Learn more about the health benefits of coconut oil, a superfood that can improve your skin, hair and general health
High in medium-chain saturated fatty acids that metabolize more efficiently than the long chain saturated fats in animal products, coconut oil has earned a place in the pantries and kitchen cabinets of health-conscious home cooks worldwide. Whether you’re new to the idea of using coconut oil for health or already trying to figure out where to buy coconut oil in your neighborhood, this guide to coconut oil benefits provides the information you need to decide whether to include this tropical oil in your diet. For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015.
Coconut Oil for Your Hair and Skin
If you’ve ever used a conditioner with coconut oil as an ingredient, the benefits of coconut oil for hair are probably self-evident. The reason that this tropical oil makes your locks so luxuriously soft is because the fatty acid chains help reduce protein loss and make your hair hold up better to combing and brushing. While slathering coconut oil onto your skin might not be the first thing you think of, the benefits of coconut oil for skin health should make you consider using it in place of your regular moisturizer and body lotion. The benefits of coconut oil for the skin include increased hydration, reduced inflammation and antimicrobial activity, and because it includes small molecules, it penetrates deep into the skin quickly and efficiently. Because it naturally destroys bacteria and other microorganisms, coconut oil can help prevent acne flare-ups, and it’s a soothing solution for problems related to skin inflammation, such as rosacea.
Benefits of Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s
Many diseases can improve from the benefits of coconut oil, Alzheimer’s being one of them. The use of coconut oil for treating Alzheimer’s is controversial because no clinical trials have yet been completed to test whether it is effective for this purpose. However, researchers are interested enough in the possibility that there is a clinical research study currently enrolling patients at USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute. The reasoning behind using coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s is that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can be turned into ketones in the body, providing an alternative energy source for Alzheimer’s-affected brain cells that cannot use glucose as fuel anymore. While questions remain about the effectiveness of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s patients, there is no evidence to suggest it is harmful, so the only potential downside is the cost and time involved in using it.
Coconut Oil for Weight Control
If you’re trying to control your weight, adding coconut oil to your diet can help, especially if you need to get rid of stubborn abdominal fat. A 2009 study in the journal “Lipids” found that women who were given a daily coconut oil supplement over a twelve-week period lost more abdominal fat than women on a similar diet who used soybean oil instead. Losing weight can help you reduce the risk of serious diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Heart Health and Coconut Oil
While olive oil is generally viewed as the ultimate heart-healthy oil, coconut oil holds its own in the cardiovascular health arena. While it’s true that coconut oil is high in saturated fat, the type of saturated fat apparently makes a big difference when it comes to heart health. A 2008 study in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” showed that individuals who used coconut oil while on a weight loss diet had similar cardiovascular health profiles, including reduced LDL cholesterol levels, as people who used olive oil instead.
Choosing the Right Coconut Oil
When you’re ready to start incorporating coconut oil into your healthy lifestyle, it’s important to choose extra virgin coconut oil that hasn’t been refined or bleached. Those processes can destroy valuable nutrients in coconut oil and reduce the scent and flavor of the oil. Organic coconut oil is a good choice because going organic reduces the likelihood of pesticides or herbicides derailing your health efforts. Finding where to buy coconut oil used to be a complicated question as it was often only found in natural health stores or other specialty stores. As coconut oil has grown in popularity, more and more grocery stores have started carrying it, so stocking up is as simple as adding it to your cart during your next grocery trip. Places like Trader Joe’s and Costco offer low-budget organic coconut oils. You can also order most popular brands like nutiva and nature’s way online on amazon.
Using Coconut Oil for Health
Once you’ve determined where to buy extra virgin coconut oil, the next questions is where to store and use it. Coconut oil can be stored at room temperature, and it stays solid up to about 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Use refined coconut oil for stir frying, sautéing, and baking, but avoid deep frying with it or otherwise heating it to the point of smoking. You can also use coconut oil to replace spreads such as butter on bread, vegetables, or popcorn, or you can add it to smoothies or shakes. When using coconut oil on your skin and hair, simply spread on a small amount and let it soak in. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way, so a single jar will last a while for beauty purposes.