Coconut oil is starting to be on everyone’s radar these days, whether it’s for its uses in cooking or in healthcare. And no wonder, with the health benefits it boasts – better digestion, antibacterial properties, you name it! So, what makes coconut oil so good for you? And is it really that much better to use in the kitchen than, say, olive or vegetable oil?
In your body:
First of all, coconut oil is very rich in lauric acid, which in your body turns into monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound known to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Monolaurin is actually an effective treatment against candida albicans and other fungal infections such as athlete’s foot!
Secondly, studies have started to show that virgin coconut oil could help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein) and increase good cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipoprotein). In this sense, coconut oil could help protect again heart disease!
In the kitchen:
Coconut oil is made up primarily of stable, saturated fats, called medium-chain triglycerides, which are heat stable – this means that it can stand higher temperatures than other oils, such as olive oil, before it starts to oxidise.
What’s so bad about oxidation, I hear you ask.
Well, basically, when an oil oxidises, not only does its quality go down, but more importantly, its chemical state is altered and it forms other chemical compounds, many of them harmful. Have you heated up oil in a pan for a bit too long and seen it start to smoke (I know I have, once or twice)? This is called the smoke point, when the oil starts to oxidise: at this point, the glycerol in oil turns to acrolein, a toxic chemical also found in cigarette smoke and considered to be a major cigarette-related lung cancer agent. Not what you want to be breathing in.
Thankfully, as I was saying, coconut oil is highly resistant to oxidation at high heat. Butter and olive oil aren’t quite as stable when heated, and should be used at lower temperatures, while polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils (soya, sunflower, rapeseed or corn) are very unstable and should be avoided.
I personally made the switch in September, and couldn’t regret it less. I cook every day and have JUST finished my first pot, which cost me £15.49 at Holland and Barrett. Pretty cost effective at £3/month, wouldn’t you say?
DO BE CAREFUL, however. When people talk about coconut oil, they mean virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil: AVOID any coconut oil which has been refined or bleached, as they are just as harmful as other processed oils.
As for other health benefits, I haven’t yet used coconut oil as a moisturiser or in my hair – but I’ve heard it works a charm! So many women already swear by it, I’m sure there must be some truth to it. It’s definitely on my beauty bucket list, I’ll let you know as soon as I try!