Coconuts are a staple in tropical cuisine. In addition, they have several industrial and cosmetic uses. The fibre and nutritional richness of coconut provide several health benefits, but its oil distinguishes them as a unique food and medicine source. It is rich in antioxidants and energy-boosting triglycerides. Coconut oil has excellent versatility, and you can consume it in many forms. It can also offer a variety of benefits for people with diabetes.
There is one dietary fat that people with diabetes can consume without fear. That fat is coconut oil. The healthy fat in coconut oil can effectively manage how sugar impacts your body. While you may consider coconut oil as the only oil a person with diabetes should eat, there are nutrient-dense alternatives to suit the taste of people from all regions. For example, extra virgin olive oil is a good option. Although coconut oil may not fit the taste buds of everyone, it is better than using butter and refined oils for managing diabetes. But you need to check the type and amount of coconut oil you add to your diet.
Nutritional Profile of Coconut Oil
As per the USDA data, 100 grams of coconut oil contains the following nutrients.
- Calories: 892 Kcal
- Total fat: 99.1 g
- Saturated fatty acids: 82.5 g
- Monounsaturated fatty acids: 6.33 g
Note: The given value represents the calories and fats present in 100 grams of coconut oil. You can use 15 grams or 3 teaspoons of coconut oil per day. A tablespoon of coconut oil contains 121 calories and 14 grams of fat. If you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, one tablespoon of coconut oil is all you would need per day.
Different Types of Coconut Oil
Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil
Cold-pressed coconut oil is considered raw and retains all nutrients. Cold pressing is a method used to preserve nutrient content. It extracts the oil from the coconut and does not use heat or chemicals. Also, in addition to protecting the nutrient quality, cold-pressed coconut oil is high-quality oil with abundant phenolic compounds.
Virgin or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin and extra virgin types are the same for coconut oils, and you can use the two terms interchangeably. It is extracted from the fresh coconut using cold processing and is left un-refined. Unrefined coconut oil has undergone minor processing. Then, it is further processed in a centrifuge machine to keep the purest form of coconut oil. As a result, it’s high in medium-chain fatty acids, low in trans fatty acids, and has a healthy cholesterol profile. As a result, virgin coconut oil is beneficial for diabetes.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Hydrogenated coconut oils have undergone the process of hydrogenation. The process turns unsaturated fat components into saturated fats to form a more solid form and longer shelf life. As a result, hydrogenated coconut oils are cheaper than virgin coconut oil. There are two types of hydrogenated coconut oils: partially and fully hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated oil (PHOs) is semi-solid with trans fat. It is the more dangerous type. Fully hydrogenated coconut oil is better than partially hydrogenated. But it is still not good for you.
The Best Coconut Oils to Buy
The refined coconut oil varieties lose their nutrients due to extraction, bleaching, and deodorising. So choose unrefined coconut oil over refined and cheaper ones. And it applies to those with or without diabetes. Stick to non-hydrogenated ones and avoid hydrogenated coconut oil.
It avoids the risk of introducing trans-fat to your food. Finally, always avoid coconut oil in plastic containers. Toxins in plastic compromise the quality of coconut oil as they can leach over time.
Coconut Oil and Diabetes
To keep their diabetes under control, people with severe type 1 diabetes need to take an insulin shot every day. Whereas type 2 diabetes will take insulin or prescription medicine to help control their diabetes. However, in many situations, a change in diet is also essential. Coconut oil is one of the dietary approaches to fighting diabetes. Coconut oil’s fatty acids nourish cells, keeping them healthy and functioning correctly. It also helps unclog arteries and has no harmful effects on insulin or blood sugar levels.
Studies prove coconut products, including virgin coconut oil and double filtered coconut oil, can potentially reverse the diabetic parameters. It improved haemoglobin levels, insulin, lipid profile, and other renal parameters because coconut oil lacks harmful long-chain fatty acids. Instead, it includes medium-chain fatty acids. In addition to that, it is also rich in lauric acid (50-52%). Therefore people with diabetes can use it instead of their regular cooking oil.
Here is how coconut oil helps people manage diabetes and its complications.
