What is Coconut Oil?

The next topic in my What’s That? series is Coconut Oil. You may have been hearing about it a lot lately so I thought that it would be nice to summarize some of the myths and facts surrounding it. I’ve only just discovered it relatively recently myself, but have to say that it is quickly changing the way I cook, and especially the way I bake (more on that later). But before I get too far, I think that a quick refresher on trans fats might be in order:

  • Unlike “good fats” such as essential fatty acids, trans fats provide no nutritional value
  • In fact, trans fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
  • Trans fats occur in small amounts naturally in dairy and meat, but also artificially in a lot of processed foods and some margarines

Man gathers coconuts in Fiji

Man gathering coconuts - From our trip to the Blue Lagoon, Fiji (Nov 2010)

Everyone pretty much agrees that trans fats are evil – so much so that some jurisdictions have even banned them outright! So what’s the coconut oil connection? Well, coconut oil has been getting  a bad wrap in the past couple decades, for two primary reasons

Myths

  • Early studies on coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which contains trans fats, as opposed to virgin coconut oil which does not
  • It is often lumped-in with palm oil, which itself is high in trans-fats

Facts

  • Virgin coconut oil is free of trans fat
  • While it’s true that coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, saturated fat is not as evil as previously thought (See Dr. Mercola’s website for more info on coconut oil & saturated fat)
  • Coconut oil is very heat stable – so it’s the best oil to use when cooking at high temperatures, such as frying
  • Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which:
    • is responsible for increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”) – more than any other fatty acid, unsaturated or saturated
    • is the same compound found in mothers’ milk
    • transforms into monolaurin, which is responsible for helping to strengthen the immune system
  • It has been shown to increase metabolism, which can improve thyroid activity and cell regeneration
  • It is liquid at room temperature, but turns solid below 25°C/77°F
Liquid vs. Solid Coconut Oil

Liquid vs. Solid Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a nice alternative to margarine because let’s face it: even non-hydrogenated margarine is not natural, and a bit scary when you really think about it!


Tips

  • You can find coconut oil at most health food stores
  • When choosing coconut oil, ensure that you are buying virgin coconut oil that has not been altered in any way, including having been heated or bleached
  • Look for non-GMO and organic coconut oil
  • I split-up my coconut oil so that I have some in the pantry (oil) and some in the fridge (solid)
  • If you need to liquefy you coconut oil, simply place your container in a bowl of hot water and stir – you may need to replace the water a few times depending on the size of your container and how much oil you’re trying to melt
  • Remember: it’s still a fat, so you don’t want to go overboard with the stuff!

Coconut Oil

Uses

  • We all know that eating raw veggies is best, but when you must fry them, try using coconut oil instead of vegetable, soy, or canola (rapeseed) oil – it has a higher “smoke point” so it doesn’t degrade as much with heat
  • Try using solid coconut oil as a replacement for margarine (or butter) in your baked goods – it is especially great in crisps and crumbles (I have a great recipe coming soon!)
  • For your body:
    • Rub  coconut oil on your skin after a bath or shower to relieve dry skin
    • I’ve heard that it’s great for many skin conditions including rosacea, acne and dry scalp
    • Use it to shave your legs – no moisturizer needed!
    • Use it to deep-condition your hair
    • Dap it on a cotton ball and use it as an eye makeup remover (because it’s an oil, it will remove waterproof makeup)
  • It’s great for pets too!
  • For more info, read: 10 Amazing Things You Can Do With Coconut Oil
  • Check out my recipes using coconut oil

Q: What are your favorite uses for Coconut Oil?



15 Comments

  1. Jem says:

    Oh my, you are talking about all of the best stuff on your blog. My wife and I discovered coconut oil a few months ago and it is completely amazing.

    It’s anti{viral,fungal,bacterial}. Meaning it’s great to wash vegies (like your snail-chard) and treat skin conditions with.
    It is a great sunscreen
    It treats sunburn and burns in general (though for serious burns I’d recommend solocite and a trip to the doctor).
    It greatly diminishes inflammation from insect bites.
    Mixed with peppermint oil it is an insect repellent.
    It repairs crusty dry kneecaps. (First hand experience, sorry for the graphic description).
    It works well for massages.
    It smells fantastic.
    It tastes AWESOME, especially in a stir fry.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Jem – Thanks for your kind words! :) Yes, I’ve only discovered it in the last 6 months or so myself and it’s slowly taking-over, ha ha! But WOW, that’s an awesome list – I didn’t know about most of those things… sunscreen? insect repellent? That’s so amazing! THANKS so much for that info :)

      Reply
  2. I use coconut oil and butter in recipes as well as for body care. I use it on my hair and skin most often. In recipes, this week alone (junk food week) I made a raw vegan chocolate pudding, popped popcorn, made a raw vegan banana cake with chocolate frosting and a strawberry fool/mousse all using coconut butter or oil.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Carole, thanks for your comments. Those recipes sound awesome! I’ve never tried it on popcorn… will definitely try that!

      Reply
  3. I LOVE coconut oil!

    I use it everyday for cooking. In fact, it’s the only cooking oil one should use!

    I use it to preserve my skin and retard wrinkling! ;)
    Before going in the sun or after, to keep the skin hydrated.

    Just like that Frank’s Red hot sauce…

    Coconut oil, I put that **** on everything!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Mathieu – Thanks for your comments! I’ve been using it on my body but I think it’s time that I start using this stuff on my face too! Ha ha, you could be the coconut oil spokesman! :)

      Reply
  4. Mmmm…love coconut everything. :) I like to make peanut butter magic shell by mixing melted coconut oil with nut butter (any kind), and then pouring it over frozen banana soft serve. It hardens within a minute and makes a delicious candy shell. Yum. I’ve also made apple crisp using coconut oil instead of butter or margarine. I blogged about it awhile back – it was yummy! Great post Angela! And I love Dr.Mercola. I wish more people in the states would listen to him.

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Lindsay – Thanks for your comments! I saw your magic shell post a while back, sounds yummy. Not that I need another vehicle for consuming peanut butter, haha! I have a yummy crisp coming this week with coconut oil… I totally love how it came out and no need for margarine!! Yes, Dr. Mercola is awesome!!

      Reply
  5. Sandra says:

    Thanks for this post, love coconut oil. I’ve been using it in my cooking, especially in daals and loving it on my skin. Feels great, smells delicious!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Sandra – good to hear from you and thanks for your comment. I really need to start using it more in my beauty routine – everyone is raving about it (and I do love that coconut smell!)

      Reply
  6. Kiran says:

    Thanks for dispelling the myths!
    Your site is amazing and I love your recipes. I’m just starting to experiment with Vegan cooking and especially raw foods. You’ve been a fabulous help!
    Thankyou!!!

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      You’re so very welcome and thank you for the kind comments :)

      Reply
  7. debra dobbs says:

    I love everthing coconut, butter,milk, oil. I’ve seen coconut flour but have not tried it. Got any recipes for that?

    Reply
    • vegangela says:

      Hi Debra – Not really. I’ve tried substituting coconut flour in a few things, and they’ve turned out really dry and dense. If you come across a good vegan recipe using coconut flour, please post it here :)

      Reply
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