In the kitchen

Versatile Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has become so popular in recent years, and is it any wonder? Not only is it a yummy cooking oil with heart health benefits, it’s also a diverse tool to have handy for a number of other uses. I personally have become obsessed with the stuff and here is a list of some of the reasons why.

The Basics

Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts. The first question you may have is about what kind of oil you should buy. Is expeller-pressed or cold-pressed better? Both are still nutrient rich and good for you, but the best option for you depends mostly on personal preference.

Cold-pressed oil is extracted at temperatures no higher than 120 degrees which results in a high quality oil. Expeller-pressed is processed around 210 degrees, which still produces a high quality oil but with more toasted, nutty flavor, whereas the cold-pressed oil will have a more neutral taste. Refined oils are processed at 400 degrees and higher, which will deplete some of the goodness in the oil and also creates a need for more processing, like bleaching and deodorizing. Yuck.

Feed Me

Coconut oil is a great source of fiber, vitamins E, K, C, B1, B3, B5, B6, iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains short and medium chain fatty acids, antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and is antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral. Whoa what?! In layman’s terms, all of these fabulous components are what make adding coconut oil to your regular diet such a great idea.

Coconut oil is easy to digest, which means the pancreas doesn’t have to work so hard, thereby boosting metabolism, which is great if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to promote healthy functions in the endocrine system and thyroid. It can also help aid in digestive issues. Coconut oil has also been shown to help our bodies absorb calcium and magnesium (super important) and helps to keep blood sugar levels under control. It’s fewer calories than other oils and it’s fat content is easily converted to energy, which means a boost of energy from eating it rather than feeling sluggish.

Here’s where people tend to panic about coconut oil: it’s very high in saturated fats. But before you get discouraged, it has not shown to lead to an increase in LDL levels and the lauric acid in it can actually help to prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Of course, if you already have cholesterol and blood pressure issues, talk to your Doctor before going on a coconut oil spree, and make a conscious effort to keep an eye on your levels.

I personally use cold-pressed oil for just about everything these days. When I bake and a recipe calls for vegetable oil or butter, I melt a bit of coconut oil and add it instead. I also use it to make stir fried rice, scrambled eggs and as a base oil when I saute my veggies for soups. I have heard that a  dab in smoothies and coffee is tasty, but I haven’t tried it yet. In fact coconut oil (MCT oil) is used in Ketogenic coffees for a mental boost. If you are looking for a bit of nutty flavor in a recipe, you can always use the expeller-pressed instead.

Skin and Hair

Because of all it’s antimicrobial properties, and the fact that it promotes collagen production, coconut oil is great topically as well. In a pinch when I’ve run out of my favorite moisturizer, I use a dab of cold-pressed coconut oil on my face. It absorbs quickly and there’s no residual odor. I have also used a tiny bit to take off heavy eye makeup gently and quickly. It’s also great for treating minor cuts and scrapes on the kiddos, without the sting, odor and chemicals you’ll find in store bought treatments. In fact coconut oil has been shown to be a gentle remedy in  treating diaper rash, eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, acne, dermatitis, ringworm, bites, stings, and burns. In fact, though we think coconut oil use has become a new trend, it’s been used for 1,000’s of years.

As a hair care product, the proteins in coconut oil can help mend split ends and reduce further protein loss. It creates shine and can also prevent lice and dandruff. Maybe that’s why so many hair care products are beginning to add coconut oil to their list of ingredients. If you have some at home, simply warm it a bit in your hands and run it through your hair, or rub it on your scalp as a treatment for dry, itchy scalp.

The Perfect Carrier Oil

A carrier oil is an oil that is easily absorbed into the skin and other oils, herbs or medicines are mixed with it so that it can “carry” those ingredients more easily into your body. Coconut oil is excellent as a carrier because of it’s easy absorption into the skin and it’s neutral odor. It is also very stable and won’t go rancid very quickly and thanks to it’s antifungal and antimicrobial properties, it keeps the oils and herbs from spoiling as well. It also maintains the pureness of the added ingredients because the coconut oil will not alter the ingredients in any way. It actually protects the other ingredients from nasty fungal and microbial attacks.

A Few Tips

  • Coconut oil naturally solidifies under 76 degrees.
  • There is no need to store it in the fridge!
  • Keep it in a cool place with a tight lid so that it stays clean and tiny critters like ants don’t go in for a feast.
  • Don’t melt it in the microwave as the radiation might deplete some of it’s goodness.
  • Heat on low in a small pot or double boiler for larger amounts.

There are so many recipes and home remedies that this oil is now being used for. I personally can’t wait to continue testing and experimenting. If you have a favorite use that I haven’t mentioned, please share it in the comments! Thanks!


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