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For years, experts have extolled the virtues of virgin coconut oil as a way to get healthy. Proponents claim that if you add it to your diet on a daily basis you’ll not only lose fat, but especially the harmful fat that resides in the abdomen.

But how do the claims match up to the facts?

A Metabolism Boost

Well, coconut oil contains a high number of medium-chain fatty acids, compared to other sources of fat that are primarily made up of long-chain fatty acids. 1 The body metabolizes medium-chain fatty acids in a different way than their long-chain counterparts, and this is a major reason why coconut oil is considered to be much better for those trying to lose weight.2

You see, medium-chain acids go straight to the digestive tract from the liver, where they’re either converted into ketone bodies (chemicals used to break down fat for energy when the body doesn’t have a large enough supply of insulin) or immediately turned into energy. As a result, the body burns fat faster.

Now, research shows that using as little as a teaspoon or two of a medium-chain fatty acid such as coconut oil can help the body increase its energy expenditure rate by up to 5 percent.3 When you replace regular fats with medium-change fats, you burn more calories.

Appetite Reduction

There’s really a simple equation here. When the body takes in fewer calories than it expends in energy, you lose fat. It’s that simple. So, if you don’t eat as much, of course, you don’t gain as much weight. But, coconut oil helps you reduce the amount of calories you take in because it increases the feeling of fullness. That means you’ll step away from the table sooner as a result.

Why is this the case?

Well, some researchers theorize that the ketone bodies produced by medium-chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil, help reduce appetite.4 One study showed that people who eat a meal high in medium-chain fatty acids tend not to eat as much at their next meal. 5 For example, if your breakfast contains a large amount of these acids, you probably won’t have as big a lunch as you normally do.

Coconut oil | Activated You

A Reduction in Dangerous Fat

Now, belly fat, or abdominal fat, doesn’t just harm your appearance – it can also harm your health. The reason is that it tends to accumulate around major organs, leading to inflammation as well as increasing the risk of developing heart disease and other issues. The more you can reduce your belly fat, the better it will be for your health because it will reduce your risk of developing these or other chronic problems.

But how can coconut oil help? One study designed to determine whether or not coconut oil could help reduce belly fat involved a group of 40 women.6 Some of the women consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil, while the rest were given the same amount of soybean oil. The study lasted for four weeks. The women were also instructed to consume fewer calories and walk each day of the study.

While both groups were able to lose weight, only the women who ingested coconut oil saw a decrease in their belly fat. The soybean group, on the other hand, saw a slight increase in belly fat. In addition, the group using coconut oil saw an increase in their good cholesterol levels, while the group using soybean oil not only had a decrease in good cholesterol, but an increase in bad cholesterol.

The decreases in belly fat weren’t overly substantial, but any reduction is good for your health. When combined with regular exercise, a diet that incorporates coconut oil can be a major help in reducing belly fat and lowering the chances of developing many kinds of serious health conditions.

How to Use Coconut Oil

The point of using coconut oil to lose weight is not to simply add it to the other types of oils you’re currently using – it’s to replace them. For example, if you use butter when you cook use coconut oil instead. It might result in a different flavor, but it will still taste great when you’re making something like a pie or cookies. It even enhances the flavor of certain meats and veggies!

Here’s another great tip – though it might sound like sacrilege to some: consider substituting coconut oil for butter when you make popcorn. Either look for microwave packets that use it, or make popcorn the old-fashioned way. You’ll still love the taste, and it will be a much healthier snack.

There are several other ways to use it as well. You can sprinkle a teaspoon on some oatmeal, and maybe even add some nuts and/or berries as well. You can even eat a teaspoon on its own if it’s in solid form (just make sure you wait for it to melt in your mouth first before you swallow) or drink it. Wait about 30 minutes or so before you eat a meal so you give it time to start burning fat. If you don’t like the taste, try mixing it into a smoothie or into a hot beverage such as coffee.

Not a perfect solution

While there are some significant benefits to introducing coconut oil to your diet, there are some limitations as well. For instance, if you are on a weight-loss plan that involves counting calories and you are on a fixed amount per day, if you add coconut oil you could very well gain weight instead of losing it.

As with any type of dietary change, make sure you speak with your doctor first to make sure including coconut oil won’t cause any problems. You should also talk to your doctor about how much coconut oil you should try to ingest each day. Different people have different needs. The more you weigh, the more you will probably need to consume.

For more articles about health and wellness, keep reading:

10 Surprising Facts About Your Gut Microflora

Top 10 Health Benefits of Steam Rooms and Saunas