Anywhere in the world where it’s tropical and coconuts grow, such as the South Pacific, India, the Indian Ocean, can the oil be extracted from coconut meat. It’s a staple of many people’s diets in the tropics, and used as a medicine in tropical countries for thousands of years.
Probably the most beneficial health benefit of coconut oil is its anti-microbial properties, its ability to fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi.
-Protects against cancer
-Stimulates metabolic activity
-Supports and boosts the immune system
-Lowers the risk of heart disease by increasing our HDLs, which are also known as the “good cholesterol“.
If you haven’t worked with it before, coconut oil is a bit unusual as it tends to be a solid at most room temperatures, with a relatively high melting point of about 76 degrees.
The closer it gets to 80 degrees, as in the summer months, the better chance it will turn to liquid. When it’s stored properly, it’s stable for over a year without going rancid.
As for the flavor: a sweet, nutty, mild, vanilla-like taste.
When you’re shopping for coconut oils, you want to look for oils that are unrefined or virgin. This means that it’s been cold pressed and not chemically treated. A good coconut oil is not necessarily cheap, a container almost 30 ounces is nearly $20, but it lasts a long time and well worth the investment. You may not find it at your regular grocery stores yet, but you can always find it at whole foods, the co-op, or even a Trader Joes.
An Oil that’s Healthy
The main fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is a medium-chained triglyceride (MCT; or fatty acid) unique to coconut oil and breast milk. These are a simple fuel for the body to burn without turning to fat. Instead, these MCTs are different from long-chain triglycerides in that they’re absorbed and converted to energy faster.
Oil in coconut is also filled with omega-three fatty acids, which are much healthier than omega 6 oils. It’s considered the “low fat” fat, as it has nearly 2.2 less calories per gram than any other fat out there.
The MCT’s also act to:
–Increase metabolism: By consuming coconut oil you can triple the amount of calories burned. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study and found that for six hours after a meal, more calories are burned by MCT’s (those in coconut oil) than LCT’s.
In the Kitchen
There are multiple ways of incorporating coconut oil into a healthy diet, and hundreds of uses for recipes in the kitchen.
1) As a cooking oil– Use coconut oil to replace your vegetable oils, known as polyunsaturated oils, like soy and corn. Your main cooking oil should be coconut oil, as it is stable at higher heats because they’re wholefood saturated fats that do not change composition when they’re heated.
So, they don’t oxidize easily, therefore not creating free radicals in the body like extra virgin olive oil and a lot of the less stable oils.
It’s stability in heat is great for things like roasting, stir frying and even sautéing.
2) Baking substitute for vegetarians– Replace butter and lard with coconut oil. It beautifully produces flaky pie crusts, moist breads and cakes, brownies, toast, and delicious cookies.
3) Skillet coater– With a non-stick surface, fry up some eggs on a light coating of coconut oil. If it’s not breakfast, fry up some chicken or a batch of sweet potato fries.
4) Smoothies– Whatever your favorite smoothie recipe is, you can add in one tablespoon of coconut oil for an extra burst of energy. Remember, this stuff has those MCT’s!
1) Softens and smooths skin– Not only is it a great massage oil, coconut oil has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical destruction. Rub it onto those “aging” spots or use it with salt to treat dry feet.
2) Lip conditioner– Pour liquefied coconut oil it into a metal tin, freeze it until it’s hard enough, and it comes out as a nice lip balm. If you’re looking for a full-blown recipe, you can combine 4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of almond oil, and 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax in a small pot. Before whisking in 5-10 drops of an essential oil like sweet orange oil, remove the pot mixture from the heat. Now you can pour into whatever tubes or balm pots you have, and leave sit until firm.
3) “Sugary” body scrub– Coconut oil is one of the most moisturizing body scrubs you could ever use. Use it as your only lotion after showering. You can try mixing together ½ cup of melted coconut oil, 2 cups of cane sugar, a cup of kosher salt, and a tablespoon each of vanilla extract, almond extract, and vitamin E oil.
4) Makeup remover– Dip a q-tip into some coconut oil and dab it wherever you want to remove makeup, especially eyeliner at night.
5) Sunburn reliever– After a day out in the sun, use the oil to moisturize the burned spots.
6) Deodorant ingredient– Take 1/3 cup of coconut oil, ¼ cup of baking soda, 4 tablespoons of corn starch, ¼ cup of arrowroot powder, and a few essential oils to round it out.
Coconut Oil for Hair Care
1) Pre-shampoo mask– Brush out your hair before putting shampoo in. Take a tablespoon, make sure it’s in a liquid state, and you can put it on the ends of your hair. This works really well for frizzy areas or flyaways.
2) Deep conditioner– Instead of spending top dollar at the salon or for hot oil treatments, take a tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and place it on the ends of your hair. Comb it through and put your hair into a bun. Leave it in overnight. For added benefit, work the oil into the roots as a solution for dry scalp or dandruff.
Yet Another Use…
Homemade toothpaste– Get together 6 tablespoons of coconut oil, 6 tablespoons of baking soda, and 25 drops of essential oils of your choice. Mix them in a bowl, and seal up the toothpaste in a mason jar.