by Christine Silvestri
Coconut oil has been all the buzz lately. It is showing up in everything from baked products to cosmetics. Why all the fuss? Wellllll….it’s amazing! You can do almost anything with it!
First, a little science-y background stuff: 92% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated. Now usually we would steer clear from items containing that much saturated fat. What makes coconut oil unique though is that it is in a particularly healthy class of fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) MCTs are more easily broken down in the body and used for fuel than long-chain triglycerides. Those fatty acids are the type to beware of.
The predominant MCT in coconut oil is called lauric acid. Lauric acid has been shown to be antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral. When lauric acid enters the body, it is converted to monolaurin which disrupts the lipid membranes in organisms like viruses, fungus and bacteria and destroys them.
“The compound monolaurin is an effective treatment for candida albicans and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. Monolaurin also specifically targets bacterial infections as well as lipid-coated viruses like herpes, the measles, influenza, hepatitis C and HIV. Researchers in the Philippines have even begun studies to prove the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS because of its strong antiviral properties. Plus, lauric acid is basically non-toxic, which gives it a distinct advantage over modern pharmaceutical drugs that are typically used to fight viruses, bacterial infections and fungal infections.” – www.naturalnews.com
An interesting note is that the only other natural source of lauric acid is breast milk, which could explain why breast-fed babies experience less sickness and stronger immune systems.
You can also cook and bake with coconut oil. It has a high smoke point (450 degrees) so it is great for sautéing and it makes baked goods moist and delicious. You can use it in place of butter or oil in any recipe. You can also buy coconut oil cooking spray to lightly spray your pans and use it wherever you would use your regular cooking spray.
From a beauty standpoint, you can use coconut oil in place of everything in your cosmetic bag! It is a great skin moisturizer. Slather it on after your shower or wherever you feel dry. It takes makeup off quickly and easily. It also makes a great frizz tamer and conditioner for dry hair. (Limp locked girls be warned, it will make you flat and greasy!) You can also moisturize those dry winter lips (and treat a cold sore at the same time!) with coconut oil.
How to purchase the best kind? There are different types of coconut oil on the market. Some are more expensive than others. If you are going to be consuming coconut oil in your diet, it is best to look for virgin or extra virgin. It is never hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (those are trans-fats!) and it’s never processed with high heat or chemicals. Virgin is also referred to as “unrefined.”
If you are going to use it as a beauty tool, you can use your own judgment. If it is hydrogenated will it seep into your pores and clog your arteries? I don’t know. But chemicals in beauty products can seep in and be absorbed into your system.
What’s the difference between cold pressed and expeller pressed? These are the ways the oil is extracted from the coconut.
Expeller pressed squeezes out the oil from a hard surface (here it would be the coconut shell) from a special expeller machine. As the machine squeezes the coconut, friction causes it to heat up and the oil is pressed out.
Cold pressed uses the same machine, however it is done under a temperature controlled setting.
Is one better than the other? Not really. It is said that heating the oils can change the flavor so for the most natural taste, you would choose cold pressed if this is a preference to you.
One more thing to note: Coconut oil changes it’s consistency with changes in temperature. If you keep it in the refrigerator, it will turn hard and white. If you leave it on the counter, it will soften up depending on the temp in your house. If it is a hot day, it will turn to liquid oil. It is best to keep it in the refrigerator if you are going to be consuming it so it doesn’t turn rancid. You can soften it up by leaving it on the counter or placing in a bowl of hot water. If you are using it as a moisturizer, you can leave it in your medicine cabinet or under the sink (or wherever you put such things!).
So go on out and give coconut oil a try! Here is something to get your started.
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
3 small sweet potatoes
1T melted coconut oil
Sea salt and/or chili powder and cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop sweet potatoes into “fries.” Toss in oil and season to taste. Bake on cookie sheet for 15 minutes and stir. Bake until browned, another 5-10 min.