Benefits of Coconut Oil

Author: Shannon Miller

Coconut oil is the new kid on the block.

Or is it? Although a long time favorite in the Philippines and other tropical regions in the world, coconut oil is recently becoming ever more popular in the United States. Its unique properties and broad range of uses has made it something worth looking into a little further.

Some claim that coconut oil is “the healthiest fat”, but what makes it different from other similar fats?

The primary difference with coconut oil is in the fat molecule. It consists of mainly medium chain fatty acids, which is rare in the majority of American diet. It is likely that 98-100% of the fats you consume are long-chain fatty acids, because most foods contain them. The saturated and unsaturated fats in meat, eggs, milk, plants, and most vegetable oils are primarily made of up long-chain fatty acids.  Despite the high levels of saturated fat in coconut oil, which can correlate to a higher risk of high levels of bad cholesterol and heart disease, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil have shown to reduce the risks of heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Lauric Acid, the major fatty acid in coconut oil, has long been recognized for its unique properties in beauty products such as soaps and other various cosmetics. However, recent studies (such as this one by Dr. Mary Enig) have sparked an interest in dietary and health relates uses for lauric acid because of its antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. These properties have led researchers to hypothesize that lauric acid may be source to finding a treatment to acne, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. (Please Note: Any studies related to this are in very early stages at best and there has been no conclusive evidence to these findings yet.) Lauric acid is found in very few sources, with the highest concentrations being found in coconut oil and breastmilk.

So, What can I use it for?

Dietary Related Uses:

  • In baking use it to substitute for vegetable oil, butter, or shortening
  • Use it to season cast iron
  • Use it as a non-stick coating instead of pan spray
  • Condition wooden cutting boards with it
  • Use it to pop popcorn
  • Add it to sweet beverages to add a hint of coconut

Beauty Uses

  • Combine with sugar/salt for a homemade body scrub
  • Use as a moisturizer on skin
  • Moisturize your hair with it: as a mask or to replace styling oils
  • Use as a makeup remover
  • Use it as lip balm
  • Use it instead of shaving cream or as an after shave
  • If you have a baby, use it as diaper cream (its even cloth diaper safe)

 What do you use coconut oil for? 

Please remember that any healthy diet should contain limited amounts of fat. The ideal breakdown in any diet is 10 percent of calories coming from fats (with 60 percent coming from carbohydrates and 30 percent coming from protein). Keep in mind that no single “miracle food” is the key to a healthy lifestyle or a cure all for various ailments. The information on this website is not intended to replace medical advice. Before beginning any nutritional or exercise regimen, consult your physician to be sure it is appropriate for you.

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