Beauty / Food / Health / Nutrition

Coconut Oil – everything you need to know

coco oil_wideIt’s impossible not to rave about coconut oil. It’s absolute wonder stuff, and so versatile. Once you know what to do with it, it will fast become your new 100% natural go-to cooking ingredient and beauty product.

At a recent workshop with the experts from Lucy Bee Coconut Oil I got the lowdown on what makes it a good fat, what the health benefits are, and how you can easily introduce it into your daily life.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat, so it should be consumed in moderation, but it’s the best kind for you. And saturated fat is nothing to be afraid of. We need it (in addition to other “healthy fats”) for the body to work optimally – it protects the liver, helps the brain to function, boosts the immune system, supports the nervous system, lowers the risk of heart disease (by reducing levels of lipoprotein and upping “good cholesterol”) and ensures the body absorbs calcium, which is essential for bone strength. Plus, coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid, rather than a long-chain fatty acids like other vegetable oils. This means the liver converts it into energy immediately, so it isn’t stored as fat, and it is easier to digest because the pancreas and gall bladder don’t have to produce enzymes in order to break it down.

So now you know coconut oil is really good for you, you should also know that not all coconut oil is created equal. The best kind is unrefined raw virgin coconut oil, extracted from fresh coconuts. All the other stuff is refined coconut oil made from copra (dried coconut meat) which is bleached and deoderised using chemical solvents and is sometimes partially hydrogenated.

Now on to what you can do with your coconut oil:

Frying and Roasting

Use it in the same way as vegetable oil, olive oil or butter to cook a stir fry, scramble eggs, roast potatoes, you name it. A little goes a long way, and no, it doesn’t make all your food taste like coconut!

Marinades

Soften the coconut oil, mix in spices and spread it over the meat.

Baking

Use it instead of butter, but use a quarter less, eg, for 100g butter use 75g coconut oil

An energy boost

Put a teaspoon in a smoothie, in green tea (it makes it taste less bitter), add some to an espresso to make a ‘bullet coffee’ or stir it into porridge.

Massage oil/Exfoliator

Add any essential oil to it and either rub straight onto the skin or gently melt to a liquid first. Mix it with epsom salts (and any essential oil if wanted) and use it as a hand and body scrub.

Make-up remover

Rub a tiny amount onto your face and wipe off using cotton wool. It even removes waterproof mascara! Plus it’s a great conditioner for your eyelashes.

Hair mask

Melt a couple of teaspoons and massage into damp hair. Leave for at least 20 minutes or wrap hair in a shower cap and leave overnight. Coconut oil penetrates the hair, preventing protein loss to make it stronger and shinier.

Oil pulling

Put a teaspoon in your mouth and swish it around for up to 20 minutes, then spit it into the bin (not down the sink as it will solidify again). It has antimicrobial properties (thanks to it being 50% lauric acid) so it rids the mouth of bacteria, and can help ease toothache and soothe ulcers.

Teeth whitening

Brush your teeth with a small amount (mixed with bicarbonate of soda if wanted) to help remove stains from coffee or red wine.

Deodorant

I haven’t tried this, but I was assured that a small amount rubbed on your underarms works!

After sun/Body moisturiser

Rub a small amount – little and often so you don’t saturate the skin – to soothe sunburn and moisturise dry skin. It’s even suitable for eczema, psoriasis and cradle cap on babies.

And finally, a word about Lucy Bee. Their coconut oil is Fairtrade, meaning they pay a slightly higher price to the providers in the Philippines and the Solomon Islands and the extra 10% goes towards higher wages and creating community projects. A jar of Lucy Bee has a two-year shelf life – but, with all these uses, you’ll get through it much quicker than that!

Lucy Bee Coconut Oil is available from Sainsbury’s, Planet Organic, Whole Foods, Amazon and other online stockists; RRP £6 for 300ml, £9.99 for 500ml

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