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Coconut Oil 101: Your Guide to a Magical Food

It is perhaps nature’s most perfect form of dense, healthy energy: organic coconut oil. When even the infamous Dr. “low fat for health!” Oz touts its benefits, you know you’ve got something magical on your hands.
The solid-at-room-temperature oil is unique from other cooking oils for many reasons. First, its high content of medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are readily taken up by the body and used for energy. Despite its high saturated fat content, which is something those in the traditional nutrition mindset usually shy away from, it is well on its way to becoming the next new superfood.

In addition to being a potent form of easily-broken down energy (that has no effect on blood sugar and does not provoke an insulin response), coconut oil has many other benefits.

It’s antimicrobial. 
Unrefined, virgin coconut oil possesses antimicrobial properties. It’s not just antibacterial: it’s antiviral and antifungal. From skin infections to digestive bugs, coconut oil is effective at killing pathogens and promoting healing. It’s even effective when used for yeast or fungal infections on the skin and can also be used as an in-a-pinch replacement for antibiotic ointments like Neosporin.

It’s stable for cooking (high heat when it’s refined).
You can use both virgin unrefined and refined coconut oil for cooking. Virgin coconut oil has a smoke point of 350 degrees, so it’s best used in lower heat applications. For sauteeing, frying or roasting,  use an organic refined variety, which has a smoke point of 450 degrees. Unlike seed oils such as canola and soy, coconut oil is stable even at high heat, so it doesn’t oxidize and break down. In fact, seed oils, which are usually touted as “healthy” (blech!) are extremely unstable and oxidize easily within the body, causing a whole host of problems.

It doesn’t promote inflammation.
In regards to inflammation, fats that oxidize quickly, as mentioned above, promote inflammation within the body. Inflammation is related of many diseases, from cancer to heart disease to athlerosclerosis. When the body’s inflammatory response is piqued, it damages your tissues and negatively impacts your health. Coconut oil, on the other hand, doesn’t oxidize like seed-based unsaturated fats. The result? Less inflammation.

It boosts thyroid function. 
Coconut oil consumption can increase the efficiency of your thyroid, which regulates many of your bodily processes including your metabolism. If you’ve got hypothyroidism, coconut oil can be worth its weight in gold. For best results, use an unrefined organic variety.

It’s great for your skin.
Between its antimicrobial properties and it buttery smooth texture, coconut oil is said to do wonders for skin. Use it as a replacement for chemical-laden lotions to calm dry winter skin. You can also use it as a face wash (and no, it won’t make you oily). Simply wet your face, rub it in, then rinse it off. Even those with severe acne have shown improvement with coconut oil. An extra tip? It also works great for shiny hair. Use a dime size amount if you’ve got long locks (less if you have a short cut) to increase shine and softness.

It’s good for keeping blood sugar in check. 
Those with insulin resistance may find this to be particularly useful: coconut oil is great for increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

It aids in weight loss. 
Coconut oil consumption can lead to weight loss by making your metabolism more efficient. It’s especially good at helping to get rid of stubborn belly fat, which has been known to be an indicator for an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

This is definitely not the end of the long list of coconut oil benefits– just a collection of the good ones.

 

It’s pet friendly
While some oils are toxic to pets, coconut oil is healthy for dogs and cats. As an avid dog lover, I like to know any scraps I may hand over to my dog won’t harm him.

A final word…

Another question I’m frequently asked is “does coconut oil taste like coconut?” 

Yes and no. Unrefined virgin oil– which should make up most of your coconut oil consumption because it is in its natural state– has a deliciously sweet coconut flavor. It’s great when used in baked goods, but not so good with something like, say, eggs.

For savory foods, try an organic refined variety. Spectrum Organics offers a great refined coconut oil for about $8 for a 16 oz. jar. It’s flavorless, and while it still boasts the same nutrient profile as its unrefined counterpart, it lacks some of the medicinal benefits. When it comes to frying eggs or sauteeing meats, however, refined is your best bet. Keep both kinds in the kitchen– they each have their own uses.


Need Ingredients for That Recipe?

Ingredients

It takes a lot of trial and error to find the "right" fit for a low carb recipe. I have made some ... different low carb desserts. You don't need to go through that! I made a list of my favorite ingredients as well as what stores you can find them at. Enjoy!

About the author

Leeann Teagno

Eating healthy, for me, is about more than weight loss like it used to be. It’s about controlling my blood sugar levels and obtaining normal–or relatively normal–hormone levels. I still struggle to lose weight efficiently, but eating a wheat, sugar and gluten free diet helps to control some of the problems I’ve encountered with these health issues of mine.

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