Coconut oil and milk are staples in many kitchens, notably of South Asians’. Although coconut oil was losing popularity due to varying cholesterol-warning claims, it has made a comeback with the vengeance with health and fitness experts suggesting to ingest a tablespoon full daily to aid in weight management and to increase HDL (known as ‘good cholesterol’). As with any other oil, look for extra virgin to get the version of this oil that hasn’t been altered in any way such as bleaching, hydrogenating or refining. There are many benefits from this tropical oil for inside and outside of our bodies and below are the most popular.
Beauty-related benefits as compiled on Everyday Health:
** Repair Damaged Hair: Coconut oil has been a known strand-saver for years. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science showed that coconut oil is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft because of its fatty acid structure. If your hair feels dry or is prone to breakage — which may be the case if you color it or use heat tools regularly — try coconut oil as an overnight treatment.
“Before going to bed, apply virgin coconut oil onto your hair,” suggests Angelo David Pisacreta, a celebrity hairstylist and owner of the Angelo David Salon in New York City. Rub the oil into the palms of your hands and work your way towards the end of your strands. Follow by brushing with a wide tooth comb, then put your hair in a ponytail or bun and cover it with a shower cap before bed. In the morning, rinse with shampoo and conditioner.
“Raw organic coconut oil is best to use on hair,” says Sarah Potempa, a celebrity hairstylist. “Oftentimes it solidifies in the jar, so it’s best to put it in a small microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds until it liquefies.” Let it cool before applying.
** Make your mouth healthier: Celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Shaliene Woodley are fans of oil pulling, which has roots in ancient Indian culture. According to a study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, oil pulling — swishing an oil in your mouth for several minutes a day — may have benefits including whitening your teeth and preventing tooth decay, bleeding gums, and cracked lips.
Want to try it yourself? Swish 1 to 2 teaspoons of a vegetable-based oil (coconut, sesame, or olive) in your mouth for 20 minutes, spit it out, rinse with warm water, and brush well after rinsing, says, Marc Lowenberg, DDS, a dentist at Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City.
** Hair care in the summer: Is your hair a poufy mess in the summer? Use a small amount of coconut oil in your hair for instant control. Apply a dime size amount onto your fingers and then run it through your hair to put frizz and flyaways in their place.
You can also use coconut oil to prevent your hair from frying in the heat. “If you’re going to the pool or the beach, it’s best to leave coconut oil in your hair,” says Potempa. “This creates a barrier between your hair and the drying sun, chlorine, or salt water and keeps it conditioned and healthy.”
** Care for your tired feet: Coconut oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, says Skyy Hadley, a celebrity manicurist and owner of the As U Wish Nail Spa in New Jersey, making it the perfect ingredient to use to prevent toenail infections and foot fungus.
Try this treatment for cleaner, softer feet before your next pedicure: Pour coconut oil into an empty jar or small bowl until it’s halfway full, then add 2 tablespoons of honey and mix in 1 tablespoon of sugar until the sugar is completely immersed in the oil, explains Hadley. “Take a couple spoonfuls of the scrub and work into your legs and feet to fully exfoliate, sloughing away dead skin and smoothing out calluses, cracked heels, and rough spots,” she says.
Benefits for the insides of our bodies, health benefits, from eVitamins and Authority Nutrition:
** Coconut Oil and Weight Loss: Coconut oil is richer in medium chain triglycerides, a type of fatty acid and fat burner, than any other plant food. They increase the body’s metabolism by encouraging thermogenesis and producing energy, which can result in weight loss. MCTs are very absorbable and are carried directly to the liver, which quickens the fat burning process. Coconut oil also relieves constipation and aids in the body’s waste excretion.
** Coconut Oil and Ulcers: Ulcers in the mouth and along the digestive tract and stomach are caused by certain bacteria, like H. pylori, herpes and streptococcus. They’re painful sores that make eating less pleasurable and may cause gastric bleeding. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are bactericidal and have the ability to kill these ulcer-causing bacteria.
** Coconut Oil with Fatty Acids With Powerful Medicinal Properties: Coconut oil has been demonized in the past because it contains saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated. However, new data is showing that saturated fats are harmless. Many massive studies that include hundreds of thousands of people prove that the whole “artery-clogging” idea was a myth. Additionally, coconut oil doesn’t contain your average run-of-the-mill saturated fats like you would find in cheese or steak. No, they contain so-called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – which are fatty acids of a medium length. Most of the fatty acids in the diet are long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently. They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy or turned into so-called ketone bodies, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
** Populations That Eat a LOT of Coconut Are Among The Healthiest People on The Planet: Coconut is kind of an “exotic” food in the Western world, primarily consumed by health conscious people. However, in some parts of the world, coconut is a dietary staple that people have thrived on for many generations. The best example of such a population is the Tokelauans, which live in the South Pacific. They eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world. These people are in excellent health, with no evidence of heart disease. Another example of a population that eats a lot of coconut and remains in excellent health is the Kitavans.
** Coconut Oil Can Kill Your Hunger, Making You Eat Less Without Even Trying: One interesting feature of coconut oil is that it can reduce your hunger. This may be related to the way the fatty acids in it are metabolized, because ketone bodies can have an appetite reducing effect. In one study, varying amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men. The men eating the most MCTs ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average. Another study in 14 healthy men discovered that those who ate the most MCTs at breakfast ate significantly fewer calories at lunch. These studies were small and only done for a short period of time. If this effect were to persist over the long term, it could have a dramatic influence on body weight over a period of several years.
** Coconut Oil Can Improve Blood Cholesterol Levels and May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease:Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, which actually do not harm the blood lipid profile like previously thought. Saturated fats raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and change the LDL cholesterol to a benign subtype. In one study in 40 women, coconut oil reduced Total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL compared to soybean oil. There are also rat studies showing that coconut oil reduces triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, increases HDL and improves blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status.This improvement in cardiovascular risk factors should theoretically lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over the long term.
The variety available in North America is a hardened version (as shown above), but can be melted in a microwave or on a stove top in just a few seconds. It can be added to most curry dishes and baked goods in varying amounts to induce a subtle or a bursting nutty flavor. Coconut oil can be found in any health food stores although most super markets (I bought mine at Costco) are starting to carry it as its popularity has sky-rocketed lately. If you haven’t already, give it a try…you won’t be sorry!