Under the Spotlight: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been a dietary and beauty staple for centuries. With the booming of health and wellness related topics, in the past few years coconut oil has gained a reputation for being one of the healthiest foods, a so-called superfood. According to the latest trends, the beneficial uses of non-hydrogenated, virgin coconut oil allegedly range from cooking to cleaning, from skin care to pet care, helping to prevent a number of illnesses and improving your overall physical conditions: a true panacea for universal remedy!
Some nutritional information
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 117 calories. Like all other oils, coconut oil is 100% made of fat, with little to no vitamins and minerals. Unlike other oils though, its fat structure is unusually high in medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCTs), which are directly processed by our bodies and easily transformed into energy by the liver. Other oils and fats instead, are rich in long-chain triglycerides that are difficult for the body to break down and therefore get stored as fat tissue in our bodies.
The belief that medium-chain saturated fats, such as the lauric acid, may not actually influence the levels of LDL-c or “bad cholesterol”, is the reason why so many nutritionists advocate for the health benefits of coconut oil.
Many experts argue that one of the benefits of consuming the MCTs contained in coconut oil is that it can increase your energy expenditure, boosting your metabolism and helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
The consumption of coconut oil can even reduce your hunger, making you feel full for longer and therefore producing weight-loss effects. Some small studies have shown that men who ate most MTCs for breakfast would eat significantly less calories during the day.
Another study on obese women and men has shown that implementing 30ml (1 ounce) of non-hydrogenated, virgin coconut oil into your diet, all without changing any other eating or fitness habits, can lead to significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference.
The MCTs in coconut oil, and more specifically the lauric acid, seem to be effective in killing harmful pathogens, potentially helping to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. In fact, our bodies convert lauric acid into monolarium, one of nature’s most effective anti-virals, antibacterials and antifungals. Some research has shown that coconut oil is effective in treating skin and respiratory conditions.
Moreover, coconut oil is also regarded as a “miracle” toothpaste by many dental care experts. You can use it for your oral hygiene, against tooth decay and to kill the bad bacteria and yeast living in your mouth.
The other side of the coin
The mainstream health community attributes even more benefits to coconut oil, from reducing epileptic seizures and risk of heart disease, to preventing Alzhaimer and cancer. Even though currently this seems to be the prominent opinion, a number of nutritionists and researchers are still skeptical about the benefits of consuming this oil and recommend only a rather moderate use. In fact, many still believe that the consumption of all oils containing saturated fats is to be limited in people’s dietary habits, as they could harm the cardiovascular system causing coronary risk.
Use it for your personal care!
If you can’t make up your mind about the health benefits or risks of coconut oil, you can surely follow our suggestion on this one: it’s amazing as a natural body and hair lotion!
Commercial moisturizers are not the best choice when it comes to taking care of your skin and hair. First of all, they contain a lot of water which only moisturize your skin for a few minutes, until it dries out. Moreover, many of these brands are petroleum-based and contain chemicals that can harm and suffocate your skin and hair.
In contrast, coconut oil provides deep, long-lasting moisture. It’s amazing as a lip balm when in its solid state, and perfect as a body lotion on its liquid state. It helps heal your skin and the underlying tissues. It clears your skin from the dead cells that make it rough and flaky in texture, leaving it smooth and glowing. Coconut oil works the same way also for your hair as it moisturize and protect them, keeping them healthy and shiny.
This article is by Ludovica Damonte. Read more about Shanghaihabits' food editor here or continue reading to learn a few smart uses of coconut oil from Shanghaihabit's Line!
I've always used oil for my split hair ends. I rub a small amount in at bedtime, braid it and let the dry ends soak up this natural wonder elixir during the night. If I know I'll be washing my hair the following morning I'll exaggerate the amount a little bit and use it as a natural mask. But I always try to avoid the top as oil can be difficult to wash entirely out and it can make your hair look really greasy.
I've used Morrocan oil, argan oil, olive oil and now my absolute favorite is coconut oil. I've used it over a year now and my hair feels super healthy & happy. For this reason I've also started adding it to my brows in the evening - to make them grow thicker and more characteristic.
I use coconut oil for skin care as well. I rub it on my skin in the evening or mornings and use it to massage my body parts and get the blood circulation going. I'll even use it in my face in the evenings, I swear it is a miracle treatment for face lines and dry cheeks.
Last year I started getting smal whiter spots/areas on my upper arms which really freaked me out. My doctor in China said it was sun damage and my Danish doctor said skin fungus. So I ended up getting totally different treatments (fungus: soap & keep dry, sun damage: thick lotion & keep moist). After not seeing any result from either I threw both soap and moisturizer out and started consequently using coconut oil on my arms every morning and evening. After 1 month my arms where both back to normal. I'm still not sure what it was but for skin fungus or skin rash coconut oil will help because it's anti-bacterial and for sun damage (not sun burned!!) it will help repair your skin as it is super moisturizing and healing.
When I travel I like to travel light so I leave all products behind and consequently use coconut oil for dry hands, dry skin, make up remover, dry lips etc.
I don't fry a lot when I'm cooking but if I do I'm consequently using coconut oil. The flavor it adds to a thai dish or do roasted vegetable is so yum! I also use it as a butter or vegetable oil replacement in cooking. Even though it's high in calories I truly believe it's such good fat and it will smoothen you inside and make you whole system run so much better. And as we've seen above - it prepares your body to burn lots of calories during the day.
Ever heard about fat black? That's one of the newest terms in the world of coffee. A black coffee with a tea spoon of coconut oil in the morning is said to kick start your metabolism, increase your energy level and make you feel less hungry throughout the day. I haven't made this a habit but I've made it a few times (with some milk added as I am a proper latte lover) and it is actually super yum. Different but yum. My boyfriend makes his with a teaspoon of real butter which is another variety of the Fat Black... He swears that this shot of caffeine and fat makes him feel super energized for so long!
And 100 other things
There's lots of other ways to use this natural wonder and lots written about it. Check this article with 101 uses for Coconut Oil and make sure to get a hold of organic coconut oil and get started. Best sources in Shanghai would be online groceries like Fields.