Contributes to a Healthy Diet
Coconut oil makes your stomach feel full for a more extended period. There are also medium-chain fatty acids, easily absorbed by liver cells. As a result, coconut oil easily converts fats into energy for the body and promotes weight loss. You can include it while baking, for cooking eggs, or you could add it to your smoothies, soups and salads. Coconut oil offers multiple nutrients that can contribute to your health and a good diet. As a plant food, coconuts also contain disease-fighting phytochemicals or antioxidants.
Enhances Glucose Tolerance
It can help with glycemic management, probably due to anti-inflammatory actions mediated by phenolic components present in them. These compounds show antidiabetic and insulin-sensitising effects. The high polyphenolic content of coconut oil improves glucose metabolism efficiency. Moreover, they can assist in enhancing insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management by stimulating the generation of ketones in the body. The coconut oil functions as a blood sugar regulator, bringing levels back to normal in as little as 30 minutes.
Maintains Body Weight
Coconut oil also aids in the reduction of appetite and the maintenance of a healthy lipid profile, minimising the risk of weight gain. Additionally, it promotes healthy thyroid gland function and accelerates metabolism and increased energy, aiding in weight loss. A study shows that dietary supplementation with coconut oil seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity. Since abdominal fat increases diabetes complications, it is beneficial to lose it. However, stick to regular physical activity and a calorie-controlled, healthy-eating plan for long-term weight loss.
Aids in Digestion
It mainly consists of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as lauric acid and lipids. The fatty acids found in cold-pressed organic coconut oil help with digestion. Coconut oil is helpful for constipation and also acts as a colon cleanser because of its natural laxative nature. In addition, it can soften hard stools and prevent haemorrhaging that occurs commonly among older adults with diabetes.
Coconut Oil and Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that lowers your body’s insulin production. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes crave high-glycemic foods. Coconut oil, which contains healthy fats, can help control such cravings. It curbs unhealthy cravings naturally by improving digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as by boosting metabolism.
Coconut oil does not entirely reduce cravings, but you can notice a significant decrease. In addition, a study shows that medium-chain triglycerides/fatty acids improve cognition and preserve brain function in people with type 1 diabetes. As previously mentioned, coconut oil contains a healthy dose of medium-chain fatty acids.
Coconut Oil and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is related to your diet and lifestyle. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil help sustain insulin action in fat tissues and muscles. Furthermore, it reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while raising good cholesterol levels, thus fighting type 2 diabetes.
A case study shows that supplementing the diet with coconut oil might reduce the need for insulin therapy in type 2 diabetes. In addition, the oil delivers a favourable effect on glycemic control, possibly because of the lauric acid and phenolic compounds rich in anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, it is particularly suitable for patients with type 2 diabetes at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Other Benefits of Coconut Oil
Can Prevent & Treat Urinary Tract Infections
Most people don’t drink enough water, which can easily lead to bacterial infection in the urinary tract. So, of course, the best advice is to drink more water. But coconut oil is a natural antibiotic and can work as an effective natural remedy to prevent or treat a UTI. The anti-bacterial nature is because the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil dissolve the cellular wall of harmful bacteria. Hence, killing those responsible for UTIs.
Moisturises & Nourishes Your Lips
Coconut oil is a sealant. It traps water in the skin to keep it moist. As a result, it moisturises and nourishes your dry lips. However, because coconut oil is relatively comedogenic, you should not use it on the face — especially if you have naturally blemish-prone skin.
Healthier Skin, Hair & Nails
The fatty acids in coconut oil nourish and protect the hair, skin, and nails in two ways. First, they form a barrier to hold on to moisture, which helps treat and prevent dryness. Second, they break down lipid-soluble impurities and sebum to remove dirt and oil buildup.
Best Ways to Include Coconut Oil in Your Diet
You can use coconut oil in various dishes to enhance its flavour or as a substitute for unhealthy fats. Some other ways can be:
- Addition to smoothies
- Used to cooking, grilling and baking
- Pre-workout drinks like Bullet coffee or tea
- Salad Dressing – as an emulsion or just oil dressing
Potential Side effects of Coconut Oil
- Some people may develop sensitivity towards it.
- If taken in excess amounts, these fats deposit in the body cells, causing blood pressure and cholesterol levels to rise.
