The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil
The Enthusiastic Proprietor
I was in a local health food store when the proprietor began speaking to me of the innumerable health benefits of coconut oil. He volunteered this information without any prompting from me; I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of coconut oil before today. But he began enumerating the perks of this butter-like substance, starting first with the improvement it’s made to his skin. He apparently suffers from psoriasis, but rubbing coconut oil into afflicted areas – like his knees and elbows – has stopped the flaking and itching as well as reduced the redness.
He also claimed coconut oil has improved the health of his hair and scalp. He told me to “rub some into the ends of” my hair to keep them from splitting, leave on for 20 minutes, and then rinse. Before I left, the health food store proprietor further told me coconut oil is known to boost energy levels and generally improve overall health.
When I left, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s anything coconut oil can’t do. I didn’t purchase any, but I was curious to read more about this substance. And I found plenty of information to review.
First, coconut oil is reputed to be far more beneficial than ordinary beauty products because it’s natural. Commercial moisturizers, for instance, contain water that make your skin feel like it’s being moisturized. But as soon as the water dries, you skin also becomes dry again. Many name-brand moisturizers also contain petroleum-based ingredients that can suffocate the skin. In contrast, coconut oil provides real moisture that penetrates deep into skin. It helps strengthen underlying tissues and remove excessive dead cells on the skin’s surface. It’s also great for improving shine and moisture levels in hair.
Snow White or Godzilla?
But coconut oil isn’t just for beauty. In 1994, the substance was touted as one of America’s unhealthiest foods to ever hit grocery store shelves. That same year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a study that ridiculed movie popcorn because of its association with coconut oil. “Theater popcorn ought to be the Snow White of snack foods, but it’s been turned into Godzilla by being popped in highly saturated coconut oil,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center.
Today, two groups are returning coconut oil to its once shining star status. One is made up of scientists, many of whom are backtracking on the worst accusations made against coconut oil. And the other is the growing number of vegans who rely on it as a sweet vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature and can create flaky pie crusts, crumbly scones, and fluffy cupcake icings, all without butter.
But the evidence in support of coconut oil goes well beyond its sweet nature. Studies have shown consuming this substance can help our bodies mount resistance to viruses and bacteria that cause illness. It can also help ward off yeast, fungus, and candida.
Coconut oil can positively affect our hormones for thyroid and blood sugar control. Firstly, a boost in thyroid function helps to increase metabolism, energy, and endurance (it appears the health food proprietor knew what he was talking about). Secondly, coconut can help improve insulin use within the body, and people who take it tend to show improvements in their blood sugar levels. It also increases digestion and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Perhaps one of the most ironic benefits of coconut oil, given the statements from 1994, is that it increases good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering those that are bad (LDL). It does this by promoting the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, a molecule that precursors many of the hormones our bodies need.
The only caveat to this substance is that you must buy it in its virgin state - before it’s been hydrogenated, bleached, refined, or deodorized. If coconut oil has been refined in any way, it becomes much harder on the liver. Otherwise, feel free to use it for cooking, beauty enhancement, and energy boosting!