A long time staple product in Asia, Latin America, Oceania, Africa and the Caribbean, coconut oil has in recent years become a lifestyle favorite of people around the world.
If you haven’t tried using coconut oil yet, I hope this article will give you some ideas on what to do with it!
Whether it is to cook with, to use topically in skin and hair treatments, for oil pulling, for your baby’s gentle skin and lots of other uses – this multi-functional oil has a lot to offer.
Praised for it its numerous health benefits, pleasant taste, tropical smell and great versatility, coconut oil has positioned itself as a super star fat. It is believed to be very good for the brain, heart, skin, hair, immune system, metabolism, digestion, teeth and weight control.
Coconut oil also helps to protect the body by eliminating bacteria, parasites, fungus and viruses.
Green Med Info has a lot of interesting science-based information about coconut oil and what I like about it is that it’s written in understandable language.
From tree to oil
The coconut is harvested from one of nature’s most diverse creations; the coconut palm. 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.
Some of the world’s main coconut producers are Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Brazil, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Coconut oil is extracted from the ‘’meat’’ part of mature coconuts and processed into two types; unrefined and refined coconut oil.
During my visit to Bali last year, I learnt about the production of cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, which was an unforgettable experience. You can read about it in this article with pictures of the whole process.
Surprisingly, coconut oil doesn’t always look like oil; it is very adaptive to temperatures with a melting point of 24° C / 76° F. When the temperatures rise, the oil becomes liquid and transparent (or yellow if it’s refined). When the temperatures go down, the oil’s liquid consistency transforms from soft and creamy into solid and hard. You will notice this with seasonal changes – don’t worry, your oil isn’t going bad, this is normal.
There is no difference between using coconut oil in liquid or solid form in terms of health benefits, although you will find that in practical way both serve different purposes.
Since temperature has no effect on the quality or shelf life of coconut oil as it can easily go between solid-liquid and vice versa, it is not necessary to refrigerate your coconut oil.
It is very resistant to rancidity, even in hot, humid climates.
You can store the oil in your kitchen cabinet if you want it liquid / soft, depending on the climate and in the fridge if you want it to be solid. (Or as I do – one in each, so you always have at hand what you need for a specific use!)
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.
Health benefits of coconut oil
There is something interesting about the fat in coconut oil – it consists mostly of saturated fat, but a different kind than animal sourced saturated fat. This has to do with the fatty acids in coconut oil called Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCT’s – which unlike most fats, don’t get stored in our body.
MCT’s are used as an instant source of energy instead, while another part of them is converted into ketones, a type of fuel which our brain loves and needs in order to function properly.
They also protect the body from harmful intruders since they are:
Antibacterial – They help eliminate harmful bacteria that can lead to infections such as gum disease, urinary tract infections, throat infections and skin infections.
Antifungal – The three different fatty acids in coconut oil, lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid help kill fungus and yeast infections including candida and ringworm.
Antiparasitic – Kills lice, worms and other parasites and helps detoxify any harmful substances they leave behind.
Antiviral – Lauric acid is converted by our body into monolaurin, an anti-viral agent which boosts immunity and helps fight off viruses.
Coconut oil has many other health benefits, which is covered in this blog post
Using coconut oil in and on your body
Coconut oil can be used in many kinds of sweet and savory dishes such as smoothies, soups, stir-fries, curries, baked goods, fudges, candies and desserts. If you’re looking for delicious, healthy, easy to make recipes that use coconut oil and other coconut products, you’ve come to the right place!
But it’s not just its amazing taste and versatility; coconut oil’s great advantage lies in its heat-stability.
It’s the least sensitive of all fats when it comes to oxidation, which makes it a very healthy fat to prepare food with – especially at high temperatures.
Coconut oil also helps with nutrient absorption, especially when it comes to the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Read more about why I love using coconut oil in the kitchen here.
Cosmetics and body care
Coconut oil is a very versatile ingredient for topical use. It’s a great natural alternative to many products which often contain unnecessary chemicals.
Lauric acid and antioxidants in coconut oil have strengthening, revitalizing, calming and anti-aging properties that do wonders for your skin and hair. It’s no surprise that coconut oil is such a popular ingredient in cosmetics and beauty products.
The molecular structure of the MCT’s in coconut oil is unique as it is able to penetrate deeper into your hair than other oils.
It works from the inside out where it restores protein loss.
Using coconut oil for your hair helps strengthen the hair fibre, reduce hair loss and stimulate new hair growth.
Coconut oil moisturizes, provides anti-oxidants, helps repair skin tissue, has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and much more.
Take a look at this article about using coconut oil for your skin.
An Ayurvedic practise of swishing oil in the mouth to help remove toxins and bacteria not only from the mouth, but from the whole body.
Due to its anti-microbial properties, coconut oil is a very beneficial oil to use for oil pulling.
Read more about 30+ coconut oil uses for skin, hair, nails & mouth.
It’s simple and fun to make your own products at home from natural ingredients. Think skin moisturizer, eye cream, deodorant, after-shave, massage oil, make up remover, facial scrub, hair mask, lip gloss and more!
Around the house and garden
Interestingly, coconut oil is soft and gentle, but also strong enough to condition materials such as wood and iron. Its anti-microbial properties make it a powerful green alternative for synthetically produced cleaning and conditioning agents.
It’s a versatile and efficient product for your house and garden. Besides being a sustainable choice for your health and for the environment, it can save you a lot of money.
I’m working on a blog post on this subject and will link to it here once it’s uploaded, so stay tuned!
Choosing the best coconut oil
A quick look at coconut oil labels and information on the internet shows different types of coconut oil; refined, unrefined, virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, expeller pressed, centrifuged, organic, raw, RBD, hydrogenated, liquid, GMO free, fair trade, non-bleached etc.
Should you only use unrefined virgin coconut oil as many people claim? Do you need a different coconut oil to fry with? Can you eat the same coconut oil that you use for your hair?
Besides coconut oil, coconuts are the base of other delicious, healthy products such as coconut milk, coconut water, coconut flour, coconut sugar and coconut butter.
Yes, they don’t just sound like some of the base products in our household, you can actually replace many of them with the healthier coconut version!
They make wonderful alternatives that are lactose and gluten free, vegan and full with nutrients.
You will find them all, plus tips on how to use them in my coconut products guide.
What do you like using coconut oil for? Share it with me & the coco community on Instagram or Facebook! @coconutqueendom