Coconut Oil: What's the Fuss?

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[title subtitle="Should You Hop on This Nutty Bandwagon?"]Loco For Cocos[/title] I grew up with coconuts. And, by “grew up,” I mean by the fridge full. Yes, coconuts in their pure, green, ginormous form. Whether it a morning pick-me-up before school or an after sports replenishment, I just needed to open the fridge, grab my fruit, puncture one of the softer eyes with a chopstick, stick in a straw, and call it a day. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s Thailand for you.

In my scorching hot country, coconut manifests in everything from salads, to curries, to drinks. Needless to say, it has been quite a pleasure watching America catch up with our age-old trend.

But while I'm familiar with the ins and outs of coconut water, milk, and meat, coconut oil, or the rise of it, threw me for a loop. Is it a hype or is it actually healthy? Here's what I found out:

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[title subtitle=""]The Facts[/title]

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, coconut oil, the highly processed version that contained a lot of trans fat, made up the majority of junk foods. In fact, coconut oil was commonly associated with the dangers of saturated fat. As a result, olive oil, it’s heart-healthier counterpart, often took center stage.

It’s important to know, however, that not all coconut oil is created equal. The partially hydrogenated version of the past has since been swapped out for a cold-pressed virgin option that now lines the shelves of supermarkets. Even though coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, most of that fat is made up of lauric acid (medium-chain fatty acids) which is known to improve levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Absorbed in the stomach, the triglycerides are immediately transported to the liver where they are metabolized into energy.

Before you freak out about the 90%, know that saturated fat, when heated, stays stable. Unlike mono or polyunsaturated fats (olive oil) that alter their chemical formations when heated at a certain termperature, saturated fats do not become harmful to the body when cooked at 356°F or higher.

If you're still hung up about the high percentage, the Annals of Internal Medicine came out with a study suggesting that saturated fat may not contribute as directly to heart disease as we once thought. If someone replaces the saturated fat in their diet with refined starches or sugar, then the risk of heart disease remains the same.

Ultimately, it's not so much about swapping out one cooking oil for the another, but using all of those oils in moderation.

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[title subtitle=""]The Uses[/title]

Besides cooking, coconut oil can also be used for these beauty-related purposes:

[infobox subtitle="" bg="blue" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Hair Mask[/infobox]

At room temperature, coconut oil sits as a creamy solid. When heated to around 76°F, however, the oil liquefies. To use it as a hair mask, run the closed oil jar under warm water until the oil inside is melted to a manageable consistency. After shampooing, apply a generous amount of the oil to your wet strands and let sit for five minutes before rinsing it out.

Tip: I generally apply the oil from mid-shaft to tip to avoid over-oiling my roots.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="yellow" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Body Oil[/infobox]

The creamy texture of coconut oil makes it the perfect lightweight moisturizer. Scoop a quarter-sized dollop into your hands, right after you get out of the shower, and apply it to your body so that it can sink into your warm skin.

Tip: Feel free to add a couple drops of essential oil to the coconut oil. Peppermint oil is great for kick starting the day and lavender oil is amazing for winding down.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="red" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Lip Balm[/infobox]

All about the natural stuff? Guess what! Coconut oil can also replace beeswax as an ultra-hydrating lip balm. Scoop some into a small container and call it a day!

Tip: Make your own lip tint by mixing in loose blush or eye-shadow powder.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="orange" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Shaving Oil[/infobox]

Using coconut oil instead of shaving cream allows for a super close shave. Again, run the jar of coconut oil under warm water to liquefy it, before applying it to your legs and shaving.

Tip: Because the oil is very slippery, I recommend shaving outside the shower. You’ll have an easier time holding on to the razor if your hands are dry.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="purple" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Makeup Remover[/infobox]

Believe it or not, you can even use coconut oil as a makeup remover! Scoop a small amount of the oil into your hands and warm it by rubbing. Apply the liquefied oil to your skin and massage away the impurities. Rinse with warm water and follow with your normal face wash routine.

Tip: To make your own coconut oil makeup remover wipes, melt a teaspoon of coconut oil per cotton round in a microwavable container. Then, soak the cotton pads evenly in the solution. Let them sit overnight. Store the soaked rounds in a Ziploc bag until ready for use.