Spring is the perfect time to talk about the benefits of using coconut oil. Coconut oil may seem like just another fad aimed at putting money in the pocket of food producers, but the reality is that coconut oil has too many health benefits to overlook.
Food manufacturers are quick to spot trends and respond with new products; their products may even appear on grocery store shelves before you realized that it was in demand. The key to navigating the many choices of coconut oil (or any product you are unfamiliar with) is to understand what health benefits it can provide, and the best ways to use it.
With pretty much any food, the least processed it is the more it can bring benefit to our body. Coconut oil is the same. Inside the hard fibrous shell is a treasure trove of nutrients that our body needs. From the coconut water/milk to the luscious flesh, it is all best consumed fresh and raw because the nutrients are in a form readily available to our body.
Since not everyone has access to fresh raw coconuts, the next best alternative is to buy products which have been minimally processed. I briefly want to point out that most coconut water packaged for store shelves has been through a pasteurization process to reduce spoilage and increase shelf life. Unfortunately, this destroys many of the nutrients, leaving you with little more than an expensive coconut flavored water. The best coconut water is made from young green coconuts and is found in the refrigerated section, with an expiration date of just a few days.
As far as coconut oil goes, look for organic virgin coconut oil. You may also find the word ‘unprocessed’ on the label. You will need to check the label closely as many look the same but some have been refined for cooking. All unrefined oils have a low smoke point which makes them inappropriate for cooking at high heat due to the fact that they turn rancid as the heat breaks them down. However, unrefined coconut oil remains fairly stable even at medium heat, which is what most sautéing is done at. That is why coconut oil is preferred over olive oil due to its ability to resist breaking down at low to medium heat.
Coconut oil should be solid below 73 degrees Fahrenheit, and will begin to liquefy at temperatures above that; the state of the oil will not affect its health properties. Virgin, unrefined coconut oil has a shelf life of about two years, which is more than long enough once you discover all the ways it can improve your life.
To make things simple, let’s classify uses for coconut into 4 categories. They are food uses, body and skin care, household, and natural medicine. Chances are that you knew that coconut oil is good for your skin, and it is now a popular oil to cook with, but I am going to explain how you can incorporate it into just about every aspect of your daily life and why it is superior over products produced in a laboratory.
As I already stated, unrefined coconut oil is great for cooking with, not only because it resists breaking down/oxidizing when heated, but also for the unique flavor it imparts on food. It is a great replacement for butter on toast or melted over popcorn. You can use it in place of other oils or butter for baking, and it makes a fabulous topping on baked sweet potatoes.
Due to the prevalence of medium chain fatty acids, coconut oil is easily digested (even for those with gallbladder or pancreas issues) and provides an immediate source of fuel for the body. Blend up, in a blender or with an electric whipping tool, a teaspoon or so in your morning coffee for a rich and creamy treat that also gives you an extra boost of energy. Add a tablespoon or two to your pre-workout smoothie for sustained energy during your workout. The best part is that you can enjoy all of this without the worry of it being stored as fat. As a saturated fat, coconut oil is primarily used by the body for energy but is not readily turned into stored fat. So feel free to experiment with it in your kitchen but remember, an excess of anything is not good.
Body and Skin Care Uses
Over the years, coconut oil has been making its way into many skin care products, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, also present in those products are toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, disrupt normal hormone function, and cause serious reactions in certain combinations.
Coconut oil doesn’t need chemical additives to help it make your skin look and feel silky smooth, free of blemishes, wrinkles, or even stretch marks. Coconut oil naturally contains caprylic and lauric acid, both of which are good for your skin by reducing inflammation and increasing the effects of the antioxidants also found in coconut oil.
It is also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral which will help heal skin and reduce incidences of acne. Coconut oil is soothing for sunburn, works great as a substitute for shaving cream, softens lips, easily removes eye makeup, relieves dry cracked skin, and makes a great massage oil and/or carrier oil for essential oils. It is very effective for soothing and treating diaper rash.
Add it to an Epson salt bath with essential oils such as lavender and chamomile for a relaxing soak that will leave your skin feeling pampered. Apply coconut oil on dry/un-wet hair for roughly 20 minutes before you wash it to naturally soften hair from the inside out; it is an effective treatment for dandruff and dry scalp. It also makes a great cuticle oil.
