The Health and Beauty Benefits of Coconut OilLast Updated: November 17, 2018
What if there were a special type of oil which was easily affordable, delicious and nutritious to cook with, and also great for your hair and skin?
You've probably heard a lot about coconut oil recently. Those interested in more natural, homeopathic ways to eat healthy, moisturize their skin, and improve the strength and beauty of their tresses swear by this tropical oil.
However, as is common with anything that achieves a critical mass of popularity, there are also naysayers out there who denounce the coconut oil craze as either all hype, or potentially dangerous. But which side is telling the truth? We got curious and started doing our own research. You won't believe what we found!
Cooking with Coconut Oil: Health Benefits from "Healthy Fats"
Cutting edge nutritional science is making one thing very clear: ingesting saturated and unsaturated fats from natural food sources is essential for optimal health. Recent studies show that saturated fat intake can improve liver health, boost immunity, and might even be necessary for hormone regulation. Why is this important? Because coconut oil is one of the richest natural sources of saturated fat you can find.
But what makes coconut oil stand out among other oils which are rich in saturated fats? Well, here are a few highlights:
- The Lauric acid in coconut oil is particularly well-suited to stimulate your immune system
- Coconut oil is better at regulating healthy cholesterol levels than Copra, corn, or soybean oil
- It also surpasses soybean oil in helping obese people reduce their waistlines (which can potentially reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes)
- It's more resistant to high-heat oxidation, making it one of the healthiest oils for frying
- Coconut oil contains fatty acids which can increase satiety after meals and improve fat metabolism
- Most people who cook with coconut oil prefer the taste over other oils
Coconut Oil and your Beauty Routine
Along with being a healthy addition to your diet, incorporating coconut oil into your beauty routine can have some pretty stellar benefits, too. Any oil rich in fatty acids, like coconut oil, can penetrate the hair shaft and improve the strength and condition of your strands. Try leaving it in overnight as a restorative treatment (but be sure to wrap up with a shower cap or towel to protect your sheets). You can even use it as a spot treatment to tame frizzy strands.
If you want a nourishing, healing mask for your face or a moisturizing scrub for your next pedicure, coconut oil should be your main ingredient for both. It's a pleasant smelling, natural way to help soften skin and retain moisture. Adding oats can create a wonderful paste for a relaxing facial mask. Likewise, adding in some granulated sugar can turn it into an exfoliating, antimicrobial scrub for your hands and feet.
Coconut Oil, Heart Health, and Addressing the Controversy
Around 50 years ago, medical science came out and told the world that anything which raises your cholesterol levels (specifically, your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels) will clog your arteries and cause heart disease. Coconut oil is made up of saturated fats and, according to older studies on heart health and cholesterol, this is likely to elevate LDL cholesterol levels in your blood.
Newer scientific studies, however, are disproving this. Your body actually needs cholesterol, even the "bad" LDL, to function properly. But not all LDL molecules are created equal. Smaller, denser LDL molecules are more easily deposited in your arteries, which can clog them and lead to heart disease. But it's processed sugars and carbs, such as those found in fast food, white bread, and high fructose corn syrup, which are responsible for these dangerous molecules. Saturated fats, on the other hand, actually help create larger LDL molecules which are easily processed by your body, making them less likely to clog arteries and contribute to heart disease.
But, as with all things, moderation is key. If you suspect you might have issues with your cholesterol, it's best to consult with a medical professional before making any extreme changes to your diet.
Choosing the Right Coconut Oil
Whether you're interested in coconut oil for the hair, skin, or health benefits, make sure you're getting the right kind of oil first. Organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil with minimal processing is the healthiest and will give you the best results. But if it has been bleached, hydrogenated, or has dyes and fragrances added in, you should steer clear!