You may be familiar with the many benefits of coconut oil or have used coconut oil either as a healthier substitution to butter or other oils in baked goods or as some sort of beauty product. Coconut oil, which is a type of vegetable oil, was developed for commercial use in the mid 19th century. Coconut oil comes from the dry, inner pulp of the coconut known as the copra, and is made by extracting the fat from the white coconut meat inside the nut. Coconuts come from the Coconut Palm tree, Cocos nucifera, which is one of the most known trees in the world because of it’s nut, and also one of the most useful trees.
Coconut oil’s use in baking began in the 20th century and was very popular in the United States. However, a little after coconut oil gained its popularity, people began pushing it aside believing it was an unhealthy fatty oil. Since coconut oil has a high percentage of saturated fat, it was tagged as a “bad” alternative to butter and other oils, but the truth is the saturated fat in coconut oil contains a high amount of medium-chain triglycerides, more commonly known as MCTs. MCTs work differently in the body than other types of saturated fat when used in foods and products. MCTs are easier to burn off than other saturated fats and it is harder for the body to convert these saturated fats into stored fat, and instead leads to an increase in energy.
The Types of Coconut Oil: There are several types of coconut oil, however using a better quality version of the oil is most beneficial. Virgin or extra virgin coconut oil is the unprocessed version of the oil and is the least refined making it the most beneficial type of coconut oil. Refined coconut oil has gone through a bleaching and deodorizing process, which also diminishes some of the coconut flavor and smell. Refined coconut oil is not recommended for use because there are less benefits to it, and the process of refining the oil usually involves harsh chemicals. This is typical with foods because usually, the less processed a food is, the healthier it is and the more benefits it provides. Lastly, cold pressed coconut oil refers to coconut oil that has been pressed mechanically from the fruit without the use of outside heat sources. Additionally, the many benefits of coconut oil, and the fact that it has a long shelf life and a low melting point, creates high demand for the product.
The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil: The fatty acids from coconut oil, lauric acid, gives the oil its antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties. Additionally, coconut oil is referred to as a “functional food” and is used to treat people with thyroid problems, autoimmune diseases, and metabolism issues. In addition to being used in the kitchen, coconut oil is commonly an ingredient in personal care products and cosmetics.
Coconut Oil as a Cosmetic Ingredient: Coconut oil is popularly used for skin, hair, and dental health. Coconut oil works as a great moisturizer and can be applied directly to skin to promote healthy and stronger skin cells. This natural moisturizer also works great to combat anti-aging, acts as an anti-fungal cream, a natural conditioner, treats dry scalps and dry skin, and helps strengthen and shine hair. The fatty acids in coconut oil help to fight inflammation which is why it works great for most skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition to the benefits on hair and skin, it does wonders for dental and mouth health. Oil pulling, which is used as alternative medicine and is commonly known for being part of Ayurveda practice, is a great way to cleanse bacteria from the mouth while helping to heal other diseases. Oil pulling also helps one’s overall health in addition to the oral benefits it provides because of the high concentration of antibacterial properties given to the body. Oil pulling is done by swishing coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes before spitting the oil into a trash can. This helps detoxify the mouth allowing your gums and teeth to be cleaned and repaired. Oil pulling helps to remove plaque, protect against cavities, and freshen breath, as well, and has been used as an ingredient in many mouthwashes.
DIY Coconut Oil Remedies: Coconut oil has been used in many different natural and homemade remedies such as lip balms, hair products, toothpastes, natural deodorants, salves, shaving creams, eyelash strengthener, and massage oils.
Additional Benefits of Coconut Oil: In addition to all the benefits of coconut oil stated above for skin, hair, and mouth care, there are many more that coconut oil provides for the body. Ingesting coconut oil has several positive impacts such as helping to fight stomach diseases and illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, relieving irritable bowel syndrome, helping increase gut health by fighting candida, and other digestive issues. Along with all these stomach problems that coconut oil helps to heal, it also helps reduce conditions such as diabetes by controlling insulin levels and blood sugar, heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid conditions, and cholesterol levels. Additionally, it boosts the immune system, increases weight loss, and provides energy. Coconut oil can also help prevent liver diseases, reduce asthma symptoms, reduces stress, which ultimately helps with depression, and treat UTIs, kidney infections, fight inflammation both externally and internally, which helps combat arthritis. Since coconut oil is a healthy source of saturated fats, it has positive effects on estrogen levels meaning it helps to naturally balance hormones. Lastly, aside from all these positive effects that coconut oil has on the body, it is a budget friendly way ingredient for natural homemade house cleaners, laundry detergent, polish, and hand soap. Coconut oil helps to kill bacteria and fungi while keeping surfaces clean and shiny. If this doesn't convince you to keep a jar or two of coconut oil on your shelves or in your bathroom, I don’t know what will!