- May trigger allergic reactions causing nausea, rashes, hives, vomiting, and even difficulty breathing.
- A rare phenomenon is that coconut oil will cause severe anaphylaxis. This allergic reaction is sudden and severe and affects the entire body.
- Adding more coconut oil to your diet will result in loose bowels and softer stools. Furthermore, you may get symptoms of diarrhoea.
- The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil convert into energy in the liver. However, too much strain while energy conversion in the liver can give rise to a problem.
Although coconut oil has some advantages, it is still saturated fat that might raise cholesterol levels. It also contains many calories, which might lead to weight gain if taken in excessive amounts. However, coconut oil in moderation can reduce secondary diabetic complications. In addition, it regulates blood sugar levels, controlling cravings for sweets. It’s essential to opt for cold-pressed, unrefined, virgin coconut oil. When opting for coconut oil for diabetes, it is best to go for a brand that does not use any heat or chemicals to extract oil. You should include coconut oil in the right amount like any other food.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is coconut oil good for your diabetes?
A. One of the best plant-based sources of saturated fats is coconut oil. Its low glycemic index implies it won’t boost your blood glucose levels, making it ideal for people with diabetes. Furthermore, it contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Therefore, people with diabetes can use coconut oil in their food preparations.
Q. Which oil is best for people with diabetes?
A. It is preferable to use cooking oils high in Omega-3 and low in Omega-6 fatty acids. For example, coconut oil is rich in good cholesterol and maintains a healthy heart. It also has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial characteristics that help reduce the impacts of various damage-causing factors. Diabetic people can also opt for olive oil.
Q. Does coconut raise blood sugar levels?
A. Being rich in fibre, fat and antioxidants, coconut offers excellent health benefits such as lowering blood sugar levels. In addition, regularly eating coconut also helps regulate cholesterol and blood pressure. Hence, no, it does not raise or spike blood sugar levels.
Q. Does coconut oil lower insulin?
A. No, in fact, quite the opposite. Studies suggest coconut oil significantly improves the activity of insulin. In addition, it protects the kidney tissues from diabetes-induced changes.
Q. Is peanut butter suitable for diabetics?
A. Natural peanut butter is high in unsaturated fats and proteins. Therefore, it can be a healthy addition to diabetic meals and snacks. In addition, peanut butter’s low carbohydrate content keeps blood sugar levels checked. However, one should eat it in limited servings a day to avoid weight gain and intake of high calories.
Q. Is cheese good for diabetics?
A. Cheese has a high fat and calorie content compared to other foods. Saturated fats are safe in tiny amounts and can even be advantageous to the body. Too much, on the other hand, can lead to weight gain, excessive cholesterol, and other heart-related issues. Diabetics are already at a higher risk of heart disease than the general population, so they should continue to limit their cheese intake.
Q. Is coconut oil good for diabetic dry skin?
A. Diabetes patients frequently develop dry or cracked skin. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturiser that promotes skin health as it contains antioxidative effects and anti-inflammatory characteristics. In addition, it promotes healing and soothing relief. Furthermore, it also provides instant hydration and protection.
Q. Can we drink coconut water for diabetes?
A. Coconut water is an excellent choice for diabetics due to its low glycemic index. It is rich in electrolytes, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. Coconut water also helps in improving blood circulation and boosting metabolism. It has low carbohydrates and natural sugars. Therefore it is a good drink for people with diabetes.
Q. How much coconut oil should I eat a day?
A. Coconut oil should be treated like any other oil. At the same time, it can be part of a nutritious diet. However, it’s better to stick to having 3-4 tbsp or less per day. 1 tablespoon is enough to provide you with your daily recommended fat intake.
Q. Are eggs good for diabetics?
A. Research suggests eating one large egg every day may reduce the risk of diabetes without having any adverse effects. Furthermore, they are exceptionally nutritious, good sources of high-quality protein and healthy fats.
Q. What drink lowers blood sugar?
A. Water and green tea have no calories and no added sugars. They help the kidneys excrete excess blood sugar. In addition to that, plant-based milk is also beneficial in treating insulin resistance. You can also try fenugreek water as it can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. It also helps in improving the way your body uses sugar.