Coconut oil can be mixed with a few other natural products to make healthy alternatives to deodorant, toothpaste, exfoliator, vapor rub, insect repellent, and lip gloss, to name a few.
Due to coconut oil’s fierce antibacterial properties it makes an excellent treatment for tooth decay and gum disease, as well as bad breath. The practice of oil pulling once or twice a day will not only kill the bacteria in your mouth that causes these conditions, it will also naturally whiten teeth. To oil pull, simply put one to two teaspoons of unrefined coconut oil in your mouth, and swish it around for 15-20 minutes on an empty stomach. Make it part of your morning routine by oil pulling while you are in the shower; don’t spit it down the drain though, as it may clog your pipes. Instead, spit it out into the garbage.
When a personal lubricant is needed, coconut oil is the perfect solution since it is naturally alkaline, antibacterial, and antifungal. It is also effective against candida.
Some household uses for coconut oil that you may not have thought of include, applying a small amount to a zipper that is stuck. The lubrication that it provides is often enough to release the jam without damage; this can also work for a stuck bicycle chain.
Coconut oil can also be used to help remove chewing gum from hair or upholstery, and is much easier to clean up after than the old time remedy of using peanut butter.
It can make any pan non-stick when used to coat the pan before cooking. It also works great for greasing the pan of baked goods for an easier release after baking.
If you like making your own products, it can be added to beeswax candles, laundry detergent, shampoo, and hand soap. Most recipes use only a few ingredients.
Due to its alkaline nature, it works well for a furniture polish, and to prevent the collection of dust, as a shoe polish, and on metals to prevent rust.
Natural Medicine Uses
High in omega 3 fatty acids, coconut oil reduces inflammation when added to the diet. By reducing inflammation, joint pain, and pain in general is reduced. This will also have a positive effect on the heart since the reduction of inflammation will also balance cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, as well as stabilize blood sugar and combat insulin resistance. Symptoms of Type II diabetes may also be reduced.
By reducing overall inflammation in the body, the brain also receives benefits. Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease or reduction of symptoms is another benefit of adding coconut oil to your diet. Memory and cognitive function will also improve.
Coconut oil added to the diet can also be an effective weight loss strategy not only due to reducing inflammation, but improving digestion and gut health by providing a suitable environment for friendly flora. It naturally reduces appetite and encourages fat burning, especially around the abdomen. Constipation will also be relieved.
The medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil not only provides a boost to your energy level but they also help the body to build muscle. Instead of relying on workout supplements for getting ripped, try 3 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil to your organic pre-workout smoothie.
By balancing the flora that lives in the intestines, candida, the bacteria responsible for yeast infections will be greatly reduced. Yeast infections, bladder infections, and kidney infections can be eliminated not only by balancing the intestinal flora, but also from the capric acid and the antibiotic property of coconut oil.
Coconut oil can help fight cancer in two ways. By improving your immune system function, your body is better able to kill cancer cells. At the same time, cancer cells cannot use coconut oil for fuel therefore they do not steal the body’s energy source, as it does with glucose; thereby limiting cancer’s fuel source.
The lauric acid in coconut oil helps balance hormones, and eases symptoms of menopause by helping the body to regulate estrogen levels.
High levels of antioxidants help fight oxidative stress that leads not only to premature aging, but also osteoporosis. Through improving digestion, coconut oil has been found to increase calcium absorption in the intestines and increases bone density. Improved digestion also assists the liver to detox which, in turn, improves skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
These are not all of the uses and benefits of coconut oil, and more studies are being published identifying new ways in which it can improve your health. You could also add to this list that by substituting some of your chemically engineered products with organic coconut oil, you would reduce the toxic load on your body, which would in turn lead to a significant improvement in all aspects of your health. Coconut oil really is a superfood. Check out what you are missing.
20 Coconut Oil Benefits & Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved from Dr. Axe Food is Medicine: draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits
77 Coconut OIl Uses & Cures. (n.d.). Retrieved from Dr. Axe Food is Medicine: draxe.com/coconut-oil-uses/