it was discovered that those who consumed tree nuts such as almonds experienced the significant health benefit of lower weight gain risk. In fact, this group’s chances of gaining 5 kilograms or more over the two year period were roughly a third less than non-nut eaters. It is important to remember that, because almonds are high in calories per ounce at roughly 200, it is easy to consume too many in one sitting. Medical and nutritional experts recommend that you eat them one handful at a time as opposed to busting out the whole package. With a little effort to control amounts, almonds can obviously be a very healthy contribution to a good overall diet.

To put it bluntly, one shouldn’t let the high fat and calorie content prevent them from enjoying almonds. Their mono unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and magnesium content make almonds exceptionally good for heart health and body composition, despite what their nutrition facts label might imply at first. When incorporated into a healthy diet regularly, almonds are a truly valuable booster in multiple aspects of human health.

Health Benefits of Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe Vera is very popular for using on the skin, and also because its fresh-smelling scent is great for air fresheners and a range of other uses. However, the consumption of liquid derived from the plant has, so far, been fairly limited – although aloe Vera juice has a wide range of health benefits.

Aloe Vera juice is very beneficial to the digestive system. It is a natural remedy to heartburn and other digestive problems, including constipation. It appears to promote the healthy functioning of the gut and colon, and reduce the appearance of harmful bacteria which naturally occur in the digestive system.

Aloe Vera has many anti-inflammatory qualities. It can help with sore joints and problems with movement – this may be of interest to those who suffer from chronic joint inflammation and pain.

If you suffer from bad breath or tooth decay, then taking regular Aloe Vera juice may help you overcome this. Aloe Vera is anti-bacterial, and should act to prevent a build-up of plaque in your mouth. The vitamins Aloe Vera contain also prevent tooth decay and diseases such as scurvy. Often, bad breath is caused by an underlying problem with the functioning of the digestive system as a whole – Aloe Vera’s effects on this crucial part of the body will also help with problems that manifest themselves in the mouth and upper digestive system.

This cleansing effect of the digestive system is particularly valuable if you feel sluggish or run down. Increasing your Aloe Vera intake will cause regular flushing of the gut – which may cause your energy levels to rise and increase your general feeling of well-being.

Aloe Vera juice is packed with vitamins, including B vitamins, folic acid, and vitamins A, C and E. These are essential to well-being, a well functioning metabolism, good eyesight and a wide range of other benefits. Aloe Vera is one of the few plants of the world that contains vitamin B12, which is crucial to the operation of the brain – this means that aloe Vera juice can be a particularly important supplement for vegetarians and vegans, who might otherwise lack this important nutrient.

Aloe Vera is a particularly important plant in promoting good skincare as it is rich in amino acids. Drinking Aloe Vera juice should lead to healthy, glowing skin, and promote the regeneration of the body’s largest organ. Aloe Vera juice will also aid the swift healing of bites, grazes and stings.

Used externally, Aloe Vera can soothe sunburn, as well as help to remove the sting from bites and grazes. It is also commonly used as a facial cleanser.

Aloe Vera juice can be found in all good health stores – you may also be able to find aloe Vera gel, which has similar health benefits. It is also possible to grow aloe as a pot plant, and break sections of the plant off when you want to use the juice, if you only need  small quantities. You should seek advice before consuming aloe Vera juice when pregnant.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been used as a folk remedy for various ailments for many years, and also as a beauty treatment. Little scientific research has been carried out on the uses of apple cider vinegar – however, most of the problems it is used to treat are minor, and you are unlikely to suffer any ill-effect by at least trying apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is said to be effective against dandruff. Vinegar should be applied straight to the scalp and massaged into the roots, before being left for an hour and then rinsed out. An alternative treatment is to mix equal amounts of vinegar and water and apply it to the scalp, and then leave it to dry – although this method means that you will smell of vinegar! In either case, the theory is that the vinegar will lower the pH of the scalp – or increase the acid present on the skin – and thus reduce dandruff.

