What is coconut oil?
The coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm, also known as Cocos nucifera in Latin. It is grown across the world in tropical regions and is usually associated with the Carribean. The coconut itself is the drupe of the tree and is not actually a nut, despite the name. The fruit can be used for its flesh (or meat), water, milk and oil. Coconut oil, also known as copra oil, is extracted from the kernel or meat of the coconut through either wet or dry processing for different quality standards.
Coconut oil is widely used from cooking to cosmetics, and as a result, has a wide range of great benefits for health, beauty and wellbeing. Here are our top 10 benefits of coconut oil:
Coconut oil is great if you want to lose weight as it contains healthy saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. Studies show that these medium-chain fatty acids can increase metabolism and how many calories the body burns. Another reason you can use coconut oil for weight loss is because it can help to suppress the appetite and help you manage cravings.
An additional health benefit of the MCTs in coconut oil is for providing natural energy. When these types of healthy fats are eaten, they go straight to the liver where they are used as a quick source of energy or are instead converted into ketones. Unlike sugary sources of energy, it being a healthy fat it means you won’t get a sudden spike and, therefore, also the sudden crash.
Alongside providing energy, the ketones produced from coconut oil can help with brain health. This is because the ketones can act as a natural energy source for the brain to help with focus and general function. You can also use coconut MCT oil as a popular choice for brain function and other coconut oil benefits and it is great for those following a keto diet.
When people hear that coconut oil is made up of saturated fats, they immediately think it is bad for the heart, but this is not the case! Regular saturated fats contain long-chain triglycerides which can lead to cardiovascular disease and other problems, but as coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, it can actually be good for the heart.
The main reason you can use coconut oil for heart health is through its uses for cholesterol levels. Thanks to its healthy saturated fats, it’s said to increase the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels in the body. As a result, despite being a type of saturated fat, it is much better for heart health than many other types out there and can be a step towards more balanced cholesterol levels.
One of the biggest uses of coconut oil for skin is to provide natural hydration. Coconut oil is an amazing moisturiser and can leave the skin feeling smooth and soft. It is even said to be useful for soothing skin irritation and helping with other skin problems. It should not, however, be used as a replacement for medications or treatments for serious skin conditions.
Just as coconut oil can be moisturising for the skin, it can also be nourishing for the hair. This not only helps to leave it looking shiny and beautiful but can also protect it to keep it strong and healthy as it can help reduce protein loss. Studies have shown that this is due to the lauric acid found in coconut oil as it can deeply penetrate the hair shaft more efficiently than other fats or oils.
In the same way as looking after the skin and hair, the moisturising properties of coconut oil can also help the lips. If you’re looking for a natural lip balm, then coconut oil is the way forward! This is because it can help to hydrate the lips, which can be especially needed in colder winter months, as well as soothe them when they are chapped or sore.
One of the lesser-known beneficial effects of coconut is for the mouth. Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, which means it is excellent for fighting against the bacteria in the mouth that leads to plaque, tooth decay and even gum disease. As a result, swishing oil around your mouth, also known as oil pulling, can help reduce the levels of harmful bacteria to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Alongside caring for the health and wellbeing of the mouth, the technique of oil pulling using coconut oil (as opposed to vegetable oil or soybean oil) can help to whiten the teeth. By swishing the coconut oil around the mouth daily on a long term basis, it can help to remove surface stains to leave your teeth looking whiter, brighter and healthier.
There are many amazing benefits of coconut oil from weight loss to heart health to beauty, so there is no reason not to add it to your diet! Plus, it’s so easy to use on a day to day basis and a simple jar of coconut oil can be used in so many ways. You can eat it directly if preferred, or you can easily add it into your frying or cooking as a replacement for other vegetable oils.
You can even try adding it into your favourite recipes to make them that bit healthier. Why not give our vegan chocolate cupcakes a try? Alternatively, you don’t even have to eat the oil to get some of its benefits, so try rubbing it on the skin as a moisturiser or swishing it around your mouth for oral hygiene. However you use it, coconut oil is an amazing ingredient and is one that should definitely be a part of your daily routine.