These food fads come and go, but there is one food product that has stuck around and is still gaining popularity, and that’s coconut oil. Even more so since people are embracing the fact that fats are necessary for a healthy and balanced diet. What’s more, coconut oil’s uses extend beyond cooking – it’s considered an all-purpose beauty solution, among several other uses.
Coconut oil comes in two types, refined and virgin. Refined coconut oil goes through a process which strips it of some of its nutrients, but gives it a higher smoke point of 365 degrees. Smoke point is the temperature that an oil will start to burn, destroying the beneficial nutrients in it. In comparison, extra-virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 325 degrees and butter has a smoke point of 350 degrees, so refined coconut oil is a great option for higher heat cooking. Virgin coconut oil has a much more pronounced coconut flavor and has a smoke point of 280 degrees. This type of coconut oil is best used for no-cook recipes or for uses other than cooking.
While coconut oil is a mostly saturated fat and should be used in moderation, the fatty acids that it contains fall into a class of fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are metabolized faster than long-chain triglycerides. This means that the calories in MCTs are efficiently converted into fuel for the body, making it a great energy source that isn’t stored as fat as much as LCTs.
Coconut oil is versatile ingredient in cooking, and adds a natural sweetness to whatever it’s used in. It’s a great addition to baked goods as a substitute for butter, shortening, or oil. People who follow a dairy-free diet or vegan diet often use it as a substitute for butter or milk. It can be used in stir-fry’s, sautés, roasted vegetables, and curries.
Virgin/unrefined coconut oil can be used in a variety of other ways, including:
- Moisturizer: Use it directly on hands, elbows, feet, cuticles, or any other dry skin spots.
- Face cleanser: It may seem counter-intuitive, but using oil is a natural and gentle way to cleanse the skin. Massage the oil (about a teaspoon) into the skin to dissolve makeup, dirt and impurities stuck in the pores. Then rinse it off with warm water.
- Hair frizz tamer: Using a tiny amount of coconut oil warmed in the hands, gently glide the coconut oil over the hair to control frizz.
- Eye makeup remover: Using a cotton ball, coconut oil is a great way to remove eye makeup and mascara.
- Cast-iron skillet seasoning: Using refined coconut oil for this one instead of virgin, season a cast iron skillet before using it for the first time.
- Wood furniture polish: Coconut oil on a dry rag helps to remove dust and give wood furniture a sheen. Always test a small patch first.