Coconut oil and I have lately been indulging in a serious love affair… I just can’t get enough of its delicious nutritious goodness – in my sweet dishes, in my savoury dishes, on my skin, in my hair and less intentionally on pretty much every surface and wall in my kitchen and bathroom. Not only is it an absolute “super food” with the most amazing health-boosting benefits you could ever hope to imagine, it also makes everything taste so damn good! I particularly love stirring it into my creamy porridge or using it in stir-fries or on roasted vegetables (especially on my favourite – sweet potato) and it has the advantage over olive oil that it is more stable at higher temperatures so releases less free radicals. It really is the superhero of the food world!
So the health benefits..oh gosh where to start! Yes coconut oil is a saturated fat but that absolutely does not mean it is bad for us. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, rather than the long chain ones associated with the negative effects of saturated fat. These medium chain fatty acids are metabolised in a different way and actually prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure making coconut oil fantastic for heart health.
Coconut oil also boosts our metabolism meaning we increase the amount of energy our bodies’ burn, aiding weight loss. Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce sugar cravings and hunger. Several studies published in Obesity Research have reported its weight loss effects, in particular a reduction in stomach fat. Coconut oil also protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes and having great potential to help with PCOS which is often related to insulin resistance.
Coconut oil also has a high content of antimicrobial lipids which have fantastic antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial benefits to help boost the immune system and can be applied to wounds to help prevent infection and promote healing.
One of coconut oil’s more exciting health benefits (because I do love the brain…!) is it provides an incredible fuel for our brain and has drastic positive effects on our cognitive performance and focus. Recent evidence even suggests that coconut oil can be used to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.
To avoid this post becoming a coconut oil worshipping essay I will list the other health benefits: it is fantastic for energy levels, it boosts digestion and our ability to absorb key nutrients, it is a great anti-inflammatory, it can help balance hormone levels so can be used to boost ovulation and conception, it prevent fat build up in our liver…I really could go on but I must move on to its beauty uses.
Coconut oil is just as happy living in the bathroom as it is in the kitchen and before long you will have a pot in both rooms just as I do! Coconut oil is hands down the most awesome moisturiser I have used and makes a fantastic all natural (and purse-friendly) night cream. You also smell exotically divine! It can be used to treat acne and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis – both conditions which can be made worse by the excessive chemicals we load on to our skin using conventional skin care products! I suffered with those little red bumps on the backs of my arms and it cleared that up within days. I have recently started using coconut oil to remove make-up and I love the fact it is so gentle and totally natural. It also makes a great after-sun or massage oil, an brilliantly conditioning hair-mask and can be used to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
Coconut oil is easy to find, and unlike most health foods there isn’t a huge range between the quality of different brands – they’re almost all awesome! Do try to find one which is raw, unrefined ‘virgin’ oil in order to get all these awesome health benefits – this can be more expensive, but each jar lasts a few months and it’s really worth every penny! Some of my favourite brands in the UK are Neal’s Yard, Lucy Bee, Biona and Tiana. So get a pot and co nutty for coconut oil!