Coconut oil is as good to eat as it is to rub all over your body. How many foods can say that? Long a secret source of nourishment and beauty in tropical regions—truly, for thousands of years—the island elixir is working its way into U.S. kitchens, cupboards and shower caddies.
So What Is It?
Coconut oil comes from the meat of mature coconuts—the brown ones with bright white flesh, as opposed to young, green ones. It is extracted from the same part of the fruit that’s used to make coconut flakes.
Yes, it’s supposed to look white and solid on the shelf. Coconut oil is solid at temperatures under 76 degrees, but it gets melty if left in warm places—and goes completely liquid on a hot pan.
One tablespoon contains 117 calories, 13.6g total fat, no cholesterol, trace amounts of vitamins E and K and has some antioxidant properties.
Coconut oil has a unique fat structure comprising mostly medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easily digested, can be used immediately as energy and can help stimulate metabolism.
Pure vs. Refined
Refined coconut oil is bleached and deodorized, meaning it doesn’t taste or smell like coconut. It is made from dried flesh and may be processed at a high temperature. It is generally less expensive and has a higher smoke point but may not contain all of the nutritional benefits of unrefined coconut oil. Sometimes labeled as “pure” or “virgin,” unrefined coconut oil is made from either the first pressing of the meat using mechanical extraction, or it is separated from coconut milk at the lowest temperature possible. It has a more tropical flavor than reﬁ ned products.
Why Go Coco-Nuts?
- Studies have shown that consuming coconut oil reduces total cholesterol, which in turn may lower risk of heart disease. It’s a great source of lauric acid, which helps the body fight bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- The healthy fats in coconut oil (known as mono-chain triglycerides) increase energy expenditure—aka longer runs!
- An article published in Lipids in Health and Disease found when women with abdominal obesity ate 1 ounce of coconut oil per day, they were able to reduce both body mass and waist circumference within 12 weeks.
- The oil works as a one-to-one, dairy-free replacement for butter. If your recipe calls for solid butter, refrigerate your coconut oil for a few minutes before using it.
- Coconut oil can handle the heat and doesn’t break down on an oxidative level when used in cooking. Save your cold-pressed olive oil (and it’s nutritional integrity) for salads and grab coconut oil for sautéing and roasting.
- Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your smoothie for a boost of heart-healthy fats.
Use coconut oil in your beauty routine to nourish both the inside and out.
- Combat dry, weather-ravaged skin by using it as an all-over body moisturizer.
- Smooth it on your lips for a yummy lip balm.
- Refresh runner’s feet by slathering a thick layer on your tootsies and cover them with a pair of cotton socks. Get ready to wake up with happy toes!
- With healing and anti-bacterial properties, coconut oil makes an effective shaving cream that starts healing nicks and cuts almost as soon as they happen. Plus, legs get softened as you go!