If there's one foodie item I use every single day, it would have to be coconut oil. I've now become so reliant on it, I can't remember life before the great coconut.
Coconut oil has had a bad wrap in recent years due to its high saturated fat content (over 90%). Anyone who grew up in the 80's or 90's will remember saturated fat as the no go dietary faux pas. However the fat found in coconut oil is different to that in animal products, and can actually boost metabolism, promote body-fat release, reduce the risk of diabetes, and increase the ratio of good to bad cholesterol.
Here's 10 great reasons you should add a good quality certified organic coconut oil into your daily routine:
Coconut oil is one of the best sources of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA's), a healthy form of saturated fat. In contrast to long-chain fatty acids found in animal products, MCFA's have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and actually improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol.
Research by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia suggests that unlike the long-chain fatty acids contained in animal fat, MCFA's are much more easily metabolised and converted into energy. They are therefore more likely to be used up by the body, and less likely to land on your hips. Furthermore, MCFA's have been shown to actually increase fat burning capacity, leading to less fat storage than with a traditional animal fat containing diet.
It's recommended for women to consume up to 3 tablespoons per day (more for an active man), as a replacement for your existing oils and fats.
Coconut oil is one of the highest sources of lauric acid (~50%), a key component in human breast milk. So for those of us who are a little past that, it's a great way to access lauric acid's anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. These can assist in warding off flus, viruses, infections, candida, fungal infections like athletes foot, nappy rash, and generally boosting the immune system.
Coconut oil has a high smoke point, so doesn't oxidise or go rancid when exposed to high temperatures (unlike other oils such as hemp, flax, and some olive). That makes it great for stir-frying, sautéing, and my favourite - roasting vegetables.
Try roasting potatoes cut into wedges or fries with a few tablespoons of coconut oil, some organic sea salt, and a sprinkle of cumin or rosemary.
Also try popping organic pop corn in a pot with a few tablespoons of coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt. You'll never go back to take-away wedges and movie-bought popcorn again.
Coconut oil makes the most amazing butter substitute. In warm temperatures it will be liquid, but at cold temperatures (or if you pop in the fridge or a cool cupboard), it becomes a hard spreadable jar of goodness.
Try slathering it on your favourite wholegrain toast, under marmite or vegemite (if you're a New Zealander, Australian or Brit), or use as a direct substitute for butter in your baking recipes.
It can also be used to bind together delicious raw desserts, including our Cacao Coconut Superfood Balls, or to make an easy Raw Chocolate Bark:
Raw Chocolate Superfood Bark
1c melted coconut oil
3/4c raw cacao powder
1/3c coconut nectar/coconut sugar/yacon syrup/agave
1/2tsp vanilla powder
1-2 drops lime juice
pinch organic sea salt
1tsp mesquite powder (optional)
Toppings: goji berries, white mulberries, raw or roasted almonds/brazil nuts, chocolate buckinis, coconut chips, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
Mix all ingredients until dissolved, pour into a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle with your choice of toppings pressing down until covered, then place in fridge or freezer for at least an hour to set. Slice into squares and keep in the fridge or freezer, as this choc will melt fairly quickly once taken out.
Coconut oil gives a slightly sweet, creamy taste to hot drinks and porridge/oatmeal, which can be a good substitute for dairy milk and white sugar. Or add a teaspoon alongside some plant-based milk.
Coconut oil is super hydrating so makes a great moisturiser for the face and body. It can help alleviate conditions such as eczema, psorasis and dandruff, and reduce wrinkles (yes please). It can also be used as a luxurious natural hair conditioning treatment - rub 1 heaped teaspoon through dry hair, leave 1/2 an hour or overnight, then shampoo 2-3 times in the morning.
It doubles as an eye makeup remover as well - rub onto a damp cotton ball and gently sweep over the eyes, rinsing to finish. One jar = so many uses!
Try it out as a body massage oil, or melt and add a few essential oils for fragrance. Or try our beautiful Annmarie Gianni Coconut Body & Face Oil - for massage and then leave on the skin for moisture. And as this is an R18 show, organic coconut oil has been touted as a great natural lubricant as well.
Oil pulling is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic technique of swishing oil in the mouth. Given coconut oil's antibacterial properties, studies suggest it can protect against tooth decay, oral plaque and gigivitis. To give it a whirl (so to speak), rinse your mouth with 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil for 15-20 minutes in the morning before breakfast, then spit it out (into the compost - it may clog your drains otherwise), and brush your teeth as normal. I know that's a long time, but fascinating nonetheless - meanwhile I'm holding out for some science-guru to create a coconut oil-based natural mouthwash that only requires 1-2 mins of gargling time!
Pacific islanders have been using coconut oil as a sun protector for generations. Studies suggest that a thin layer of coconut oil on the skin will block around 20% of UV light. Now I wouldn't suggest this as your only protection in the height of summer, especially under an ozone-hole-exposed New Zealand or Australian sun (shade is the best solution there). But moisturising your face with a bit of coconut oil each morning, or your arms and legs during the spring and autumn months, is a great way to protect incidental UV rays throughout the day without any nasty chemicals being absorbed into your skin.
THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE:
Try adding some coconut oil to your diet this week. Make sure you go for a certified organic, cold-pressed, unrefined, undeodorised, extra virgin or virgin coconut oil, housed in a glass jar as opposed to plastic. The ones in the supermarket have generally been sprayed with chemicals, highly refined, and heat treated, destroying most of the nutritional and medicinal benefits. Or click here to get one of our favourite coconut oils delivered to your door!
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Source: USDA, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Indian Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sobhana, T. "Ultraviolet transmission through a few edible oils in the context of changing solar insolation" 2004.