Lucky for me, I come from a large, wonderful family that loves to share product recommendations. Even luckier, several of my cousins also enjoy the more natural lifestyle and that is where I struck on this gem – coconut oil!
– Ethically sourced from farmers’ co-operatives in the Phillipines
– Unrefined, Unbleached, Non-Deodorised, Non-Hydrogenated
– Free from Cholesterol, Trans-Fats and GM Ingredients
One of my cousins is an excellent midwife and recommends this for women during breastfeeding (it soothes cracked and sore nipples AND is good for baby!), but also suggested that it can be used as a general moisturiser. She was dead right, this stuff is incredible – and extremely affordable at €6.99 for 200g in my local health store (bear in mind, as a skin care product this size will go a LONG way)! It really is one of those products that you could take to a desert island and use for almost everything. Cooking, skin care, energy, pure nutrition; this is a real super food.
So here is an overview of 5 areas where coconut oil can be used, and a little extra info to boot (please add your findings in the comments!)*
1. Let’s start with the obvious – Cooking!
Making a simple change, such as using coconut oil instead of butter when frying food can produce massive health benefits. Not only is coconut oil dairy-free, studies have suggested that the fatty acids within it can have a positive effect on brain disorders such as Alzheimers and Epilepsy. Another bonus with coconut oil is that it tolerates high-temperature better than vegetable oils. Although solid at room temperature, it will melt instantly when exposed to even low levels of heat (so be careful storing it and stand it upright!). Once somewhat melted, coconut oil can also be used as a spread instead of butter – great option if you are lactose-intolerant!
WARNING: Do not make big changes to your diet without first consulting with your doctor.
2. Beauty / Skincare
Okay, first some potentially bad news as I debunk a myth that’s doing the “natural-life” rounds at the moment – the use of coconut oil as a sunscreen. There have been conflicting reports about this, with some saying that it can be an effective skin protection against harmful UV rays that cause melanoma/skin cancer. While this would be ideal (a natural alternative to sunscreen is a goal for many companies) and is not a complete fallacy, it is a potentially dangerous exaggeration.
While coconut oil does appear to have a stronger SPF value than some other natural oils, the value is still extremely low (SPF4 or thereabouts), and therefore does not replace a strong sunscreen (dermatologists recommend SPF30 every day, with higher values for outdoor activities in the sun). This misunderstanding could be detrimental for skin health, particularly for children so please keep it in mind. The only way to protect your skin against sun damage and skin cancer is to use a high SPF sunscreen, frequently reapplied especially after swimming and to avoid the sun during the mid-day period.
Now onto some good news! Coconut oil can be used as an all-natural, organic and super intensive moisturiser! Although solid at room temperature, the second coconut oil hits your skin it turns to liquid and can be applied easily and with a delicious scent to boot. One recommendation I will make is that you use it at night because it can feel a bit like you’re basting your face and I’m not sure I’d want to wear it out-and-about. I’d also be hesitant about how well make-up would apply over it until it’s completely dry, which can feel like a while.
Coconut oil can also be used as a staple product in oral hygiene by substituting a regular mouthwash. This is not something that I have personally tried yet, so I can’t give too much advice but I will try to post a future entry about this! So back to the topic, this is known as “oil pulling” (where the name comes from I have no idea, there is no pulling involved!). To do so, you put about a tablespoon of the coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes, as you would a regular mouth wash. The benefits of this are the reduction of harmful bacteria in your mouth and swallowing it is not an issue! The only con that I can think of is that it does take longer than your average oral hygiene routine, so maybe do it during your favourite show at night when you’re not in a rush.
Did you know coconut oil can act as an intensive deep conditioner for your hair? Yep! Put some in your locks before bed, sleep on it and wash it out in the morning. Voila! (I will be doing a full post on coconut oil in haircare, so keep an eye out!)
Another benefit I have found is a bit of an unusual one but deodorant/antiperspirant! Okay, it won’t prevent sweat if you run a marathon (!) but for the average day, coconut oil can be used as a perfect deodorant. If you find you need a little extra umph, try adding some baking soda to absorb the moisture. My personal favourite thing about this – besides the fresh scent – is that it doesn’t sting after shaving and really softens the skin, limiting in-grown hairs in the process!
If I haven’t already said it enough – coconut oil is a super food and has a massive range of health benefits. Now this bit gets a bit technical so disclaimer *I’m not a doctor, but here’s what I have found so far!
In the wintery season, colds and flus are rampant. As a full-time student, I find the college to be a breeding ground for coughs and any other bug doing the rounds so any inch of preventative measures help. Some studies have found that blending a tablespoon of coconut oil into your hot drink can help in a speedy recovery from these winter pests. It can also be used as a delicious addition to coffee, substituting cream and dairy products.
This next point ties back to the oil-pulling information and the anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil. These benefits not only work in your mouth, but in your digestive tract too. The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, potentially helping to prevent infections – another great thing for this time of year.
The best known therapeutic application of the ketogenic diet (very low carbohydrates, very high fat – ie. like coconut) has been in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. This diet leads to increased concentrations of ketone bodies in the blood, and can significantly reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children, including those who have not yet had success with medication. A study by Neal et al (2008) is one of many supporting these findings. Again, please talk to your medicial practitioner before implementing changes like this into your child’s diet.
Finally, coconut oil can be used in the treatment of allergies. From a practical standpoint, putting a little at the entrance of your nostrils can help to ‘catch’ bits of dust and pollen from going up into your sinus cavity. This is one benefit I can swear by!
4. Pregnancy / Baby Care
During breastfeeding, nipples can become tender, cracked and extremely painful. The already discussed moisturising benefits of coconut oil can be particularly useful in this situation, where medicinal creams may impact feeding baby (always be careful what you apply there, as they can ingest it). Some studies also suggest that consumption of coconut oil during breastfeeding can increase milk production. Just remember, check with your own medical consultant to be sure!
5. Energy / Exercise / Study Fuel
Coconut oil contains a form of saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides. Unlike other saturated fats, MCTs provide an energy source for the body, rather than being stored (Livestrong, 2013). Because of this, coconut oil can be used as a supplement prior to exercise and will provide an energy boost almost instantly.
Mixing 1tbsp of coconut oil into your water can have this effect – perhaps useful for those of us still slogging through study and exams!
Coconut oil can also be a beneficial part of your post-exercise meal, promoting hormonal balance and muscle recovery.
I am in no way qualified as a physical health professional, so please be sure to ask your doctor, nurse, midwife etc. if you are unsure about any of these tips or considering diet changes – and feel free to correct me too! This post is all based on my own experiences, those of my friends/family and information that I have found on this magnificent world wide web (on reputable websites, of course). If you are interested in the exact sites where I read some of this information, please just send me an email and I can provide more details.
Information taken from the Biona Organic website