Looking for a way to fight heart disease, regulate blood sugar, improve your immune system, and make your skin and hair radiant? You can find all that in a jar of coconut oil!
Coconut oil has been found to be a healthy (and tasty!) fat to consume, and with its anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties, it's ideal for use on your skin - everything from treating acne and eczema, to use as a diaper rash cream.
Coconut oil is a bright white, creamy semi-solid oil with a fresh coconut smell. It has a light, nutty, and slightly sweet taste and is reminiscent of brown butter. Its flavor suits both savory and sweet dishes, and can be substituted for almost any other oil at a 1:1 ratio.
Coconut butter is also made from coconuts, but should not to be confused with coconut oil. Coconut butter is a butter-like paste made by puréeing the entire flesh of the coconut (along with some water), whereas coconut oil contains only the extracted oil. The butter is used for edible purposes, and is rarely used topically on the body (as it contains all the fiber from the coconut meat).
While frying, cooking and baking are best for coconut oil, coconut butter is best enjoyed in its raw form. Use in place of butter when making icings, spread on toast or pancakes, drizzled over potatoes or mixed with fruit. You can use it in place of butter in baked goods, but just be aware that it has even less moisture than coconut oil, so you'll need to add more liquid, and it can make the baked goods quite dry since it contains a lot of fiber.
Types of Coconut Oil
There are three types of coconut oil on the market;
- Extra virgin (or unrefined) has a strong coconut flavour and aroma.
- Refined (or RBD) has been refined, bleached and deodorized. It has very little or no coconut flavour and aroma.
- Hydrogenated coconut oil has a higher melting point at 95°F/35°C (compared to 76°F/24°C of virgin and RBD). Used in processed foods to increase shelf life and stabilization.
Extra virgin or refined coconut oil are both tasty and healthy choices. Naturally, avoid hydrogenated-anything at all costs (more on that below).
What’s in Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is cholesterol-free and made of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which metabolize easier than other saturated fats. 50% of the MCTs are comprised of lauric acid, an extremely beneficial fatty acid. Lauric acid (also found in breast milk) is rich in antioxidants and can aid the body’s absorption of important minerals and nutrients, eliminate harmful bacteria within the body, and help fight the signs of aging.
It is now being studied for its other properties as an anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, as well as its ability to boost your immune system and stimulate metabolism.
Saturated Fat Debate
In the 1960s tropical oils like coconut oil, were unfairly reported to contain artery-clogging fats. The important point that was left out of all the media hype was that they were referring to hydrogenated coconut oil, not virgin coconut oil.
Now in the 21st century, we know it’s the process of hydrogenation (chemically adding a hydrogen molecule to make shelf-stable products) that is the real villain to our health and not coconut oil. This man-made process of hydrogenation creates 'trans fats'. These chemically created fats harm the body in many ways by increasing bad cholesterol levels, and blocking the bodies means of controlling inflammation - which also affects the hormone and nervous systems.
Research has proven that not all saturated fats are bad. Yes, some increase cholesterol levels, however not all cholesterol is bad. There are two types of cholesterol – the good: High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and the bad: Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Bad cholesterol deposits fat along the artery walls (increasing risk of heart disease), whereas good cholesterol helps to lower those LDL levels, as well as providing nutrition and energy to the body’s cells.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Besides its bad cholesterol lowering ability, its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties, it is also easily digested by the body, allowing it to be quickly metabolized by the body.
Current research is using coconut oil to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Ingesting 1-3 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil daily increases ketone production, which helps to restore brain activity. To find out more, read all about Dr. Bruce Fife’s research at www.coconutresearchcenter.org
How Does It Compare to Olive Oil?
Health-wise, both have 120 calories per tablespoon, and neither have trans fat or cholesterol. Although, olive oil is unsaturated, whereas coconut oil is saturated.
However ongoing research on plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, are showing not to have the same negative effects in comparison to animal based saturated fats, like butter.
In the kitchen, olive oil has a lower smoke point than coconut oil. This means that olive oil will start breaking down and smoking at a much lower temperature than coconut oil. Which makes coconut oil ideal when cooking at high temperatures, like when stir frying or deep frying.
Olive oil is best for cold dishes, like in salad dressings – since coconut oil will start to solidify below room temperature.
Storage & Shelf Life
Needing no refrigeration, coconut oil can be stored at room temperature in a cool dry place with a tight fitting lid, lasting up to two years without spoiling. This is due to its high saturated fat content, which makes it slow to oxidize and turn rancid.
Skin & Body Care Uses
Using coconut oil is natural way to make your hair and skin soft, radiant and healthy. Melt a small amount and use as a:
- Shaving lotion – have a cup of hot water nearby to rinse your razor in
- Eye makeup remover - warm half a teaspoon between your finger tips, then massage into lashes. Rinse off with warm face cloth
- Diaper rash cream
- During pregnancy to prevent stretch marks– apply several times each day to moisturize your stretching skin
- During breastfeeding as a nipple cream
- Massage oil, body moisturizer, or Homemade Body Scrubs
- Fingernails - rub into dry cuticles
- Deep conditioning hair treatment - Rub oil into hair (mostly at ends), comb through and tie into a loose bun before bed (may want to wear a shower cap, or put an old towel over your pillow). Wash out in the morning with shampoo, then condition as usual
- Removing gum from hair
Did You Know...
The coconut palm tree starts bearing fruit (coconuts) 5 years after germination, and will bear 50-100 coconuts every year until the tree reaches 50 years of age.
It takes approximately 1000 coconuts to product 15 gallons of coconut oil. The oil can be extracted in one of two ways; by shredding and cold-pressing the coconut meat while it’s moist (then separating out the oil from the milk), and the second extraction method is by pressing the oil out from the dried coconut meat (called copra).