Coconut Oil: Benefits & Usage Ideas
Coconut oil has become a popular ingredient of discussion over the past several years. It’s made from drying the kernel (or the meat) of the coconut and comes in several different types. The most common types of coconut oil that you will see are virgin (unrefined) and refined. Virgin coconut oil has a tropical scent and flavor, whereas refined coconut oil has minimal scent and flavor.
Not only is coconut oil extremely versatile in the many ways you can use it in cooking and for beauty, it also offers plenty of health benefits. Here are just a few of the ways that coconut oil can help improve your health.
Improve Your Cognitive Function
Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which when broken down by the liver, create ketones in the body. Ketones are an excellent source of fuel for brain cells, especially in Alzheimer’s patients who have glucose utilization impairment. Another study that was published in the journal of Neurodegenerative Disease Management found that the medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil may help to improve the cognitive function of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
While glucose (from complex carbohydrates and fruits) are the preferred fuel for your brain cells, each brain cell has an outer layer of lipids (fats) that needs to be replenished as well. If you want to improve your memory, it might be worth adding coconut oil into your diet.
Boost Your Immune System
Lauric acid is a type of fatty acid that is found in coconut oil. This particular fatty acid has been tested as an excellent antibacterial agent. Lauric acid is the precursor to monolaurin, which acts like a bacteria-killer. Adding more coconut oil into your diet might help your body sweep out bacteria so that your immune system can continue doing what it does best. Additionally, coconut oil can help combat yeast and fungal overgrowth like Candida Albicans due to its antifungal properties.
Hydrate Your Skin
Coconut oil can be used as a skincare product in many ways. It helps with dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis. You can also use it as a facial cleanser or a moisturizer. Contrary to what you might think, using coconut oil as a moisturizer does not make your skin oily. Using coconut oil as a lotion helps you to avoid many of the toxins that are found in conventional moisturizers and beauty products.
Luckily, incorporating coconut oil into your daily routine and diet is easier than you might think. Here are some fun ways to try it:
Use Coconut Oil for High-Heat Cooking
Coconut oil is an excellent cooking oil for high-heat cooking. Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it helps to prevent oxidation when it is exposed to high heat. You can use it as a replacement for olive oil when roasting vegetables in the oven at high heat or in stir-fry dishes. Some good vegetables for roasting with coconut oil are:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bell Peppers
The flavor of coconut oil tends to mix well with sweeter root vegetables and dishes that have Asian flavors. To use coconut oil for roasting vegetables in the oven, follow these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or tinfoil and set aside.
- Chop up vegetables and place them in a mixing bowl.
- Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan on the stove.
- Pour coconut oil over the vegetables with a pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. You can also add dried herbs like rosemary and thyme for added flavor. Mix everything together then spread it out on the baking tray.
- Depending on which vegetables you choose the cooking time will vary from 15 to 35 minutes. Make sure to flip them halfway through the cooking time.
Try Substituting Coconut Oil in Baked Goods
When baking with coconut oil, measure in a cup when it is solid at room temperature. Once you have measured it out, melt it on the stove in a small sauce pan then add it to the “wet” ingredients in the baking process. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to butter and processed oils such as canola oil, soy oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.
Add Coconut Oil to a Beverage
Simply add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning smoothie and blend away. You can also add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to a cup of hot coffee or tea to create a creamier consistency.
Make Delicious Lemon Coconut Protein Bars
Coconut oil serves as a great “binder” for these Lemon and Coconut Protein Bars. These bars only take 15 minutes to make and they don’t require any baking or cooking.
- 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon raw honey, melted
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Line a small baking dish with parchment paper. Spread batter inside, using a spatula to flatten.
Refrigerate for 45 minutes. Cut into 12 bars then place in a glass Tupperware and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
Makes approximately 12 bars
Recipe adapted from Popsugar.com. By Amy Krasner. The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.