Here in Vermont even just a few years ago, coconut oil existed only in suntan lotion. Today it fills the shelves of City Market and Healthy Living and even Hannafords. Health-conscious Vermonters flock to it. And not just in the health and beauty section.  So what happened?

The fat scare of the 1980′s lumped coconut oil into the same evil fat bin as saturated animal fats which were blamed for everything from acne to cholesterol to heart disease to obesity. But coconut oil got a bad rap. The old research on coconut oil focused on partially hydrogenated blends that contained trans fatty acid. Trans fatty acids are guilty as charged, but coconut oil – (unprocessed virgin coconut oil) is the Jillian Michaels of the tropical oils world.

According to Organic, the health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism. Consuming unprocessed virgin coconut oil can bring relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer. Coconut oil is good for dental care and even builds bone strength. Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, and soothing properties. It even tastes good. I use it for sautéing, baking, an on top of popcorn and toast instead of melted butter.

The benefits of coconut oil come from mostly from lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are easy to metabolize and can even help in taking off excessive weight. MCTs are converted to ketones rather than being stored in the body as fat. And ketones are your body’s alternative energy source.

According to the Whitaker Wellness Institute, “When glucose stores are exhausted, ketones are synthesized from fats and delivered to the cells, where they’re burned for energy. But because glucose is the preferred fuel, ketones are produced only as a backup—when you’re fasting, for example, or eating a very low-carbohydrate diet. (This is the principle behind the Atkins’ weight loss program.)”

Doctors at the institute are recommending ketone therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The next time you reach for oil or butter, try coconut oil. It might affect more than just the flavor of your food, it could have lasting health benefits that impact the rest of your life.