Over the past year, it has been difficult to avoid coconut oil in all its splendor. I read an article last month from a girl who said she was ready to rub some on her bank account as it seems to be solving so many other issues in her life. While I don’t recommend you make your ATM card all greasy, I do recommend stocking at least one jar in your cupboard.
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts. It is high in saturated fats (90% of its fatty acids) and therefore, has endless health benefits and is classified as one of the ‘super foods’. Although saturated fats can be viewed as something negative, the types of saturated fats in coconut oil are not the same as those in say, steak. They are medium chain fatty acids (as opposed to long-chain in steak etc) meaning they are metabolised differently. They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract where they become a source of energy. They are also converted into ketone bodies which have therapeutic effects on the mind.
The oil can be used in so many different ways that sometimes we (myself included) can become overwhelmed as regards what to do with it. Do I rub it on my lips or my lunch? Will my skin become super oily and my hair be mistaken for “hasn’t been washed for three days” kind of hair? The possibilities are endless and I honestly wouldn’t even begin to describe them all (mainly because I haven’t tried them). I have however seen the benefits for those close to me and can tell you what works for them, me, myself and I.
* Coconut oil benefits our insides. Daily, I eat half a table spoon of this magic stuff (in addition to cooking with it) because of its benefit to my skin, hair and overall well-being. It’s amazing for your immune system plus tastes really good so there’s no retching after the daily raw intake.
*It flavors food and is healthier than olive oil when frying. Traditionally I and most people I know have used olive oil to fry. Coconut oil is more stable than olive oil when cooking (due to olive oil’s chemical structure, it suffers oxidative damage). The recommendation is that olive oil is used in recipes at room temperature while coconut oil is used for frying, roasting etc.
* Coconut oil is the recommended oil for those suffering from obesity. It supports general health and weight loss. Coconut oil can increase energy expenditure by up to 5% more than normal. Because of the way the fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolised, it is proven to reduce hunger.
*Coconut oil can benefit the skin and be used as a sun screen. Particularly with people with dryer skin, the oil is proven to improve and moisturise the lipid content of the skin. One study showed that using coconut oil was 20% effective against the sun.
Don’t be afraid to rub it on any areas that appear dry including cuticles, underarms, feet and the tops of your ears (yes really).
* It helps whiten teeth, combat bad breath and generally keep the mouth healthy. There is a common practice called ‘oil pulling’ that involves swishing coconut oil around your mouth for twenty minutes per day to combat oral hygiene issues. I’ve personally found the whole 20 minute target a challenge (I am highly impatient) however I have managed to swish for a whole ten with obvious benefit.
Other ways of using coconut oil include rubbing it into your hair for added moisture, as a replacement for daily moisturiser and as a deodorant. There are hundreds of others.
Coconut oil can be picked up from Tesco or any health food store (try Nourish in Dublin). Thankfully, it’s becoming more widely available and pretty soon, you’ll probably be able to pick it up down your local.
If there is one lesson I’ve learned when it comes to coconut oil, it’s that the more expensive jar is better. I invested in organic raw oil this month and haven’t regretted it. There’s no comparison between it and the cheap stuff. Remember, your health is your wealth and, you get what you pay for.