Coconut Oil: Latest Craze or Here to Stay?

Coconut oil is the latest buzzword in healthy diets and skin care.

Is this oil healthy?

We are taught fats that are solid at room temperature are unhealthy for you. The oil is usually solid at room temp so why isn’t it considered unhealthy?

I must admit I held a lot of misconceptions about this popular oil until I did some research. I talked to people about using it and tried a few things myself.

Here is what I discovered about this marvelous oil.

How to use for the kitchen and skin care is at the end of this article. If you are bored by the research stuff, drop down to the kitchen/ skincare section.

“Coconut oil is high in fat and therefore bad for you.”

Fat found in coconut oil is  medium-chain fatty acid or triglyceride. Most vegetable and seed oils are composed of long-chain fatty acids. The medium-chain fatty acids are easily processed in the liver without insulin spikes. They are easy to break down therefore are used by the liver as energy rather than stored as fat cells like the long-chain fatty acids.

Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid, rarely found in nature, lauric acid is known as a ‘miracle’ element due to its ability to promote health in the body.

The body converts lauric acid into an anti-viral and anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa substance.

Chemical structure of Lauric acid created with ChemDraw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Because Coconut oil is a saturated fat, it can build up in your system and cause clogged arteries, obesity and heart disease.”

Actually the opposite is what is true.

For the last 65 or so years,  we have been told all saturated fats are bad for you.

Consuming saturated fats  leads to health issues.

Health issues include obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, just to name a few.

Some saturated fats occur naturally and some are created, like margarine.

Bombarding  molecules with hydrogen to produce a thick sticky substance has no health benefits whatsoever.

This is what has been sold to us in the form of margarine and preached to us by the ad agencies as being “beneficial, healthy, and a better choice than butter. Witness the popularity of things like Country Crock, Parkay and I can’t believe it’s not Butter kind of products.

Marketing industries convinced us that because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it should never be consumed. It has been used in cosmetics to benefit the skin, but it was shunned as an ingredient in our diets.

Research has discovered these negative myths about coconut oil are not true

Studies done on cultures that thrive on coconut oil in their diets show lower rates of obesity, no cardiovascular disease, and over all better general health than we have in the USA.

This oil helps to:

  • equalize cholesterol levels by promoting HDL in the blood
  • helps improve the HDL/LDL ratio
  • promote healthy thyroid function thereby assisting cholesterol and boosting energy and endurance

A boost to the thyroid can also pump up your metabolism, which is a great benefit!

  • It helps blood sugar stabilize, it can help resist fungus and yeast
  •  can improve how the body uses insulin.
Consumption of coconut oil helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins

Adding 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to the diet daily, in this 2009 study, demonstrated benefits. In this 12-week study, the women did not gain weight but actually lost stomach fat during the study. Reading this study made me decide to give coconut oil a try.

Using Coconut Oil in the Kitchen and Skincare

Coconut Oil in the Kitchen and Skin Care

Selecting:

Look for extra-virgin, organic on the label.

Not all coconut oil is the same. Some oil is hydrogenated, avoid this.

Refined coconut oil does not have coconut aroma or flavor.

Another form is MCT oil; used for skin care. MCT is refined coconut oil and processed so it stays liquid; with no aroma.

MCT means Medium Chain Triglyceride this describes the chemical make up of coconut oil. MCT is not solid.

Use MCT oil straight on your skin or as an oil in skin care products

MCT oil does not thicken as it cools because it isn’t solid at room temperature.

Storing:

  • Coconut oil has a low melting point (76°F) and a high smoke point (350°F)
  • Store the oil in a cool dry place such as a cabinet
  • Never store coconut oil in the refrigerator
  • Do not store it near the stove because it could cause it to melt
  • Store the oil in a cool cabinet away from the stove
Coconut Oil lasts about 2 years without going rancid. If you are using it, it shouldn’t last that long.

Using:

Use for saute or pan-fry your meals and snacks. Popcorn is wonderful popped in a bit of coconut oil.

Saute kale for an incredible flavor! The sweetness of the oil really enhances and tames the bitterness of kale or other bitter greens.

Pan-fry any vegetable, chicken, fish, or meat.

Use it just as you would any cooking oil. Because it is solid below 76°F, it is best not used in dressings or marinades. Use a quality grade of olive or grape seed oil for these items instead.

In baked goods: replace butter or solid shortening (Crisco or margarine)with equal amounts of coconut oil in baking recipes. Your baking turns out amazing and much healthier.

Does it make everything taste like coconut?

Refined oil will not taste or smell like coconut; unrefined will have the taste and aroma.

While the unrefined oil has the very mild scent of coconut, I cannot detect the flavor of coconut when I cook with it. Sometimes things taste a bit “sweeter” but not like sweet as if you added sugar or honey; just enhances of the natural sweetness already there.

Last night I marinated some chicken breasts in a spicy “Cockalacky” sauce that has sweet potatoes in it. After the marinade, the I breaded the breasts in panko and pan-fried in coconut oil until done.

The oil really brings out the flavor of the sweet potato used in the marinade, such a nice flavor surprise!

We use other healthy oils in our diet as well. I enjoy the flavors of various seed and nut oils in salad dressings. Additionally the various oils also have other health benefits.

This is not about giving up other oils but about making smarter choices, more informed choices

The key thing to remember fat is fat.

As with all fats, use it in moderation.

For the next 12 weeks, I am going to get two tablespoons of coconut oil into my diet daily. I am looking forward to seeing the results:

  • Hopefully my skin and hair will not suffer winter dryness
  • My tummy fat will start to disappear
  • I will feel great

Using in Skin Care

Dry Scalp:

Suffering from dry scalp? Slather some coconut oil on your head. Rub it in really well and leave it on for a while.

If it is summer, go outside and play. Winter, cover with a disposable shower cap and let the hair and scalp marinade in coconut oil for up to an hour or even overnight for a truly deep treatment.

Wash your hair two times and use conditioner. If you blow dry, use a warm setting, not hot.

Your hair will shine and the scalp will feel so much better!

Summer Usage

Over the summer I heard of using coconut oil instead of sunscreen. Personally, I think that’s taking it a bit too far. I love using the oil on my skin, it feels so good, but instead of sunscreen?

It makes a great hair masque for the beach

“They” may say that coconut is naturally SPF 30 but back it up with some SPF 50 anyway

Skin cancer is not a laughing matter and not worth the risk

We use coconut oil in all its forms in some of our products like lip balm, body butter, body washes and even shampoo.

Do you use coconut oil? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts and experiences so we can all learn something from each other.

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