The health benefits of coconut oil have been researched and proven in over 1,600 studies to date. It’s been used to combat diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, Chrohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid conditions and more.

So what’s in this miracle fruit oil that makes it so amazing?

Most oils consist entirely of long-chain triglycerides, but coconut oil is high in a saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides. The difference is in how the body metabolizes these fats. Medium-chain triglycerides have an unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. They are absorbed and taken straight to the liver to be used for energy, which can in turn raise the metabolic rate of the body.

That’s right: this fat is not stored as fat, but used to generate energy, which speeds up your metabolism.

Studies have shown that when taken with or before a meal, the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil decrease appetite. This type of fat has also been shown to be both anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Clinical studies have shown that the consumption of coconut oil leads to greater energy expenditure in the body, suggesting that it may be useful for weight management.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to determine whether or not the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil improve body weight and fat loss, using olive oil (long-chain triglycerides) as a comparison. Forty-nine overweight men and women aged 19-50 consumed either olive oil or coconut oil as part of a weight loss program for 16 weeks. The participants received weekly group weight loss counseling and had their body weight and waist circumferences measured weekly. The study concluded that the coconut oil resulted in a lower endpoint body weight than for those who consumed the olive oil. There was also a trend toward a greater loss of fat mass with the coconut oil.

The conclusion: the consumption of coconut oil as part of a weight loss plain improves both weight loss and fat loss.

The coconut oil we’re talking about here is virgin coconut oil. Conventional coconut oil — the kind used in some candies, coffee creamers and even in movie theater popcorn — is made from dried coconut that is pulverized, cooked, and treated with chemicals. The labeling on coconut oil can get tricky, but you probably want to stick to organic, virgin cold-pressed coconut oil.

Not only is this metabolism-boosting oil good for your waistline, it’s great for protecting your heart as well. The saturated fats in coconut oil increase the healthy cholesterol (HDL) in your body while converting the bad cholesterol (LDL) into good cholesterol. Increasing HDL in the body promotes heart health by lowering the risk of heart disease.

Many diseases today are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites in the body. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a potent anti-microbial agent. It fights bacteria in the body to help block out viruses and keep your immune system strong and healthy. Non-virgin coconut oil is stripped of lauric acid during processing — another reason to stick to the virgin version.

For weight loss purposes, it’s best to liquify the coconut oil in hot water before consuming it. Mix 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a mug and add hot water or herbal tea. Stir until melted, then drink twenty minutes before eating a meal. You should start to notice that it allows you to feel full more quickly, on smaller portions.

As always, consult your doctor if you have any underlying health issues or concerns.