Some women believe that apple cider vinegar can be used in a douche to treat vaginal thrush – the theory is that the acid in the vinegar kills the bacterium that produces the itchy discharge. Conversely, other women argue that apple cider vinegar can actually make the condition worse – live yoghurt may be a more reliable traditional remedy.

Apple cider vinegar is also meant to help sunburn. The person suffering from burns should sit in a bath with around a cupful of vinegar diluted within the water. Alternatively, apple cider vinegar can be applied to the burned area as a compress.

Skin complaints have traditionally been treated with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar can be mixed in equal measures with water, and daubed on the face as a toner. This method is also believed to cure and reduce acne, particularly when suffered by teenagers. Apple cider vinegar is also believed to assist in the treatment of warts. Another folk remedy is to apply apple cider vinegar to the wart for a compress, or soak the wart in apple cider vinegar for fifteen minutes every day, until it disappears. Apple cider vinegar is also believed to cause cellulite and age spots to become less noticeable or disappear.

Some people believe apple cider vinegar promotes health loss by increasing the metabolism, and try to consume a teaspoon diluted in a glass of water on a daily basis. A more practical – and palatable – way to consume it is as part of a salad dressing. Simply toss a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar – and, if wishes, a small amount of olive oil and garlic – with a green salad. Whether or not apple cider vinegar promotes weight loss or not, the salad will be a delicious low calorie accompaniment to grilled chicken.

Apple cider vinegar is also thought to reduce stomach upsets and calm diarrhoea – try a small teaspoon the next time your stomach is playing up, to see if it works.

Apple cider vinegar is not associated with any health risks, and does not appear to have any side effects. The only exception is that consuming a great deal of apple cider vinegar may discolor your teeth – try diluting it with water to prevent this happening.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is a long, thin green vegetable, about the length of a finger. The knobbly tips are the best-tasting part of the plant – some people discard the other ends, which can become woody. It can be boiled, but also roasted, griddled or fried with olive oil and butter, and goes particularly well with salmon and new potatoes. It tastes delicious, but how does it benefit your body?

One of the main benefits of asparagus is that it’s great when detoxing. It is low in calories, which is perfect if the aim of your detox is to lose some weight. It is also a very good source of vitamin E, which promotes skin regeneration, and fibre, which helps your body process toxicants you may have previously consumed; it is also low in sodium. In short, asparagus is one of nature’s detox foods.

Asparagus, like other green vegetables, has high levels of folates. These are particularly vital for women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant. Eating folates reduces the risk of birth defects and spina bifida, as well as reducing the likelihood of having a premature birth. Although pregnant women are well advised to take a folic acid supplements, eating plenty of asparagus is a good way to up your folate intake. Asparagus is also said to increase milk flow in nursing mothers, and act to reduce cramps in women who are pre-menstrual. There’s also a bizarre urban myth in circulation that eating asparagus can cause a false positive on a pregnancy test – this is untrue.

Since ancient times, asparagus has also been believed to be an aphrodisiac – perhaps because of its phallic appearance! Although its unlikely to have an instant effect, asparagus is full of potassium, vitamins and other minerals which are essential for a healthy sex life. Although asparagus is traditionally linked to the male libido, and in some cultures was given to the bridegroom ahead of his wedding night, many of its vitamins are also essential to women.

Although asparagus is noted for causing strange-smelling urine, it actually does more good than harm to your body’s ability to process liquids. Asparagus is excellent at preventing urinary tract infections. It also acts to reduce the risk of kidney stones and problems with the bladder, and generally helps to flush out toxicants from your body

Some men believe that asparagus can halt their hair loss – or at least reduce the speed at which they become bald. There’s very little scientific research to support this. However, the folates, sulphurs and other vitamins which cause the more established benefits of asparagus are also linked to healthy hair growth. At the very least, it’s unlikely to be harmful to your locks!

Asparagus can be found in most supermarkets, and usually comes into season in late spring or early summer. It is also readily available canned or in olive oil. However, it’s said to be particularly healthy when the raw fruit is juiced and consumed either on its own or as part of a smoothie.

