Coconut oil has gained much popularity over the last few years and research continues to support its many benefits. Many of you have probably heard numerous ways to use it, but I am going to highlight some of its great qualities and explain a little of the science behind it. Coconut oil has actually been classified as a “super food” because of its unique combination of fatty acids and its positive effects on our body and our health. Before I get started though, not all types of coconut oil have these benefits. If you search for coconut oil in the store, you will notice a variety of brands, types, and prices. Cold pressed, refined, unrefined, raw, and virgin are just a few words you may see on a jar of coconut oil. Don’t let this overwhelm you, it is simple- you must buy UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED coconut oil to get the benefits and let me explain why.
First off, there are two types- refined and unrefined. Refined virtually has no coconut taste or aroma. The oil is produced from dried copra (not fresh coconuts) and it typically undergoes various levels of bleaching and deodorizing. When the oil is refined, it is treated with numerous chemicals and is processed at a very high temperature. By doing this, the health benefits are compromised and the shelf life is increased which makes it less expensive. Unrefined which can also be labeled virgin or extra-virgin, has a fresh coconut taste and smell, is white in color, and is made from fresh coconuts. The unrefined oil is going to be a few dollars more than the refined, but it is definitely worth it.
Another quality you must consider when purchasing coconut oil is whether it is cold-pressed or not. Cold pressed is a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts oil from seeds and nuts. Oils that are cold pressed are made in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 120ºF. The lower the temperature it is made with, the more nutritional properties will stay in tact. All labels will sound great on the front for marketing purposes, but again just make sure to look for these two words- UNREFINED and COLD PRESSED.
While researching the benefits of coconut oil, I found one website had 101 uses and properties (not Dalmatians!) That is a lot so I am going to highlight a few that I found fascinating, things I personally do, and would be of most benefit to the majority of readers.
1. Anti-bacterial properties. Lauric acid, which is a type of fatty acid found in coconut oil, is converted to monolaurin that helps kill off fungi, infection, and bacteria. As a result of these various health benefits, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system.
2. Improvement of blood cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, which were once thought to increase your risk of heart disease. Saturated fats raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol your body needs). There was a study done on rats that found coconut oil reduces triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and antioxidant properties. Long-term use showed a reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular improvement.
3. Whiter Teeth. Oil Pulling, have you heard of it? Oil pulling is done by swishing a teaspoon of oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. It is believed to have many benefits, however the most popular is a natural teeth whitener. I do this myself and am a true believer! Many of my family and friends who oil pull have also noticed visibly whiter teeth. It helps with many other dental hygiene properties such as stronger teeth, prevents bad breath, and can actually decrease TMJ problems by strengthening the muscles in the jaw. Thousands of years ago before dentists and discovery of proper dental health, oil pulling was done to prevent cavities and infections of the mouth.
4. Boost Brain Function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide and research has found it is caused by the brains reduced ability to use glucose for energy in certain parts of the brain. Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acid and has proven to show immediate improvements in brain function when consumed by providing an alternative source of energy.
5. Skin and Hair Moisturizer. Research also shows various purposes of coconut oil when used directly on the body as opposed to consuming it. It has become popular to use it for cosmetic purposes to improve the health and appearance of skin and hair. Studies show that when applied to dry skin, it improves the moisture and lipid content making it soft and hydrated. These properties also work the same for your hair. When applied to the hair as conditioner or as an overnight hair treatment, it hydrates dry hair and adds instant shine.
Hopefully you can see now that coconut oil has many great qualities, giving it the reputation of a “super food”. Whether it is consumed or used directly on the body, this simple addition to your pantry can change your health for the better in so many ways. Again, when purchasing coconut oil make sure to spend the few extra dollars on UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED to reap the health benefits.