A long time staple product in countries from Asia to the Caribbean, in recent years coconut oil has become a favorite of people everywhere in the world.
You can cook with it, put it on your skin and hair, use it for your baby and even around the house.
But why do so many people love it and what is coconut oil good for?
Coconut oil is known for it its many health benefits, pleasant taste and enormous versatility.
It’s good for your brain, heart, skin, hair, immune system, metabolism, digestion, teeth and bones.
Its strong microbial properties help protect the body against bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses.
Green Med Info has a lot of interesting science-based information about coconut oil.
I like that it’s written in understandable language which makes reading it a breeze.
From tree to oil
Coconuts grow on one of nature’s most sustainable creations; the coconut palm.
Literally every part of the coconut palm can be used for something.
This tropical tree, known as the tree of life, grows in over 80 countries.
It needs regular rainfall, high humidity, plenty of sunshine and average temperatures of 27° C / 81° F to thrive.
Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Brazil, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are some of the world’s main coconut producers.
The oil is extracted from the ‘’meat’’ part of mature coconuts and processed into two types; unrefined (virgin) and refined coconut oil.
During my visit to Bali last year, I learnt about the production of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. This was a very interesting experience.
Temperatures and consistency
Surprisingly, coconut oil doesn’t always look like oil.
It’s very adaptive to temperatures and has a melting point of 24° C / 76° F.
You will notice this with seasonal changes. Don’t worry, your oil isn’t going bad, this is normal.
When temperatures rise, the oil becomes liquid and transparent (or yellow if it’s refined oil). When the temperatures go down, the oil changes to soft and creamy and finally to solid and hard.
The health benefits are the same in liquid as well as in solid form.
External temperature changes don’t affect the quality or shelf life of the oil.
It can easily go between solid-liquid and vice versa and it is not necessary to refrigerate it.
It’s an oil that’s very resistant to rancidity, even in hot, humid climates.
Storing and melting coconut oil
You can store the oil in your kitchen cabinet for a liquid / soft consistency. Keep it in the refrigerator if you want it solid.
Or as I do: one in each, so you always have at hand what you need for a specific use!
Of course this depends on where you live. If it’s always cold there, the oil will be hard even if you store it your cabinet.
Coconut oil has a shelf life of about two years, longer than any other cooking oil.
Remember to store it out of direct (sun) light and preferably in a glass container.
More about the best way to store your oil to make it last as long as possible.
If you need to melt your oil, I recommend the au bain marie method; a hot water bath or using a double boiler pan.
Place the oil in a bowl inside of a pan with shimmering water. This is a gentle melting technique which retains the nutrients.
What is coconut oil good for?
There is something very interesting about the fat in coconut oil. It consists mostly of saturated fat, but it’s different from animal sourced saturated fat. This has to do with the fatty acids called Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCT’s.
Unlike most fats, MCT’s don’t get stored in our body, but are used as an instant source of energy instead. Another part of them converts into ketones: fuel for our brain which it loves and needs in order to function properly.
MCT’s protect the body thanks to their antimicrobial properties. They are:
They help eliminate harmful bacteria that can lead to infections such as gum disease, urinary tract infections, throat infections and skin infections.
The three fatty acids in coconut oil, lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid help kill fungus and eliminate yeast infections including candida and ringworm.
Kills lice, worms and other parasites and helps detoxify any harmful substances they leave behind.
Lauric acid converts into monolaurin in our body, an anti-viral agent which boosts immunity and helps fight off viruses.
Coconut oil is the most heat-stable fat to cook with and is very resistant to oxidation.
I talk about this and its many other health benefits in this blog post.
Coconut oil is suitable for sweet as well as for savory dishes. It’s great in smoothies, soups, stir-fries, curries, baked goods, fudges, desserts and more. Make sure to check out my coconut recipes.
One of the oil’s biggest advantages is its heat-stability.
It’s the least sensitive of all fats and doesn’t oxidize easily. This makes it a very healthy fat to prepare food with, especially at high temperatures.
It also helps with nutrient absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
You can read more about why I love using this oil in the kitchen here.
Beauty and body care
Is coconut oil good for topical use? Yes, more than that! It’s a very versatile oil and a great natural alternative to many products which often contain chemicals.
Lauric acid and antioxidants have moisturizing, nourishing, strengthening, revitalizing, calming and anti-aging properties for your skin and hair. It’s no surprise that this miracle oil is such a popular ingredient in beauty products.
The molecular structure of the MCT’s in coconut oil is unique. It’s able to penetrate deeper into your hair than other oils where it restores protein loss and nourishes your hair.
Read more about how it can transform your hair, strengthen the hair fibre, reduce hair loss and stimulate new hair growth.
This Ayurvedic practice of swishing oil in the mouth helps remove toxins and bacteria, not only from the mouth but from the whole body.
Coconut oil is especially suitable for oil pulling because of its antimicrobial properties.
It’s simple and fun to make your own cosmetics at home from natural ingredients.
Think skin moisturizer, eye cream, deodorant, after-shave, massage oil, makeup remover, scrub, hair mask, lip gloss and more!
Around the house and garden
Interestingly, what coconut oil is good for as well, is to get things done in your house!
While it’s soft and gentle, it’s also strong enough to condition materials such as wood and iron. Its antimicrobial properties make it a powerful green alternative to synthetically produced cleaning and conditioning agents.
It’s a sustainable choice for your health and for the environment, plus it can save you a lot of money.
Which one should you use?
There are many types of coconut oil on the market. You might have heard about names such as refined, unrefined, virgin, extra virgin, cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, centrifuged, organic, raw, RBD, liquid, non-bleached etc. But what do they really mean?
Should you only use virgin oil? Do you need a different oil to fry with? Can you eat the same oil that you use for your hair?
And here is the complete guide of all types of coconut oil and their production methods.