Coco Loco – Going Nuts for Coconuts (pt 1)

Coconut

I had just mentioned to a friend about our concern with Dad’s short term memory becoming ‘short’! Although we have our concerns about Alzheimer’s he has always passed the doctor’s tests.   Plus as he’s also off the statins now (see my previous blogs on statins) it can’t be the Lipitor side-effects.

Anyway, this friend then sent me an article she found in the Daily Mail – ‘Can coconut oil ease Alzheimer’s?’  In summary it relates some personal experiences about how starting to take coconut oil everyday has seriously helped reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.

On showing my brother (who lives in Bali, Indonesia) this article, his comment was that perhaps that is why dad always improves when he goes over to visit him as coconut is in everything…

The science as to why coconut oil should help Alzheimer’s (& possibly Parkinson’s too) is that it might help by boosting the brain’s energy supply.  Many cell types can use either glucose or fatty acids for ‘fuel’. In particular, heart and skeletal muscle prefer fatty acids. The brain, however, cannot use fatty acids as a source of fuel; it relies on glucose or ketone bodies (Ref: Wikipedia – Fatty acids)

Most of the time our brains rely on glucose from carbohydrates, but if that isn’t available — because we haven’t eaten anything for a while or because we’re eating almost no carbohydrates — then our brain cells can switch to using the energy from our fat stores which comes in the form of ketones.  And as the article explains: ‘Coconut oil contains a lot of a particular sort of fat that our bodies can use to make more of the ketone “brain food”.  It’s known as MCT (medium chain triglycerides) and it’s not found in the fats most of us eat.’

So, most of the fats in coconut oil are  MCT or medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), as opposed to long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in animal fats & vegetable oils (ref: Table of common fatty acids & Length of free fatty acid chains).

It also appears that coconut oil may help with weight loss as humans more readily oxidize MCFA, meaning these fats are not deposited in fatty tissue as easily and are burned off more quickly! (ref: Live Strong – medium chain fatty acids)

Now I’ve been trying to get my mother to give Dad coconut oil every day for a while but it wasn’t for either of those reasons.  It was based on the theory that its anti-microbial properties helped to reduce inflammation of the arteries and hence reduce cholesterol and therefore any need for statins.

The difficulty is getting people over the ‘Saturated Fat is Bad’ issue!  We have all been so brain-washed that I have to keep reminding people that saturated fat is not the culprit at all (See ‘Taking the Fear out of Eating Fats’) and getting them to read my previous blogs about fats… (click here for past blogs on fats & oils).

So if coconut oil is so good for us, how much should we eat?  The Daily Mail-Alzheimer’s article mentions that the benefits were experienced by having 2 teaspoons per day added to their meals.

One blog I found states ‘if you’re looking to add coconut oil to your diet for its health benefits, researchers state that the optimal amount for an adult is between 3 and 4 tablespoons per day.’  But she doesn’t give any back-up for that statement.  The Livestrong website references ‘Dr. Nicholas Perricone recommends eating between 1 and 3 tbsp. of coconut oil per day to reduce fat in the abdomen.’

The Livestrong site also states that Coconut oil may prove beneficial to people with insulin resistance, a condition that occurs when the body cannot use insulin properly.  However Dr. Turner – the diabetes expert – cautions, however, that medium-chain fatty acids may build up in the liver as fat if you eat too much.

So what does that all mean?

As my general philosophy is based on everything in moderation of the right provenance, then my thoughts are that’s it worth giving coconut oil a try – virgin cold pressed coconut oil – and 2 teaspoons per day if added to meals (so in addition to all other fats & oils in your diet) or up to 3 tablespoons per day if replacing other fats/oils…

Adding coconut oil to your diet for helping Alzheimer’s symptoms could be as simple as adding 1 teaspoon to your morning smoothie or stirring it into your porridge.  Then have another teaspoon in the afternoon.

Replacing other fats in your diet, such as olive oil for stir fry or butter for scrambled eggs, with coconut oil is an option.  Regarding cooking with coconut oil, as it’s smoke point  – the temperature at which it starts to break down & degrade – is similar to olive oil & higher than butter (ref: Wikipedia – Smoke Points)!

Here are some suggestions for cooking with coconut oil that I’ve got off the internet:

  • One of my favourite ways to use it: I use it to coat the pan when I make scrambled eggs – it gives them a slightly sweet taste that I love.
  • Using coconut oil for sautéing veggies is the BEST.
  • try sautéing zucchini in coconut oil this week. Oh my gosh, it is delicious!
  • I absolutely love the flavor it gives to stir fry’s.

Of course you don’t need to ‘cook’ with it either – a lot of Claire’s raw food recipes use coconut oil…  And this website has a huge range of raw coconut based recipes – freecoconutrecipes.com – including smoothies, salads, sweets (& lots of cooked main dishes too).

Let me know your favourite recipes using coconut oil…

Time to go loco for coconuts… but don’t go too nutty!

Click here for Coco Loco – Part 2

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