Coconuts have been around for hundreds of years, but now all the new hype is revolved around virgin coconut oil! In the past coconut oil has been regarded as being bad, due to the saturated fat content. However, virgin coconut oil is not the same type of oil as saturated hydrogenated oil that goes through processing and is added to foods for an extended shelf life. Coconuts have been used for the past 4000 years according to Sansrkit documentation in Ayuvedic medicine, to treat heart problems, hair loss and even burns. During World War II, it has been said the coconut water was used as an IV for wounded soldiers (1).
Virgin coconut oil is acceptable for your body even though it does contain both saturated and unsaturated fat. Specifically, one teaspoon of coconut oil has a total 4.5grams of fat, which includes 3.89 saturated fatty acids, .261 monounsaturated fatty acids, and .081 polyunsaturated fatty acids (1). Coconut oil has previously been known as an artery clogger due to the earlier studies done with it, but these studies were using hydrogenated coconut oil, instead of virgin coconut oil which has not been chemically treated (2).
Where does it come from?
Coconut oil is derived from Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm. The main difference and benefit of virgin coconut oil versus commercial coconut oil is that the kernel of the coconut is processed by mechanical and natural means without heat or chemicals (2). Similar to virgin cold pressed olive oil. Coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids, which do not need a specific carrier to be absorbed such as long chain fatty acids. Lauric acid makes up a large portion of the coconut oil’s fatty acids.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
An amazing benefit of coconut oil is that it has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, LDL (bad fat), and increase HDL cholesterol (good fat) (3). Virgin coconut oil also has a high antioxidant capacity, which will scavenge those free radicals from the environment that try to destroy our cells from the inside (4). Coconut oil has also been claimed to deal with certain viruses and bacteria that can cause influenza, ulcers, urinary tract infections and more (4).
How to use Coconut Oil
You should be able to find virgin coconut oil at your local health food store. If they have it, the best option is virgin unrefined coconut oil. Here are many different uses for virgin coconut oil –
Cook with it - add a slight and pleasant coconut flavor to your meal by using it to sauté some fish.
Bake with it – next time you make those healthy flaxseed no sugar muffins, try using virgin coconut oil to add a little something sweet instead of hydrogenated oil that your body does not process!
Coconut oil can even be used as massage oil.
Use it as a topical treatment for bruises – it helps to repair damaged tissue which speeds up the healing process. (5)
Hair care – Try it as a moisturizing hair treatment by applying a small amount to damp hair. Rub a small amount of oil in your hands to warm it, apply to the hair, cover with a shower cap for about an hour & rinse clean to leave you hair feeling thick and full.
Do you have any uses or recipes that include virgin coconut oil? Share in the comment section below!
1) DebMandal M, Mandal S. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.:): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011 Mar;4(3):241-7. Epub 2011
3) Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Bneficila effects on virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters in in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem. 2004 Sep;37(9):830-5
4) Marina AM, Man YB, Nazimah SA, Amin I. Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 2:114-23. Epub 2008 Dec 27
5) Villarino BJ, Dy LM, Lizada CC. 2007. Descriptive sensory evaluation of virgin coconut oil and refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. LWT Food Sci Technol 40:193_199