What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. It is high in saturated fat, which is composed of medium-chain fatty acids as opposed to the short chains which are found in animal fats. This is why it may not have the same health concerns associated with saturated animal fats.
What are the health benefits of coconut oil?
Coconut oil can raise HDL (high densitiy lipoproteins), potentially helping to balance LDL’s and lower cholesterol levels.
It is high in caprylic acid which has antifungal and anti-candida properties.
It is also high in lauric acid which is also found in human breast milk and may be beneficial to the brain and immune system.
Coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) are said to have anti-microbial properties, suggesting it may help in fighting infections.
It is also said to support energy and endurance and improve the body’s metabolic rate. This action can also have a positive impact on thyroid health.
Coconut oil has traditionally been used on skin and hair by many indigenous island cultures. It is reputed to help with everything from acne and dry skin to eczema and fungal infections. Some claim that it can even help with hair loss.
What does it taste like?
High quality, fresh virgin coconut oil should have a delicious sweet coconut taste. If rancid or oxidized it can have a musty, unpleasant odour and lingering after taste.
Deodorized coconut oil is also available. This is oil which has had the odour components removed by non-chemical methods. Some nutrient content may be lost in this refining process.
How do I use it?
Coconut oil is very heat-stable, which makes it suited to high temperature cooking methods such as frying. Because of its stability, it is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years due to high saturated fat content.
It is a versatile cooking oil, which can be used in place of other oils for most dishes. Coconut oil is particularly useful as a replacement for butter or hydrogenated oils (margarine) in vegan cooking and baking.
Those consuming the oil for health reasons often add spoonfuls of coconut oil to smoothies or porridge, spread it on toast or just eat it by the spoonful.
Which one should I try?
For the full range of health benefits, choose an organic, virgin coconut oil with a fresh sweet taste. Here at Commonsense the Niu Gini and Hebe brands are most popular. These brands are also ideal for topical (skin and hair care) use.
For those who find the taste of virgin coconut oil overpowering, we have the deodorised coconut oil too.
Where can I find out more information?
There are huge amounts of information online about coconut oil and its wide-ranging benefits but be sure to check for scientific validation and references.
Caution: coconut oil is not suitable for everyone. Evidence has shown that individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may experience an accelerated rate of disease progression when consuming coconut oil (or other saturated fats) regularly.
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Onstad, D. (2004). Whole Foods Companion. USA. Chelsea Green Publishing Co.