Health Benefits of Blueberries

Blueberries are a tasty addition to any breakfast cereal, and a handful at the end of any meal will go down a treat. They’re also a popular addition to muffins and other baking products, and go well in smoothies. They’re easy to store, too – freezing blueberries has no effect on many of the benefits you get from consuming them. These benefits are as follows:

Blueberries are beneficial to type 2 diabetes patients, as they help with regulating the level of sugar present in the blood. If you are on diabetes medication, speak to your doctor about blueberries before making any changes to your maintenance regime.

Studies have shown that, in older adults, blueberries can improve and retain the condition of the brain. A regular consumption of blueberries, either whole or juiced, will help senior citizens improve their memory and cognitive functions.

Blueberries are incredibly good for your cardiovascular system.  The sheer number of antioxidants found in blueberries appears to be related to their brightly colored hue. This means that they’re good for lowering the risk of serious conditions, including heart diseases, strokes, and some forms of cancer, as they reduce harmful cholesterol found in your body and boost ‘good’ cholesterol. Blueberries are also very good for repairing and retaining muscle quality. Studies have shown that blueberries are excellent for maintaining blood pressure at healthy levels, for both genders and at all ages. All in all, they are one of the best foods that anyone can eat to maintain a healthy heart.

These magic berries are excellent news for your eyes too. Their antioxidant content, as well as protecting your heart, also protects your retina from the stress and damage of bright light, including sunlight. A regular intake of blueberries will help keep your eyes safe from oxygen damage.

Blueberries help to guard against harmful free radicals, which are found in the environment and in substances like caffeine. Among other things, free radicals can age your skin – so blueberries are good for your beauty regime as well as your health.

Blueberries are also also full of fibre, like most whole foods. Fibre keeps your digestive system functioning well, and keeps you regular! A good fibre intake is essential to avoid constipation, and also more serious diseases like bowel cancer. If bowel cancer is a concern, then bear in mind that some of the antioxidants in blueberries are particularly healthy for the colon, which means that blueberries pack a double whammy in reducing your risk of developing this condition.

Blueberries are grown commercially and available from supermarkets all year round, although become particularly prevalent in summer. To get the maximum benefits from blueberries, you should eat them raw. However, although the look very  appealing sitting on the shelf, bear most blueberries have been grown using pesticides. You shouldn’t eat them straight out of the packet, but should wash them when you get home, to make sure that you’re not inadvertently consuming any harmful chemicals. Organic blueberries are particularly healthy because they’re grown without any chemicals. Keen gardeners may also be interested in growing their own – blueberries were originally found in North America, but are now grown all over the world.

Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper. It is named after a city in French Guiana, and is also sometimes called the red pepper or cow-horn pepper. It is found in Tex Mex, Mexica, Szechuan and Cajun food. Fresh chillies can be sliced and added to dishes, although cayenne is most-often found in powdered form. This has an attractive red color, and is sometimes sprinkled on top of food as much for aesthetic reasons as for its flavor.

Cayenne’s main marketed health benefit is that it stimulates blood circulation. This can reduce the risk of varicose veins, promote healing in the body, and encourage the blood supply to rid itself of toxins. Cayenne is said to be the most powerful herb or spice available over the counter when it comes to increasing circulation. And the hotter the variety you consume is, the greater the effect on your circulation.

Cayenne pepper can help assist with peristalsis, the muscular mechanism that squeezes food along the gut. This means that its excellent if you are constipated. Equally, if you’ve got a slightly dodgy stomach, cayenne pepper and other hot spices have been known to cause diarrhoea. If you have IBS or are recovering from a bout of diarrhoea and vomiting, cayenne may be best avoided.

Cayenne pepper stimulates the metabolism too. It is sometimes used as part of detox and weight loss program for this reason – however, you are highly unlikely to lose weight purely by consuming more cayenne pepper.

The major side effect of cayenne is that it is an irritant. If you are handling fresh cayenne peppers or the dried powder, be aware that your skin can become burnt and itchy for several hours afterwards, and there is very little you can do apart from wait for the inflammation to subside. Be particularly careful not to rub your eyes or scratch any other sensitive parts of your body after handling cayenne pepper. As with any other chili, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves if you have to chop or otherwise handle large amounts.

