My personal remembrance of coconut oil begins in the late 1980s. I was in junior high and vastly concerned about three things: boys, body image and food. As ignorant as I was in most of what went on in the news, I was an avid movie-goer, as were most of my friends, and we’d heard that (gasp!) the coconut and palm oil in popcorn was making us fat and unhealthy. I remember being happy that they, whoever “they” were, had caught this nefarious oil. I wanted my movie theater popcorn, but I didn’t want to be fat.
Little did I know that the wives of soybean farmers (probably my grandma) were at their farmhouse tables writing letters to government policymakers that would indeed affect my image of what makes something healthy, and of my own health, as I’m an avid user of oils.
The tropical oils debate centered on the fact that they are saturated fats; coconut oil is highly saturated. It “contains as much as 92 percent saturated fat—more than any other oil, including beef fat and lard” (20), says Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, and the guy who says this saturation is part of the miracle of coconut oil.
Fife aims to re-educate oil eaters everywhere by setting some facts straight on saturated fats, and showing how these fats stack up against the purported healthy fats: polyunsaturated fats found in many vegetable oils. Much of what he says, which is clearly backed up by scientific evidence (in the “references” section in the back of the book, in case you’d like to slog your way through articles from journals like the American Medical News and the Journal of Infectious Diseases). His thorough explanations of how things work are scientific, although with easy enough prose to not be turned off or confused.
Coconut oil contains three medium-chain fatty acids—lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid—in a combination that’s beneficial to human health because they are highly (although not completely) saturated.
Fife argues that “because saturated fats have no double-carbon bonds—the weak links that are easily broken to form free radicals—they are much more stable under a variety of conditions” (30). Alternately, exposure to heat, light or oxygen can damage polyunsaturated oils. Non-saturated oils that have been oxidized, like olive oil, can oxidize the food you add these oils to. The resulting free radicals have been linked to numerous health ills.
That’s not to say Fife has nothing good to say about polyunsaturated fats, but he states that they must be virgin, unrefined and cold-pressed. And they’re simply not as good as coconut oil. The reason coconut oil is superior to other saturated fats, he explains, is that its medium-chain structure does not raise blood cholesterol levels, or promote “blood stickiness” that can lead to blood clots.
Cardiovascular benefits are just one of coconut oil’s health properties. “When coconut oil is eaten, the body transforms its unique fatty acids into powerful antimicrobial powerhouses capable of defeating some of the most notorious disease-causing microorganisms,” says Fife. “The unique properties of coconut oil make it, in essence, a natural antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiprotozoal food” (64).
The book is a veritable homage to coconut oil, touting its uses from food to medicine to beauty products. To help get started using coconut oil, it also comes with 50 delicious-looking recipes.
Admittedly, Fife’s combination of scientifically-backed ideas combined with logical advice swayed me. I recommend The Coconut Oil Miracle. You will find plenty of new ways to think about coconut oil, and plenty of new ways to use it. Parents, older folks, or those with immune system issues may especially want to take a look at this book due to coconut oil’s protective benefits.
As the author of nearly 10 books dealing almost exclusively with coconut, The Coconut Oil Miracle is Bruce Fife’s (C.N., N.D.) introductory book on coconut oil. As with most of these take-one-miracle-ingredient-and-change-your-life books, Fife warns that a lifestyle change is necessary to obtain and retain any lasting benefits from coconut oil.
You’re also free to pursue health through one food as much as you want, and the book is a great guide to get started. While the repetition to stress the importance of certain aspects may cause readers to start skimming and miss little bits of new information, the book is overall a great reference for your natural health library, and is a great reminder to educate yourself before you believe the hype.