I have worked hard to stay fit and understand the complex relationship between aging, nutrition, and exercise.
Coconut Oil: A Million Uses
Coconut oil is awesome for everything from cooking to skin care. It's one of life's simple pleasures, and the best coconut oils are gently fragrant, lightly flavored, and reminiscent of the tropics. Pure, high-quality coconut oil can be a little difficult to find, since there are so many brands and so many levels of purity. This brief guide is meant to help you find the best coconut oil for your needs, based on my own experience with several brands.
Coconut oil is one of the most beneficial sources of fat. It is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids or MCFAs, which are easier to break down and metabolize into energy than large-chain fatty acids, which are often stored in the body as fat for later use.
— Marcus Samuelsson
A Good Coconut Oil for Cooking
Cooking with coconut oil is ideal for some dishes, like stir-fry, because the oil has such a high smoke point. I also like cooking with avocado oil for a similar reason, but coconut oil has a more pleasant aroma. It lends a slightly sweet flavor to food, and in my experience food cooked with coconut oil isn't heavy like it can be with other fats.
You may also like coconut oil on toast instead of butter. It's not salty or creamy, really, so be prepared. It's not a butter substitute! But if you like coconut oil's light texture and tropical flavor, then it might be for you. Less-refined oil has more of the coconut taste to it, so that might make it a nice choice for toast instead of butter.
Some people also use coconut oil in their coffee. I take my coffee black, so I wouldn't really know about this, but apparently it tastes really good.
A Great Option for Both Cooking and Skin Care
There are so many different brands and varieties of coconut oil that it can get confusing. Which one is best for cooking? Which is best for skin? In my experience, Nutiva virgin coconut oil is one of the best options for both. It's cold-pressed, organic, and non-GMO certified. The purity of this brand of oil is why I choose it for cooking, as opposed to for skin care and other uses. If I'm going to use it in my food, I need it to be organic and as pure as possible.
Qualities of this coconut oil include:
- Cold-pressed and never refined, deodorized, or bleached
- Contains 63% medium chain triglycerides and 50% lauric acid
- USDA Organic
- Non-GMO Project Verified
- Leading coconut oil brand in the US
The manufacturer notes that it uses fresh coconuts that are cold-pressed within hours of shelling. This is virgin coconut oil and for me it fits all of my requirements for an excellent oil to cook with.
Cool Video Showing How Coconut Oil Is Produced
The Coconut Oil Controversy: Is it Bad for You?
Some sources say that coconut oil is in fact really bad for your health. This is typically based on the fact that it's a saturated fat, and traditional nutrition holds that saturated fat clogs up your arteries [pritikin.com, among others].There's no disputing that coconut oil is a saturated fat, although comparing it to the saturated fats found in animal products complicates the issue. Since it's plant-based, the fat in coconut oil may have a different effect on the human body.
But for every source that says the unsaturated fats in coconut oil are bad for you, there's another that says unprocessed, natural, saturated fats are a normal, healthy part of your diet. I tend to side with this view. I try to never eat processed food, including wheat products like bread and bagels, but saturated fats in plants, like avocados and coconuts, are definitely on the list. My cholesterol numbers are excellent.
One way to look at natural, plant-based, saturated fats is from an evolutionary point of view. Our ancient ancestors ate to survive, and they ate whatever they could get. Fats were valued for their high caloric content, and no caveman interested in staying alive would walk away from a meal rich in saturated fats. Modern diets are loaded with calories, processed fats, and carbs. When we eat this way, fats become an issue because we're overloaded with them. If we walk away from processed, high-calorie modern food, and instead eat whole foods, then saturated fats can be put back in their proper, historical perspective.
Smoothies and Healthy Meals
When you put coconut oil in a drink, it gives you an energy boost because the MCFA's (medium-chain fatty acids) are relatively quickly metabolized. I also like homemade granola, but finding a good fat to use in the recipe—and you do need a fat, as in almost all baked goods—can be a challenge. Coconut oil is a saturated fat like many oils, but it smells and tastes like a light coconut breeze. If you add shaved coconut and a little chocolate to your granola, the tropical effect is very nice.
Why I Love Coconut Oil for Dry Skin
I live in a part of the world with cold, dry winters that sometimes seem to last forever. My skin starts to get dry around November, and it stays that way until April. Daily moisturizing is essential, and coconut oil is one of the best natural lubricants and moisturizers you can buy. Coconut oil absorbs quickly and sustains smooth, non-flaky skin throughout the day. It is a solid at room temperature, and I like the way you start with a cool little chunk of pure white slippery "butter" that warms and melts as you apply it to your skin. It also releases its wonderful, tropical-breeze fragrance as it melts. Just a little whisper of tropical sun and warmth in the middle of a cold midwestern morning!
I will take off my makeup with wipes and then wash my face again. Then I use a toner, moisturizer, and under-eye cream. I love vitamin E oil and coconut oil.
— Kylie Jenner
Other Skin Benefits
Some manufacturers claim that coconut oil reduces wrinkles, and that may be true. However I'm naturally skeptical of claims like these, since it seems every skin care product makes similar claims. It's big business to say you prevent the effects of aging! I use it for moisturizing, and if it also takes care of a few of my crows' feet, then I'll take it as a side-benefit.
Another use for coconut oil is as a natural makeup remover, which also may be true. But since I don't wear makeup, I'll have to take their word for it!
We use this magic stuff in place of butter, spread on our toast for some healthy fats (it helps with our cholesterol!). We use it on our teeth to prevent tooth decay, and use it to cure persistent dry skin. It's like duct tape for our health!
Coconut Water, Milk, and Oil
For the uninitiated, the variety of coconut products can be a bit confusing. Coconut water is the liquid that you hear sloshing around inside a coconut when you shake it. It has a faintly bitter taste, and I myself have never been partial to it, even when handed one with a straw stuck in it on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica (if I didn't like it there, I figure I'll never like it anywhere). Coconut milk is the result of blending and processing the white, oil-rich lining of the nut; this thick white lining is also where you get shredded coconut. It's sweet, rich, and delicious. Coconut oil is essentially the same thing, only strained and purified to isolate the fats that make up the oil.
Other Innovative Uses
Sifting through countless sites, I have come across some cool uses for coconut oil, some of which I have tried and some I haven't. Here are some cool ones:
- Substitute for cream in your coffee.
- Popcorn topping (I have to admit I'm really partial to butter here!).
- On a baked potato (ditto).
- Natural sore throat relief.
- Keep eggs fresh. Apparently you can coat eggs lightly and they'll last longer.
- Natural toothpaste (interesting, never tried).
- Personal lubricant.
- Deodorant (mixed with a few other natural ingredients).
- Insect repellent, when mixed with a natural insect-repelling oil.
- Baby oil and diaper rash soother.
- Help freeing stuck zippers.
The list goes on and on. It seems that the only limitation is your creativity.
Bring the Tropics Home!
The following sources were consulted for this guide:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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