The irritant side effect of cayenne is sometimes recommended as a counter to the effects of arthritis. However, it seems unlikely that this would do much good, apart from replacing one form of discomfort with another.

If consumed in large quantities, cayenne pepper can contribute towards stomach ulcers forming. If you have, or suspect you have, a stomach ulcer, then you should stop taking cayenne pepper until you have spoken to your doctor about how your ulcer will be treated and whether or not cayenne is likely to do any harm. In most circumstances, however, cayenne is perfectly fine to eat, and you would have to consume enormous quantities for the spice to do you any harm.

Cayenne pepper can be found at most supermarkets. It can be cheaper to buy it from Asian food stores, however.

Health Benefits of Celery

The humble celery is often used to provide a base flavor in sauces, soups and stews – it’s a workaday vegetable that most people would probably not associate with trendy superfoods. But celery has a surprising number of health benefits.

Celery, like black coffee and a handful of other foods, has a negative number of calories when consumed. This is because the energy that is used to process celery through your body is actually greater than the energy gained from doing so. Celery is therefore a great choice to tuck into if you’re on a diet. Although you’d have to eat vast quantities to actually burn significant amounts of energy through celery consumption alone, it will make you feel full with little or no gain in weight. If celery by itself is a little too austere, then try it with tzitziki or any other other dip that can be based on low-fat yogurt.

Celery is a diurectic – in other words, it encourages your body to produce a lot of urine. This can be used if you have a problem with fluid retention, which are caused by pre-menstrual tension or some drugs which alter your body’s natural hormones. This property of celery can also be utilised when detoxing, as it encourages your body to flush itself of toxins. Celery also reduces the likelihood of developing kidney stones, urinary tract infections and other common problems associated with the urinary system.

Like many vegetables, the consumption of celery is said to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers developing within the body. Celery has high levels of vitamins and minerals, which lower cholesterol and guarg against various cancers, particularly those affecting the bowl and gut. If you are concerned about developing cancer, then ask your doctor for more advice.

If you suffer from constipation, then it will be useful to know that celery is packed with fibre, which encourages food and waste to be processed through your body. This adds to its effect in guarding against cancers of the bowel and other parts of the digestive system

Celery is full of naturally-occurring chemicals called ‘coumarin compounds’. Their main role in the body is to regulate blood pressure – so celery may be useful in reducing high blood pressure. It also may be useful it reducing the likelihood and severity of migraines. Scientific research in this area is limited, however, but it may be worth checking the health benefits of celery with your doctor if you have problems with either of these conditions.

Celery is also rich in natural sodium. Although it will not cause any health risks for those who have to stick to a low-sodium diet, this property of celery give the vegetable its distinctive taste. Celery can therefore be added to dishes to impart flavor, and thus reduce the amount of additional salt that needs to be included.

If you want to up your vitamin C consumption, then celery has plenty of the stuff. Vitamin C is considered essential to boosting the immune system and reducing the likelihood of catching colds and other common infections and illnesses.

Celery can be found in almost any supermarket or greengrocer. Although its usually cooked before consumption, it can also be consumed raw or juiced as part of a smoothie. Eating it without cooking it is said to retain much more of the vitamins contained in the vegetable than including it in soups or stews.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The tropical coconut tree, native to tropical climates the world over, has been a diet staple in equatorial areas for hundreds of years. In fact, many of these cultures – especially those in South Asia – get most of their dietary saturated fat from coconut oil. This includes nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. The reason coconut oil is so prevalent, aside from its availability, is its usefulness in cooking. Because coconut oil is very stable under high temperatures, it is perfect for the purposes of frying. Additionally, this high stability helps coconut oil to keep fresh for a longer duration than other oils.

In the West, coconut oil isn’t typically seen as a health food. It has a high concentration of saturated fat, which has been linked to increased LDL (or “bad cholesterol”) levels and an increased risk for heart disease. As a result, the governments of many countries have in fact warned their citizens against consuming too much of it. But, in the realm of nutrition, there are often trade-offs that one wouldn’t necessarily suspect. A respectable amount of medical evidence points to certain health benefits of coconut oil when consumed in moderation.

