Natural health: coconut oil and weight loss

Is coconut oil actually good for weight loss, or is this just wishful thinking? I would appreciate your opinion.

While there is research to show that coconut oil does actually trigger weight loss, the same rule applies as for any healthy fats — exercise moderation, and eat alongside a healthy whole foods diet and active lifestyle. Coconut oil is very stable, so can be used in cooking and added to smoothies or desserts straight from the jar.

The type of coconut oil you buy makes a difference. Pure, extra-virgin, and unbleached is the way to go — even better if you can find a source that is organic. The reason why it is often suggested as part of a weight-loss plan is because it mainly consists of medium-chain fatty acids, which work to speed up the metabolism because they are easily digested and converted into energy. Coconut oil also slows down the digestion of food, which helps with a feeling of fullness and reduces the tendency to snack.

Many people shy away from coconut oil because it is a saturated fat, long thought to have a negative impact on health. The bad reputation attached to coconut oil was the result of a few studies performed around 50 years ago using hydrogenated coconut oil. We now know that hydrogenated oils have trans-fatty acids, which increase your risk of heart disease, increase your levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL levels. Trans-fatty acids (trans fats) are found in a staggering number of processed foods, including margarine, biscuits, crackers, crisps, and fish fingers.

Saturated fats are actually essential parts of all body tissues; they are a significant component of cell membranes, they function as the preferred heart fuel, they increase levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) while reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, and are burned as a fuel source when we expend energy.

Coconut oil is often compared with carbohydrates because of its ability to be converted for energy. However, unlike carbohydrates, insulin is not involved in the digestion process, so it won’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. In addition, coconut oil is effective in preventing dental caries and plaque build-up, and contains agents responsible for fighting viral, bacterial, fungal, yeast, mould and parasite infection.

It is interesting to note that candida is often linked with weight gain, and since the medium-chain fatty acids help to destroy candida, the carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, skin problems and weight gain often fall by the wayside.

I have a lot of peppermint growing in my garden, and drink a cup daily prepared with the fresh leaves as a refreshing tea. Does it have any particular health benefits?

Peppermint is somewhat unusual, in that it is a stimulant herb with sedative properties — which is why you find it so refreshing. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is also a wonderful antispasmodic and tonic herb, excellent for nervous and restless conditions.

Peppermint can help to break a fever, particularly when combined with elderflowers in equal parts and brewed as a hot tea. Soothing and calming for people of all ages, a peppermint infusion can help reduce the irritability and restlessness that often accompanies colds, ’flu, and fever.

This versatile plant can also be used as a mild pain relief option. Use 1-2 teaspoons per 250ml of near-boiling water for mild pain; for stronger pain, a more concentrated brew, (50g in 500ml of water), may be necessary.

Gas and bloating is one of the more common reasons why people opt for peppermint tea, and this is why it is commonly served after a meal. Taken with meals, peppermint will assist digestion considerably— chopped fresh mint with your food, savoury and sweet (fruit salad with fresh mint is delicious), is a great insurance against gas and digestive discomfort.

Other uses for peppermint are to counter dizziness or fainting, diarrhoea, headache, toothache, muscle or joint pain, congestion in the chest, eczema, acne, and varicose veins.


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