You’ve probably heard all the hype surrounding coconut oil, but is it really good for us or just another ‘super food fad’?
What are the benefits, which brands should we look out for, how you can best use it and what is the best way to store it?
Thankfully, our Healthy Mummy nutritionist Cheree has given us the low-down on coconut oil and everything we need to know about it…
Cheree says coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that the body can use for sustainable, potent energy. Whilst you may have heard that coconut oil contains high amounts of saturated fats (true!), these saturated fats are not all created equal.
“These medium chain fatty acids are metabolised differently by our body than the long chain fatty acids that are associated with negative health outcomes such as raised cholesterol and risk of heart disease (these guys are the reason why we usually steer clear from foods with high saturated fat content),” she says.
“Medium chain fatty acids are shorter, and are used up quickly as an energy source, often converting to ketones which have a positive effect on the brain and can aid in weight loss,” Cheree adds.
Coconut oil can help raise your HDL (high density) cholesterol (this is the good stuff!). Adequate levels of HDL cholesterol and a balanced ratio of HDL: LDL has been showed to decrease your risk of heart disease.
“So this, alongside aiding weight loss leaves coconut oil as a pretty good name for reducing overall cardiovascular risk factors,” says Cheree.
Antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral effects! Can this wonder oil get any better?
Cheree tells us, “Coconut oil contains a substance called Lauric acid. Lauric acid makes it fairly difficult for fungi and viruses to survive and is known for its anti-bacterial properties.”
Making coconut oil a strong contender for aiding in the reduction of overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Coconut oil will help control cravings, keep you fuller for longer and stabilise your blood sugar. Ketones which Cheree mentions above may have the added benefit of reducing your appetite.
“Feeling more satisfied for longer may also be linked to the way the body metabolises those medium chain fatty acids,” she says.
Studies on coconut oil have commended it to improving the moisture content of hair and skin. The super fatty acids found in the oil are able to act a super-rich moisturiser and also help to lock in the protein molecules in your hair – preventing protein loss and increasing hair strength. Hello post-pregnancy hair saviour!
Cheree says, “Externally, coconut oil has also been studied for its SPF qualities, useful as a weak sun protection agent (reducing approximately 20% of UV rays).”
1. Melt a teaspoon in coffee, tea or other hot drinks. You’ve just added a hit of energy in a 100% healthy form of fat, assisting in counterbalancing any stimulants or sugars you might have lurking around in those hot beverages. It’s great in a turmeric latte!
2. Use it as a moisturiser for your skin, or as a nourishing hair treatment. Smother it all over your skin – you will not only smell delicious and be moisturising your skin, but you’ll also be experiencing those added benefits of applying an all over body anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent!
3. Cook with coconut oil! Coconut oil has a high smoke point, making it a stable cooking oil in comparison to other oils which can go rancid when exposed to high temperatures. Coconut oil can also be a great alternative to margarine, copha or butter in baking and in creating delicious, guilt free, raw desserts. Yuuummm! My fave is zucchini chips in coconut oil.
4. Add it to smoothies! A dollop in your smoothie will have similar blood sugar regulating benefits as adding it to your hot beverages will. A super smooth way to add essential fatty acids to your day! You can use MCT oil which is a more refine version of coconut oil to avoid clumping.
5. Try oil pulling! Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique which involves swishing the oil in the mouth for 15-20mins (spit out afterwards and rinse with water). This technique will help draw out toxins, reduce plaque, improve oral health and may even assist with teeth whitening.
As coconut oil is very shelf stable it can be kept in the cupboard for up to two years!
However, on warmer days you will notice that your oil will become a liquid, you can opt to store it in the refrigerator which is when it will turn completely solid again – either way Cheree says there’s no fuss with this stuff, it’s just down to personal preference.
Try our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge to access thousands of yummy, nutritious recipes using your new favourite staple food, coconut oil!