Coconut oil is amazing. The end.
I am just kidding, of course, even though the above statement is pretty much true. I always keep a jar of coconut oil in my kitchen and another one in my bathroom. Coconut oil is not just an ideal cooking fat, it is also a wonderful beauty tool. Today, we will talk about how you can use this super versatile, stable, and healthy fat, and some of those uses might really surprise you! First, lets talk about what coconut oil actually is.
Coconut Oil Science
In our series about fat we mentioned coconut oil being one of the healthiest, most versatile and nutrient dense types of fat available. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat (which we already know is not the heart disease making demon we used to believe it was) and it has very little inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, making it a perfect option for high temperature cooking and baking. It is a very stable fat, can be stored out of the fridge for up to two years, and it becomes liquid at 75F (25C). Sometimes I joke that summer actually begins when my coconut oil turns liquid in the pantry, and when it turns solid again, I sigh because it means that the warm summer days are over.
Because of its medium chain triglycerides (MCT) structure, coconut oil is easy to digest, as it does not require any bile salts or enzymes to be broken down, so it is a perfect option even for people with gallbladder issues (or even those who had their gallbladder removed). It provides a very easily accessible source of energy, is rich in antioxidants, and has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. It supports immune function and thyroid health, helps with weightloss, boosts metabolism, and even protects your organs.
Almost 50% of coconut oils fatty acid content is lauric acid. This is a pretty rare, medium chain fatty acid, and it is exactly what makes coconut oil so amazing. It is converted in the body into monolaurin, the miracle antibacterial compound that is also found in breastmilk. It is the easiest fatty acid to digest and release back into the body as a quick energy source instead of glucose. Other fatty acids with similar properties in coconut oil are caprylic and capric acid. Topical use of coconut oil is proven to be a wonderful inflammatory acne treatment, and this is also thanks to these fatty acids. Coconut oil is also an excellent moisturizer for dry skin, eczema, or dermatitis. Plus, it smells really amazing!
Types of Coconut Oil
Not all coconut oils are the same, of course. Just like with olive oil, there are different processing methods that create a different type or quality of oil. The best option of course is virgin (sometimes labeled as extra virgin) coconut oil. This one is raw, unrefined, made from fresh coconuts using only mechanical processes known as cold-pressing, without any chemicals. This is the oil you should go for if you really want that healing, nutrient dense coconut fat.
Refined coconut oil is also available on the market. It is usually made from dried coconut mass (also called copra) and it is called RBD oil refined, bleached, and deodorized. Dried coconut meat is not as nutritious as fresh meat, and it is difficult to get the oil out of this dried mass with just mechanical tools that is why heat and chemicals are used. The final product is usually odorless and tasteless (unlike virgin coconut oil that has a mild coconut flavor), it can be used for higher temperature cooking or even deep-frying, and even though it is chemically processed, it still has some of the beneficial MCT fatty acids and similar nutritional value virgin oil does. Refined oil is cheaper than unrefined, but you have to consider the chemical processing. Always read your labels when you are looking for a good virgin coconut oil. Very low price can translate in lower quality (or unethical growing and harvesting conditions), but it doesn't mean more expensive brands are necessarily the best.
I personally tried several different brands before I found my favorite, as every brand can vary a little in flavor and consistency. Some people cant stand the coconut taste, and even though it is never overpowering, you can sometimes tell that this particular meal was cooked in virgin coconut oil. If this is your problem, find a milder tasting brand or try a refined one for high temperature cooking. For topical use on your skin, always go for extra virgin.
Cooking With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a stable cooking fat with a high smoking point and it can replace any vegetable oil or lard in cooking, baking, or frying. You can add a tablespoon or two in your smoothie, coffee or tea, or just eat a spoonful straight from the jar to add some quality fat to your diet every day. Coconut oil works especially well with Asian cuisine the mild coconut taste really works with the recipes. Sweet baked goods are also delicious when you use coconut oil instead of vegetable shortening. Try using some coconut oil in a homemade mayo along with olive oil; your mayonnaise will be even more delicious and healthy! I personally prefer cooking eggs in butter or lard, but you might discover your new favorite breakfast in coconut oil cooked sunny side ups! It also works as a dairy free spread where you might otherwise use butter, like on waffles, or even potatoes.
