Brain health is a topic you should be paying close attention to as a parent. I’m sure you’ve noticed the rising rates of anxiety, depression, Alzheimers, and dementia in our culture.
Chances are, you already have some of these issues going on in your family. If you’re lucky enough to not have anything so serious, you may be seeing less severe symptoms of poor brain health in your family such as:
- brain fog
- lack of focus
- trouble learning
- memory issues
I know my usual topic is teens and tweens, so you might be wondering why I’m talking about Alzheimers. Well, chances are if you are the right age to be raising teens, you are also the right age to be caring for aging parents.
And also this topic IS related to teens and tweens, as brain health can affect the behavior, mental health, and cognitive development of kids.
Not to mention the fact that if you are in your 40s or 50s as you are reading this…you may have noticed some brain fog or memory loss in yourself, and perhaps you are ready to be doing all you can to keep your own brain healthy for as long as possible!
You may not realize that there are things you can do to help improve your family’s brain health! One of the easiest things you can do for brain health is to add coconut to your diet.
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What are the brain health benefits of eating coconut oil?
Food is medicine. We should all be looking at nutrition and thinking about how it affects our bodies – including our brains. Our bodies are built out of the things that we eat.
I first learned about the benefits of coconut oil for our brains in 2016 when I read the book The Coconut Oil and Low-Carb Solution and also Alzheimer’s Disease- What if There Was a Cure? by Dr. Mary Newport. At the time, I was trying to figure out if there was any way I could help my mom with the dementia she was developing.
I listened to Dr. Newport’s story on the podcast Nutritional Weight and Wellness, and I found her so inspiring and learned a lot about brain health!
Now it’s 2023, and Dr. Mary Newport was again interviewed on the Nutritional Weight and Wellness podcast. I listened to it today, and I just had to share it with you! If you want to get the details of her story and the science behind what she is talking about, give it a listen or pick up one of her books.
She is also out with a new book called Clearly Keto, in which she teaches about the benefits of a high-fat Mediterranean-style diet for brain health. She talked in the podcast about not only how that style of eating can protect against dementia and Alzheimers, but it’s also been found to be beneficial for reversing Diabetes, lowering the chances of cancer, and improving Epilepsy symptoms.
How does eating coconut oil promote brain health?
Coconut oil contains a large amount of a special kind of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCT. This is type of saturated fat. People used to think that saturated fat was unhealthy, but there has been a lot of recent research leading to the conclusion that saturated fat is not bad for our health. If you are curious about that, read my article about the right fats to feed your family.
The medium-chain tryglicerides are metabolized (or converted) into energy as special molecules called “ketones.”
Our brains are fueled with glucose (which comes from carbohydrates), but they can also be fueled by ketones. For people who have already developed Alzheimers disease, it’s been shown that ketones can help them to think better (see those books I linked above).
I’m sure you’ve heard of the keto diet – the idea there is to eat so few carboyhydrates that your body begins using ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
Everyone – including teens – can benefit from eating less sugar and carbohydrates. Type 2 diabetes is increasing at a staggering amount throughout the western world. It often begins with being told you are insulin resistant or prediabetic – which is happening at younger and younger ages. Anyone in those situations needs to reduce their intake of carbohydrates.
A recent study by the University of Alabama showed that 40% of young adults (age 18-44) had insulin resistance. And here is an even scarier part – 50% of those that were insulin resistant were NOT obese. So if you think your teen looks fit…that may not be the case on the inside.
People with diabetes are six times more likely to develop dementia or Alzheimers. Brain health is definitely linked with diabetes – in fact, my own mother’s dementia was likely caused in part by diabetes.
But I digress. Back to coconut oil.
Coconut oil has been found in some studies to lessen depression, and coconut oil can also help with anxiety. If you have a tween or teen who struggle with anxiety or depression, adding coconut oil to their diet is certainly worth a try!
If you do have a teen suffering with their mental health, I would love to have you as a member in my Facebook group Moms and Families of Tweens & Teens with Anxiety and Depression.
What are the best ways to get coconut oil into our diet?
1. Virgin Coconut Oil
Not all coconut oils are the same! Organic, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is the best type to get. My favorite is from Perfect Supplements, and it is the one I use at home. If you order directly from Perfect Supplements, use my code TWEENS10 to get an extra 10% off your order! If you’d prefer to buy on Amazon, this coconut oil is a good choice.
2. MCT oil
There are times when you would prefer to not add the coconut flavor to your food. MCT oil is liquid at room temperature (rather than solid like regular coconut oil) and it is flavorless. I add Perfect Supplements MCT oil to my coffee each morning, and I also use it in smoothies. I really do think it’s helped to make my thinking clearer. Don’t forget to use my code TWEENS10 to get 10% off your order!
3. Coconut milk
Get the full-fat coconut milk, of course! Organic, if you can find it. Get the kind you buy in a can. You can also buy coconut cream in a can, which is delicious! I add a few dollops into plain yogurt for a delicious breakfast inspired by Dr. Newport. Coconut milk can be used in many delicious recipes. If you buy the boxed kind of coconut milk, make sure it doesn’t have too many additives. Coconut milk is great in smoothies!
4. Coconut Butter
Coconut butter is a tasty treat, similar to peanut butter and nut butters. It’s made by pureeing the meat of the coconut, not just extracting the oil. The brands of coconut butter that I have bought are not really spreadable. I see in reviews that this brand of coconut butter is spreadable. One of the reviews mentioned spreading it on toast underneath a layer of peanut butter. If you add it to smoothies, it gives the smoothie a strong coconut flavor. There are also products that mix the coconut butter with other flavors – I will link some below. We tried this chocolate spread and it was yummy!
5. Coconut flour
I use coconut flour to do grain-free and gluten-free baking. If you’d like to try that, you can’t just substitute it for regular flour one-to-one as it has a pretty different consistency. Definitely follow a recipe! Try my banana chocolate chip muffins!
Of course you can also eat some coconut! Be careful to choose a brand that’s not loaded with sugar. Trader Joe’s makes a fantastic lightly sweetened dry coconut that you can snack on – it’s my son’s favorite snack! If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you can find it in the nut section. Dang coconut is a tasty brand of coconut chips – they are crispy rather than soft like the Trader Joe’s ones. Either kind would be perfect to make a nice trail mix for your tweens using some nuts, unsweetened dry cereal (like Cheerios), and maybe some dried fruit and even chocolate chips!
You can also buy unsweetened flaked coconut. Add it to recipes, sprinkle it on yogurt or cereal, etc. I add it to my nice yogurt breakfast that I told you about.
Healthy recipes that use coconut
I’d love for you to try some of my recipes! Click any of the links to try them out.
Want to get some more nutrition advice? Check out my article about which healthy fats to feed to your family.
I hope you found this information helpful, and I’d love to hear how you plan to incorporate more coconut oil into your family’s diet to improve their brain health! Please comment below to let me know, and don’t forget to pin and share!