A beginner’s guide to coconut oil
So, what’s all the fuss about coconut oil?
Coconut oil has recently become wildly popular and people are using it for all sorts of things. If you haven’t used it before, it might seem a little confusing. I am going to give you a very basic guide to coconut oil with some useful links. The information here is sourced from my own personal experience and Bruce Fife’s book, The Coconut Oil Miracle and his website, Coconut Research Centre. I recommend you get yourself a copy as it makes for very interesting reading.
Okay, so isn’t this stuff high in saturated fat and bad for you?
Well, that seemed to be the popular thought, but from what I can gather, there was a general misunderstanding about how coconut oil works. There are medium-chain saturated fatty acids (like those in coconut oil) and long-chain saturated fat (like those in meat). The medium chain saturated fatty acids have a different effect on our body – they are broken down and used for energy and seldom end up as body fat. I don’t want to give you a science lecture, but if you are interested, go here for some more info.
Why should I use it?
Basically, because the health benefits are amazing. It helps a huge range of conditions as it is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. In the gut, it also has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. I strongly believe that everyone should be taking coconut oil everyday, internally and externally. There are so many diseases it prevents and treats. The list is so long, I won’t detail them all, but check out Bruce’s book for a comprehensive list.
It is also a very safe oil to use in cooking. You can heat it without it oxidizing or going rancid like other oils will.
Is it a liquid or a solid oil?
This is where I find people get confused. Sometimes coconut oil is called coconut butter. Coconut oil is liquid until the temperature drops below about 18 degrees celsius. Then, it becomes a solid and white in colour instead of clear and liquid. If you want to use it solid, keep it in the fridge. If you want to use it liquid and the temperature is too cold, then spoon out how much you need and sit it in a bowl over another bowl of hot water.
How much do I need?
For optimal health, Bruce Fife recommends 3 1/2 tablespoons of pure coconut oil per day. If you have never used it before, start with one teaspoon and work your way up. You can get a little sick in the beginning as you get a toxic die off. Persevere.
What sort do I buy?
There are different types of coconut oil and to get the health benefits, you should buy organic, cold pressed, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil. Steer clear of copra, copha, refined or just ‘plain’ coconut oil. If it’s really cheap, chances are it’s not the real deal and can actually be harmful to your health!
There are many great brands on the market but try them out to find which one you prefer. I like Wholefood Pantry or Changing Habits. I try to choose coconut oil in glass jars to avoid any plastic leaching into the oil. The jars also are fabulous to upcycle in the pantry.
What can I use it for?
Again, the list is endless! You name it and you can probably use coconut oil for it! Some people just eat it by the spoonful to get their daily dose.
Let’s start in the kitchen:
– Use it for your primary cooking oil. I use it liberally in any dish that calls for oil. In most dishes, like currys and stirfrys, you can’t taste it. When I use it on roast vegetables (sweet potato and cauliflower are particularly amazing), you can detect a faint coconut flavour, depending on which brand you use.
– You can swap it for melted butter in recipes. Just make sure your other ingredients are at room temperature, so the oil doesn’t become solid again.
– Use it on your toast instead of butter.
– Add it to your hot drinks. I like it in hot water and lemon in the morning. It also goes nicely with green tea. My favourite though is a tablespoon in my Crio Bru (brewed organic chocolate beans). Just add a spoonful to your mug and pour the hot drink over to melt it.
– Add it to your smoothies or blended drinks (if you put it straight into a cold drink, it will harden up, so make sure you are whizzing it).
– You can use it for salad dressings and mayonnaise, but as it will harden, it’s best mixed with some organic, virgin, cold pressed olive oil.
– Because coconut oil hardens in the fridge, it makes it perfect for desserts and chocolate making! My Really Healthy Chocolate Crackles, Chocolate Mousse and Berry Coconuty Cheesecake have been very popular. You can also make your own healthy ice magic and chocolate.
– Pour it over your morning porridge or muesli. I use it to make this gluten-free breakfast cereal.
– For more coconut recipes, this website is amazing. It’s American, so you will have to convert your recipes, but it gives you an idea!
Now, let’s go to the bathroom:
As well as keeping a jar in the kitchen, we keep a jar in the bathroom. In the warmer months, I have repurposed a glass pump bottle for easy use. Coconut oil is a natural and cost-effective product you can use in place of many of your regular cosmetics. Here are some ideas:
– Make your own chest rub. We also use this recipe for a deodorant and for fungal skin infections.
– Use it as a hand and body lotion in small amounts and re-apply often. It works amazingly well for dry skin (the Natural New Age Dad loves it for this).
– Use it as a lip balm.
– Use it as a deodorant. I find it works well – I just add a couple of drops of manuka essential oil to the oil in my hand and rub it in!
– Use it as a toothpaste
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- A few drops of liquid stevia
- Several drops of peppermint essential oil
– Use it for oil pulling.
– Use it instead of shaving cream.
– Use it as a bath oil.
– Use it as a make-up remover.
– Use it on skin conditions such as fungus, psoriasis, blisters, burns, acne, warts,rashes, candida, bites, stings or any other skin inflammation.
– Use it as a sunscreen. According to Bruce Fife “one of the oldest uses for coconut oil is as a sun screen / suntan lotion. Islanders have been using coconut oil for this purpose for thousands of years. In the tropics where the climate is hot, islanders traditionally wore little clothing so that they could keep themselves cool. To protect themselves from the burning rays of the hot tropical sun they applied a thin layer of coconut oil over their entire body. This would protect them from sunburn, improve skin tone and help keep annoying insects away”
– Use it in the bedroom as a lubricant (you can pretend you are on a romantic holiday in Fiji!). Don’t use it in conjunction with latex condoms though!
– Add a handful of sea salt and use it as a body scrub.
– Use it as a face scrub.
– Use it as a nourishing hair treatment. I do this all the time – apply to wet hair and let sit as long as you can. Shampoo out. For dandruff, add some tea tree oil.
– Use as a leave-in hair conditioner to tame frizzy hair. You only need a tiny bit!
– Use as a massage oil.
– Make a batch of GOOT (garlic oil ointment to use against skin infections).
– If you feel a cold coming on, take a spoonful of coconut oil!
– Use it to ease a sore throat – just let it run down the back of your throat slowly.
– Use it to heal scars and stretch marks.
– Use in the prevention and treatment of head lice.
– Use it on cracked and dry heels.
– Use it with some peppermint oil as an insect repellent.
– Use it on solar keratosis by rubbing in. They will disappear.
So, there you have it – coconut oil in a (coco)nutshell. There are many more uses and benefits, as a quick Google search will tell you. Some people even use it to replace WD 40 and furniture polish!
I recommend getting a jar and start using it. We love it and are definitely coconut converts. For any ailment now, we check if coconut oil can help first!
Tell me, what do YOU use coconut oil for?