In recent times, coconut oil has been scrutinised within modern medicine through misconception and marketing of the wrong information. Being a saturated fat, coconut oil has been labelled as “artery-clogging” and is believed to increase blood cholesterol levels and cause heart disease. The misunderstanding surrounding saturated fat in the diet has left people confused about what they should and shouldn’t be eating. When you understand how coconut oil works differently within the body, you will see why it has been labelled as the “healthiest oil on earth”.
For generations, people living in tropical regions throughout the world have used coconut as a staple in their diets for nourishment and good health. The coconut tree produces a variety of products including coconut meat, milk, cream, water, nectar and oil. Coconut oil is derived from the meat of a mature coconut and is considered a functional food, meaning it possesses health benefits far beyond it’s nutritional content. The coconut oil itself is not the cure for a particular health condition or disease, but it does provide the body with the nutritional support it requires to heal itself.
What separates coconut oil from other dietary oils is it’s molecular structure; it is composed predominately of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). These MCFA are what gives coconut oil it’s unique nutritional and medicinal benefits. When we eat MCFA, the body metabolises them differently to other fats (which need to be broken down by the digestive system, and then packaged into little bundles of fat and proteins known as lipoproteins). Unlike other fats, MCFA don’t circulate in the bloodstream, therefore they cannot be stored inside fat cells or clog artery walls. Because MCFA are so easily digested, they are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the liver where they are used as an instant source of energy. In simple terms – MCFA are used to produce energy, not arterial plaque or body fat.
Skin health – The properties in coconut oil help restore the skin’s natural saturated fat layers, keeping the skin looking youthful and radiant. It also prevents premature ageing of fine lines and wrinkles, encouraging natural exfoliation to help remove dead skin cells and speed up cell turnover. By replacing your ordinary moisturisers with coconut oil, you will help strengthen the skin and restore underlying tissues, leaving it feeling softer and healthier. The MCFA in coconut oil are easily absorbed into the skin, helping to treat sunburn, skin irritations, dermatitis, acne, burns, cuts, sprains, insect bites and bruises. Not only does coconut oil speed up the healing process of injuries to the skin, it also helps prevent scarring and stretch marks. If your skin is feeling dry and lacking radiance, apply a thick layer of coconut oil to a clean face and leave on for five minutes. During this time, gently massage the coconut oil into the skin, concentrating on areas most needed. Once five minutes is up, tissue off the excess and your skin will feel amazing. If my skin is needing an extra boost, I will do this before bedtime and leave on overnight.
In the kitchen – Coconut oil is the only oil I use to cook with. It’s flavour is mild so it doesn’t affect the flavour of food, but more importantly, it retains all of it’s nutrients when cooked at a high temperature. Olive oil is also great to use in the kitchen, but once it is heated too high, it loses all of it’s health benefits and causes more harm than good. Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature (except in summer) and can be easily melted to use in a salad dressing. It can be used in most recipes to replace margarine, butter, vegetable oils and also be added to smoothies or herbal teas.
Hair and scalp care – Coconut oil can work magic on your hair giving it more body, shine and lustre while enhancing it’s natural colour pigments. It’s also a great home remedy for treating dandruff and scalp conditions. It makes a wonderful overnight hair mask, repairing damage and restoring shine. Simply apply the oil to the ends of your hair before going to bed and shampoo in the morning. If you suffer from scalp conditions such as dandruff, gently massage the oil into the scalp. If you have oily hair, be sure to concentrate on the ends or you may need to shampoo twice the following morning.
Eye make up remover – Being oil based, coconut oil is a cheap and convenient way to remove eye make up at the end of the day. It is gentle on eyes and won’t irritate the delicate skin around the eye area.
Assisting in weight loss - The MCFA in coconut oil help support the thyroid, allowing the body’s metabolism to speed up and drop excess weight more efficiently. Although coconut oil is a fat, it cannot be stored in the body as fat. It needs to be converted into energy immediately by the liver, which helps kick start the body’s metabolism. Coconut oil actually contains fewer calories than other fats and satisfies hunger, helping you feel fuller for longer.
Antioxidants to help fight off oxidative stress – Coconut oil contains high amounts of powerful antioxidants, helping the body to fight off free radicals. Oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the environment contribute to disease and premature ageing in all systems in the body. If we can see the damaging effects of oxidative stress on the skin, we need to be aware that this is also happening inside the body as well. If your body is ageing on the outside, it is also ageing on the inside.
The recommended daily dosage for coconut oil is around 3 – 4 tablespoons per day. This can be used in cooking or applied topically to be absorbed into the skin.