It sounds counterintuitive, but the fat found in coconut oil can actually help your body burn fat, says certified nutritionist and naturopathic physician Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle and president of the Coconut Research Center. How? The saturated fat found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil is made of different fatty acids than other oils (think seed, canola, and avocado). These medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) take another route through the digestive system and end up competing with glucose to become the body's preferred energy source, according to Dr. Fife. When cells use MCTs instead of glucose for fuel, the body's metabolism is boosted for up to 24 hours, says Dr. Fife. That means you'll burn calories even when you're sitting at your desk, driving, or watching Netflix.
But what about all the bad things you've heard about saturated fat? While the American Heart Association has long recommended a diet low in saturated fats to prevent heart disease, an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last April seems to have shattered the myth that saturated fats clog arteries. In fact, a 2004 study that still holds true today found that, in postmenopausal women with coronary heart disease, a "greater intake of saturated fat was associated with less progression of atherosclerosis [plaque build-up in artery walls] whereas carbohydrate and polyunsaturated fat intake were associated with greater progression."
Women who have a high total cholesterol (TC) to high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "the good cholesterol") ratio-an indicator of high cardiovascular disease risk-can "replace refined carbohydrates with healthy high fat foods, such as coconut oil, to rapidly drop" that ratio, says Dr. Fife. He recommends using organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil, which has the least amount of processing. However, if you can't stand that coconut taste or smell, opt for a refined version-buying organic will ensure it was refined using steam, not chemicals.
Here are five ways to get started using coconut oil for weight loss:
1. Hanger management.
Coconut oil satiates your hunger for longer periods of time compared to other fats. Just adding it to your breakfast, by stirring a spoonful into your coffee, for instance, "will keep you satisfied longer," says Dr. Fife. "You'll have less of a tendency want to snack between meals, and when the next meal comes around you won't be so starving you overeat."
2. Cooking staple.
Introduce coconut oil to your diet by using it as a substitute for margarine, vegetable oil, and/or olive oil. Or simply eat a tablespoon at a time, increasing the amount until you feel satiated and are still losing weight without going over your calorie limit.
3. Yo-yo no more.
One way to kick-start weight loss and end yo-yo dieting is to trick your body into thinking it has enough fat already so it stops storing it. We need fat in our diets to lose excess weight and keep it off, according to Dr. Fife. Fats help build cell membranes, certain hormones, and connective tissues, among other things. Low-fat diets encourage the body to burn sugar for energy, but high-fat diets give it the energy and building materials it needs to begin building and repairing with fat instead of storing it.
4. Salad mix-in.
Liquid coconut oil can be added to salad dressing or homemade mayonnaise to help digestion and maximize nutrient uptake, says Fife.
5. Nicer rice.
When making white rice, adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to the boiling water for every half-cup of rice may reduce the number of calories your body takes in by 50 to 60 percent, according to research presented at the 2015 National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The trick is to let the coconut-oil water and rice simmer for 20 to 40 minutes, then refrigerate it for 12 hours.
For more in-depth advice on how to use coconut oil for weight loss check out The Coconut Ketogenic Diet.
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