Coconut Oil is an incredible super food – packed to the brim with essential vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and lauric acid, it is one of the most versatile oils on the planet. Coconut Oil can be used as a shaving cream, natural deodorant, in cooking and baking, for healthy skin and for dental health as well as an antimicrobial (the lauric acid content makes it great at battling bacteria, viruses and fungi).
Coconut Oil is produced from the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), a native to all tropical regions of the world. Historically the people of these regions have harvested various parts of this beautiful tree for a myriad of material, medicinal and culinary uses. Coconuts provide tasty flesh, water, milk and of course oil, and so have been a staple food for many of these populations for thousands of years, providing them with essential dietary fats.
In the past, due to its high-fat content, coconut oil has been lumped together with other fats and labelled as ‘bad for your heart’. In fact, modern research shows the opposite is true, with science now identifying the high levels of healthy fats in coconut oil. Unusually, most of the fats found in coconut oil are medium chain triglyceride fatty acids (MCT fats), as opposed to most dietary fats and oils which contain long chain triglycerides. MCT fats are more easily absorbed and metabolised by the human body into an available source of energy.
However, not all coconut oils created equal! Commercial grade coconut oil is extracted from dried coconut flesh (copra) and then refined using high heat, clay filters and preservatives (sodium hydroxide). Other methods use chemical solvents to extract the oil. This produces a product known as RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorised ) coconut oil, which may then also be hydrogenated and therefore contain unhealthy trans fatty acids.
Virgin coconut oil on the other hand is made using only fresh coconut flesh. The flesh is either quick dried using minimal heat and a mechanical oil press, or wet milled by pressing coconut milk from the flesh then separating the oil from the water.
Coconut Oil Benefits
Why should you include virgin coconut oil in your diet?
- it can play a significant role in cardiovascular function, with studies showing healthy cholesterol levels being maintained and even improved with regular intake of quality virgin coconut oil.
- it can help boost energy and endurance, increase your metabolic rate and so assist weight management, and support healthy skin and hair.
- it helps to improve digestion and absorption of all nutrients, assisting healthy elimination and hence helping to relieve symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s, UC and gastric ulcers. It also has antioxidant effects to help support pancreatic, kidney, liver and thyroid function.
Coconut oil has high lauric acid content, giving it strong antimicrobial and immune supporting properties. It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Coconut Oil Uses
Coconut Oil for Cooking
With its high level of saturated fat coconut oil is much more heat stable than other oils, making it one of the healthiest options for cooking, even at relatively high temperatures, as in frying. Coconut oil is resistant to oxidation, and so doesn’t go rancid quickly which can generate free radicals.
Coconut oil can also be used as a spread, in dressings and in smoothies.
Coconut Oil for Face, Skin and Hair
The nutritious oil can be applied topically as a nourishing skin treatment. You can use it for your face, body or on the tips of the hair for a moisture boost.
Coconut Oil for Body Cleansing
With its pleasant flavour coconut oil can also be used for oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic cleansing practice which draws impurities out of the body. Simply hold about a tablespoon of coconut oil in the mouth and swish around for 20 minutes then spit out. Try not to swallow any of the oil as it will have absorbed many toxins from your tissues which you want to get rid of, not take back into the body. By completing this cleansing routine once a day you can help improve the health of your mouth and sinuses, as well your entire immune system!