Pampering With Coconut Oil
You might have guessed it already, based on the information about coconut oils antibacterial properties coconut oil is a wonderful skin care product! If you are currently using any drugstore moisturizers and you are confused by the list of ingredients on the box or even have allergic reactions to them, try switching the chemical concoction for a jar of extra virgin coconut oil. As a natural antioxidant it helps with dry skin, wrinkles, and acne, it is a natural low level sunscreen (SPF 4) and can be used in place of basically any cream or lotion in your skincare regimen body lotion, face cream, eye cream, hand lotion, or cuticle cream a little goes a long way, so use a small amount to avoid oil stains on your clothes or sofa. It was even reported to reduce stretch marks and varicose veins!
Coconut oil is also an excellent makeup remover it dissolves even waterproof mascara. Mixed with a bit of sugar, sea salt, or coffee grounds, coconut oil makes a great and gentle skin exfoliator, especially for the dead skin on the feet. On its own, coconut oil makes for a nourishing hair mask for hair loss reduction, lice treatment, or managing frizzy hair. Make sure to wash it out thoroughly multiple times though if you don't want to look like you've combed your hair with a slice of bacon. If you are interested in adding coconut oil into your beauty routine, check out this post from a lady who tried replacing every possible skincare product with you guessed it coconut oil!
There are so many skincare and personal care DIY recipes using coconut oil! Creams, whipped lotions, soap and shampoo bars, oil blends, toothpaste, deodorants We will for sure cover some of these ideas in the upcoming series on natural beauty, but for now, you can be inspired by Wellness Mama and her list of 101 + Uses for Coconut oil; you will find ideas for the kitchen, the bathroom and even your pets!
Healing With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is able to speed up the healing process of wounds when applied topically. This is great news to diabetics and others who tend to have problems with wound healing. It also helps to heal sunburn and relieve bug or mosquito bites. My mom uses coconut oil on her psoriasis areas and sees a dramatic change in her condition no more skin cracking and bleeding or uncomfortable dryness. Some people successfully used coconut oil to treat yeast infections and also foot fungus. More anecdotal experiences with coconut oil can be found here, here or here, but no list is exhaustive enough, you can always come up with your own use! If you do, feel free to share in the comments, we would love to know!
Is There Anything Wrong With Coconut Oil?
We are used to it by now; every coin has two sides. Coconut oil has no negative impact on a person who can tolerate it. With that being said, some people might have a bad reaction to coconut oil (rather coconut as a whole). Allergy to coconut is not a nut allergy, as coconut is technically not a nut, but the struggle is real for some people. The fats in coconut oil can cause diarrhea, especially if you start eating a lot of it all of a sudden. Coconuts also contain salicylates and some people don't tolerate them well. Yet others may react to the protein of the plant. There are also some folks who tolerate it well on their skin, but not when they try to eat it. So it is not really for everybody. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and definitely stop if you notice that you feel the need to cough or like your throat is a little tighter than it ought to be, or if you experience digestive distress (interpret these as the warnings of an allergy rather than waiting for full blown anaphylaxis and quit while you're ahead). If you are one of those people whose body doesn't agree with coconut oil consumption, stay away from it and maybe check out this post about how to find a substitute for everything coconut.
Coconut oil itself also doesn't carry any vitamins or minerals. It helps with micronutrient absorption which is a very important benefit, but it doesn't come with those nutrients. As an addition to a real food, micronutrient dense diet, coconut oil is a wonderful thing to add to your plate. So grab a jar for your home (or two, it will come in handy) and enjoy the amazing benefits with a sprinkle of tropical scent on top!