Or, “Hippie goes Coco,” if you ask the Cavehusband.
Hippie I’m not – I assure you – but I do love finding a product that’s pure, simple, and works for a multitude of tasks. Coconut oil is one of these products.
Coconut oil rocks for cooking and sauteing not only because of its delicious, subtle flavor, but because it has a high smoke point and is much better suited to stovetop cooking than other oils. It’s composed of a high percentage of saturated fat and resists oxidation. Saturated fat, as we all should know by now, is NOT bad. Not. Bad. Research by Dr. Mary Enig as quoted in Nora Gedgaudas’ book makes this clear:
Naturally occurring saturated fat…assists in absorption of vital nutrients, plays a vital role in bone modeling, lowers Lipoprotein(a), a marker for heart disease, protects the liver from alcohol ingestion, enhances the immune system, is needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids, energy production, normal hormonal production and normal cellular metabolism.”
Unfortunately, there are more than a few forces at work (agricultural, pharmaceutical) that are heavily invested in the false notion that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are evil. It’s not true. Don’t fall for it. In fact, a quick jaunt through the interwebs (read: Google search) confirms that populations consuming the most coconut have the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.
Beyond that, vegetable oil is bad. Margarine is bad. And since this is my blog, I don’t have to elaborate on that point. Nanny-nanny boo-boo.
Back to coconut oil. It’s composed of Medium-Chain Triglycerides, which makes it unique when compared to other fats. A review of several studies indicate that the metabolism-stimulating “Thermic Effect” of MCTs is higher than other fats (Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity).
Additionally, MCTs seem to bypass the longer digestive process, which includes the pancreas, of longer-chain triglycerides, thus are excellent for individuals who have taken a doctor’s advice and had their gall bladder removed. (PLEASE don’t let this happen to you. Explore other options first.)
In science-speak: (From Dietary MCTs Suppress Accumulation of Body Fat in a Double-Blind, Controlled Trial in Healthy Men and Women)
Medium-chain triacylgycerols, composed of medium-chain fatty acids…are readily hydrolyzed by lingual and gastric lipases [mouth and stomach enzymes]. The MCFAs formed are absorbed through the portal system without resynthesis of triacylglycerol in intestinal cells, are subjected predominantly to Beta oxidation in the liver, and are not stored as fat.
In Paleo-speak, MCTs are burned preferentially by the body as fuel. In Cave Girl speak: Hells yes.
Another study entitled Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of MCT oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil (they need to get more creative with these titles), conducted in Alabama, saw that “the inclusion of MCT oil in a weight-loss program leads to greater weight loss than does the inclusion of a similar amount of olive oil.”
Enough with the science. The point is – it’s delicious, it’s satiating, and it happens to be an awesome choice of food for many other reasons.
Coconut oil isn’t just great for cooking, though. It’s also terrific for skin care. Coconut oil makes an amazing moisturizer. I recommended it to a pregnant friend as a belly moisturizer and not only did she love it, but she has no stretch marks to speak of (she also got an adorable baby out of the deal, but I digress). There’s no need to use lotions with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and there are none of the allergic-reaction issues that many have with shea butter. I have a small pot of coconut oil in my vanity and I dab it around my eyes daily. I use coconut oil and jojoba oil interchangeably as facial moisturizers. Anyone who knew me in college knows my skin is better now than ever.
The topical use of oil seems counter-intuitive. Why would you add oil to your face when the goal is to get rid of it? Because it works! I began using the oil cleansing method a few years ago and it’s positively ingenious. The idea is 7th-grade biology – like dissolves like. Beyond that, skin overproduces oil when it’s been stripped of it entirely. It needs a modicum of oil to stay balanced.
As a side note, this theory also applies to our body’s production of cholesterol – we need a bit of dietary cholesterol to maintain equilibrium; stripping all cholesterol from the diet causes the body to overproduce it (from The Schwarzbein Principle).
Other uses for coconut oil – hair conditioner (apply to hair once each week, put hair up in a bandana and leave for an hour. Shampoo as usual); massage over cuts for a non-chemical antimicrobial boost; soften cuticles…
In conclusion – feel free to go Coconuts with me!