I’ve been a coconut oil devotee for a few years. It’s one of the most versatile things in my pantry (and bathroom). When it comes to the uses of this magical oil they’re many and varied. Indeed there’s a wealth of information online that seems to cover 100s of things you can do with coconut oil – many of which have little relevance to the average human being. So I decided to jot down a concise and jargon free summary of what, in my view at least, are the most practical and beneficial uses of coconut oil.
Use coconut oil for cooking over other oils. It’s much better than vegetable oils which have a high omega 6 content (Google ‘the dangers of vegetable oil’ if you’re keen to know more). And it’s better than olive oil for cooking because of its high smoking point (olive oil oxidises at high temperatures and this creates free radicals). You can even use coconut oil for deep frying.
Your next question may be ‘but doesn’t it make the cooked food taste like coconut?’ I don’t notice this but then I typically use a minimal amount of oil. If you do find a noticeable coconut flavour then at least use it for Indian and Asian dishes, where any coconut taste is complementary.
Coconut oil is an all-round natural moisturiser. It’s so good for to hydrating the skin and has even been said to hold back wrinkles (ask me about that one in a few years). I personally use coconut oil as a body lotion a few times a week. I normally do this when I don’t need to dress immediately as it takes a while to be absorbed. As a result I’ve virtually abandoned other ‘chemically enhanced’ body lotion products.
Mix coconut oil with salt or sugar to create a scrub to remove dry skin on feet, palms, elbows. You can also use this mixture as a general body scrub. It’s an easy home-made remedy to exfoliate dead skin cells and give your skin a glow. For the face I’ve seen recommendations using baking soda instead of salt or sugar.
Add coconut oil to bath water in the place of bubble bath or bath salts – both of which can really dry out your skin. A tablespoon or so does the trick. I started twice weekly coconut oil baths after researching for this post and I’m addicted – it leaves your skin feeling so good. Just be prepared for the total absence of any bubbles.
Apparently coconut oil can even provide some sun protection with its natural SPF 4 rating. Living in Australia however I’m usually applying SPF 30 in summer. And outside of summer I like to go SPF ‘bare’ to enjoy as much vitamin D as I can. So I haven’t experimented with this one yet. I’d love to hear from you if you have.
Human hair loves a little coconut oil TLC. At least fortnightly, I rub a couple of teaspoons through my hair (especially the colour treated sections) before bed and pop on a shower cap. The next morning after washing my hair as normal it’s visibly smoother. If this feels like a hassle then note that overnight oil treatments aren’t essential – even a couple of hours can be an effective conditioner.
Other hair related uses include applying a little coconut oil to clean hair to remove frizz and/or to reduce frizz in humid conditions. It works to prevent the penetration of water into the hair shaft.
Coconut oil is a superhero when it comes to good fats. Snacking on good fats (like nuts) is a really healthy habit. Good fats are much more effective a keeping hunger at bay than sugar laden snacks. Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain saturated fatty acids. Because of the small size of these fatty acids they’re easily absorbed into cells and converted into energy – without them ending up on your waistline as stored fat.
So coconut oil acts as a quick energy source that doesn’t cause the insulin spike associated with sugary snack foods? Yes. But don’t go crazy because it’s as calorie dense as any other oil – a tablespoon a day (for snacking or cooking) does the trick.
If snacking on pure oil doesn’t sound tempting then consider adding it to sugar free desserts – like my Jaffa brownies. That way you’ll get the good fats packaged in a tasty dessert.
Perhaps the most surprising new routine I’ve adopted as a result of researching for this post is ‘oil pulling’. It’s a tradition that originates in Ayurvedic medicine and has been common in some cultures for many years. Oil pulling involves putting a teaspoon or so of oil in the mouth, swilling it around for a few minutes and then spitting it out. After spitting you rinse your mouth with water. Through this process the oil basically acts as a bacteria and fungi removing army. Not only can it keep these nasties at bay but it can also slow down and even prevent plaque building up.
Doctor Mercola, who first introduced me to oil pulling, recommends 15 minutes a day of swilling (ideally in the morning). I personally find 15 minutes too long and sometimes inconvenient (like when I’m swilling whilst walking the dogs and bump into a neighbour that’s keen to chat).
“Oil pulling has significant cleansing, detoxifying, and healing affect, not only for your mouth and sinuses but for the rest of your body as well” Doctor Mercola – read more here.
With the above healthy habits now part of my regular routine I’m keen to try other uses. I’ve heard it works as an insect repellent that can keep the mosquitoes at bay…………..
Ok so you’re convinced. You need a little coconut oil in your life. Here are some tips on buying and storing coconut oil. Let me know if I’ve missed anything……
- Buy a good quality product labelled virgin or extra virgin. This label tells you that the oil has been produced from the first press of the raw coconut without any chemicals being added.
- Buy in bulk. Visit your local health food store and pick up a few big jars (I’ve found the bigger the jar the more cost effective) or order online. You typically don’t have to worry about the best before date as it’s usually far in advance.
- Coconut oil is best stored out of the fridge and away from direct sunlight. You’ll notice that it’s solid below 25 degrees, a little like butter. Above this temperature it’s liquid.
By Feast Wisely