Background of Coconut Oil
In the Philippines it's known as the Tree of Life.
Coconut trees grow in tropical areas. Coconuts in their natural state are more than twice the size of those in the grocery store and are covered in a thick, smooth green or yellow husk. The husk is peeled and stripped off before being shipped to markets around the world. Outside the tropics the hard brown inner "nut" is what you see in the local store. Coconut palms grow to 60 to 70 feet high with a life span of 70 years. Coconut palms produce year round and always in season. Coconuts grow in bunches usually producing a bunch every month or as much as 12 bunches per year. A coconut palm can produce 100 to 140 coconuts per year. Coconuts fully mature in 14 months, producing a hard brown shell, some liquid and a thick layer of white meat. A young coconut less than 6 months old is completely filled with liquid and has very little meat. Coconuts reach their full size in 6 to 7 months. As the coconut mature, the amount of liquid decreases and the meat increases in thickness and hardness. Fully ripe coconuts have only a small amount of liquid and a hard thick layer of meat. Older coconuts are usually dried in the sun. Sun dried coconut meat called copra, are used to make coconut oil.
Coconuts in recent times have received a bad reputation. Coconut oil in particular has been labeled an artery clogging saturated fat. There are many types of saturate fats and polyunsaturated fats. Each fat has a different effect on the body. Some saturated fats raise cholesterol and other do not. Coconut oil does not have a harmful effect on cholesterol.
What makes coconut oil different from other oils is the fat molecules that make up the oil. There are two methods of classifying fatty acids. One is saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and poly saturated fats. The second is based on molecular size of the length of the carbon chain within the fatty acid. There are short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), and long chain fatty acids (LCFAs). When the three fatty acid chains are joined together by a glycerol molecule you have a triglyceride.
Most of the fats in our diet, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from a plant or an animal, are composed of LCFAs. Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, olive oil, lard, and chicken fat, as well as most all other fats and oils in our diet are composed of entirely of LCFAs. Coconut oil is unique as it contains mostly MCFAs. It is the MCFAs that make coconut oil different from other oils and that gives it its remarkable nutritional and medical properties.