Coconut Oil Might Be a Better Saturated Fat Choice Than Other Oils

It’s undeniable that just about any oil stable enough to use for frying is high in saturated fat. And while the intake of this substance should definitely be limited, medical studies indicate that not all saturated fat is necessarily created equal. Different oils, it seems, may have different effects on the body when consumed. In testing performed in 2009, women with “abdominal obesity” were observed. One group was given a diet that included a 30mL serving of soybean oil (another popular frying oil), while the other was given the same diet with a 30mL serving of coconut oil. The women whose diets were supplemented with soybean oil saw an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol) despite a steady diet and 50 minutes of light exercise daily. The women who ingested coconut oil did not experience these same negative effects on cholesterol. The conclusion, albeit preliminary, seems to suggest that coconut oil may not have the same drawbacks as other dietary forms of saturated fats. In fact, the researchers concluded that coconut oil may actually help in the fight against obesity.

It is important to note that coconut oil, in this study, was compared only to other sources of saturated fat. Healthier oils, such as olive oil, contain mostly unsaturated fat – which is without a doubt safer to consume in moderate amounts. The role of coconut oil in cholesterol and fat reduction is solely seen as a supplemental saturated fat source, which should be restricted in a healthy diet. So, while coconut oil is good as a substitute for things fried, for instance, in soybean oil, it should not be used in place of unsaturated fats.

Non-Dietary Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The stability of coconut oil and its resistance to turning rancid isn’t just effective for storage purposes. A well-known health benefit of this coconut oil property is that it can be used topically as a treatment for certain skin conditions. Lipids, because they repel water (or are hydrophobic) can effectively seal in moisture in the skin. Therefore, conditions whose symptoms include excessively dry skin might actually be soothed with the occasional application of coconut oil.

A 2004 medical study was conducted on the skin condition Xerosis, which is identified by scaly skin, severe itchiness, and excessive dryness. In the study, coconut oil was used as a treatment with surprisingly effective results. Test subjects with the condition were directed to use coconut oil on affected areas for a two week period. At the end of the two weeks, effects including an increase in skin moisture content and better skin lipid levels were observed. In addition, none of the subjects experienced any adverse side-effects from the application of coconut oil. Though the study was limited (there were only 34 subjects) the sample did seem to indicate that there are legitimate health benefits of coconut oil when applied on dry skin.

In more cosmetic terms, these effects of coconut oil application also may prove useful for hair care. In situations where one is experiencing dry scalp, dry hair, and dandruff, the use of coconut oil to treat hair after washing may increase overall moisture retention, which in turn keeps the hair and scalp healthier. With the uptick in popularity of more natural personal care products, one can simply look at the labels of shampoo and hair care products to see if coconut oil is included in their ingredients list.

Coconut Oil and Lauric Acid

In cultures where coconut oil is harvested and consumed at relatively high rates, it is appreciated for its pathogen fighting properties. The most widely accepted explanation for this is the oil’s high concentration of lauric acid. Chemically, it is a fatty acid that has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, which works in the body when consumed. While its consumption won’t necessarily cure a bacterial or viral infection, it is generally that lauric acid can help the immune system in working against the growth, multiplication, and spread of these pathogens. As previously mentioned, it is essential to remember coconut oil’s high saturated fat content. When sick, coconut oil is useful is small amounts, and should never be consumed liberally in any situation.

Despite its reputation for “bad” fats, coconut oil, when consumed in moderation, does actually have some significant health benefits. Though no saturated fat sources are particularly beneficial to the cardiovascular system, it seems that coconut oil is the lesser of the many evils when considering substances used to fry food. Even outside of the kitchen, this tropical plant’s oil can be quite useful to those suffering from conditions that involve dry skin. So, before writing off coconut oil as wholly unhealthy and terrible for consumption, consider the health benefits it does have to offer. You might be surprised at just how advantageous its use, in moderation, can be.