I’m not a big bandwagon type of person.
Either I find out about something first, or years after it starts to gain popularity I get into it.
However, when coconut oil started taking Pinterest by storm awhile back, I’ll admit, I was intrigued.
Some claimed it to be a miracle cure-all. Others said it was just full of bad, bad fat and using it was dumb. I’m usually very skeptical about natural remedies. I don’t use essential oils (they make me sick, every. single. time.). I believe in epidurals (the less pain, the better!). I should be better about buying organic foods. I’m nowhere near being a vegetarian (nor do I want to be one!).
And I was definitely skeptical about coconut oil. However, as I’ve learned more about it, and used it in my own life I’ve been very impressed with all that it can do!
Today, I am going to share with you some of those benefits, address some common concerns, and let you know where to buy it. At the end, I have an awesome roundup of 60 ways you can use coconut oil. During my research, I’ve found it hard to find articles that aren’t heavily balanced one way or another, so I’ve tried to present some information from both camps (those that love it, and those that don’t) to help you decide whether or not coconut oil is right for you.
Or, if you totally don’t care about the background information on coconut oil, feel free to skip to the end for all the uses for coconut oil I’ve compiled.
And, if you have any uses for coconut oil that I haven’t listed, please, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear more ways! Or, if you have more information about the health benefits of coconut oil that isn’t super biased, send that my way as well.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat or kernel of coconuts. It is used quite a bit around the world, especially in the tropical regions of the world where coconuts are plentiful. In the past, it has been shunned by the healthcare community, but recently it has been getting a lot more air time. The big question many are asking is: Is it good for you?
Coconut oil has a melting point of about 76 degrees, so it melts extremely quickly when you are cooking with it. It can be used in a variety of ways and for different purposes, and for the most part, can be substituted for any oil or butter that a recipe calls for. I’m pretty sure it is a 1:1 swap ratio for butter and other oils. It also has a higher smoke point than many oils, which makes it easier to fry with. That can get expensive though, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have the money to buy lots of coconut oil!
In addition to using for cooking, coconut oil is often used in making different toiletries (like shampoo and deodorants), household supplies (for cleaning, insect repellant, etc.), and much more.
Why Should I Use It?
Coconut oil is something that is lauded as a “cure all” in many communities, particularly the vegan world. While there is some debate to this, from what I’ve been able to tell, people do see results. Is it a miracle oil? Well, I don’t think anything is quite a cure all (unless, of course, you are the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Windex, anyone?), but I do think there’re a lot of great reasons to use it.
It is healthier than many animal fat-based oils, and it appears to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties that may help to fight illnesses as simple as colds, to much more serious viruses.
I’ll show a lot of different ways that coconut oil can be used below, both for food, beauty products, and more. If you suffer from certain health problems, and you are getting frustrated (which is easy, I know), coconut oil is being used to help many different ailments — from acne to digestive problems, to possibly Alzheimer’s. I’ve had friends tell me that coconut oil deodorant is the only kind that has ever helped them. I was especially interested in this use, because I recently read an article about how antiperspirants are linked to causing breast cancer!
Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Other Concerns
You may have heard that coconut oil is high in saturated fat. And, well, that is correct. Extra virgin coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is a lot, especially when you think about how we are always told to avoid too much saturated fat. But, one thing many people don’t understand is that not all saturated fats are the same. Coconut oil has different types of fatty acids than other oils do, where more than half are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These can be metabolized rather quickly, which helps you feel more full, more quickly. Which, obviously, can lead to weight loss. Some claim that coconut oil does help you lose weight. I haven’t quite experienced that, but I’ve also been eating way too many Hi-Chews lately… So yeah. ANYWAYS.
According to this article, “multiple studies on Pacific Island populations who get 30-60% of their total caloric [intake] from fully saturated coconut oil have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.” It does make you wonder if this has an effect on their health.
I won’t go into all the details about the differences between coconut oil and other oils, but feel free to read that article I referenced in the previous paragraph. It states some interesting information. I’m not totally sure how biased that website is, so here is an article from WebMD. It gives some interesting information as well, that will help you make a decision about whether or not coconut oil is right for your diet. WebMD is my go-to website for health information, and I trust just about anything I find there. Except, you know, when it says I probably have about 10 different diseases.
Another concern that some have about coconut oil is the rumor that it raises cholesterol. While yes, it may raise total cholesterol, you have to look at what type of cholesterol is raised. There are two types — LDL and HDL. If your LDL levels are high, that’s not good, but you actually want your HDL levels to be higher. And it is being shown that coconut oil may in fact help raise HDL levels. So, obviously if the HDL levels are increasing, so will the total cholesterol level. If you want more information on this issue, this article does a good job of explaining it. Of course, that website looks like it is a distributor of coconut oil, so it probably does have a bias, but it did seem like a well-thought out article.
From what I have gathered, the general consensus is, as it is with most things, use it in moderation. Your caloric intake shouldn’t contain more than 10% saturated fats. Still use other vegetable based oils for some cooking. Don’t go overboard. I wouldn’t throw out all the butter and oil in your house, and stock up on a lifetime supply of coconut oil, unless you plan on using it in things other than food as well. I do hope to see more research come out about coconut oil. Hopefully it will all be good.
Even If You Don’t Eat It…
What Kind Should I Buy?
Not all coconut oil is created equally.
You will either buy refined or unrefined coconut oil. When it is refined, it means that it can be used at a slightly higher temperature. It also doesn’t have much of a taste, or odor. They are easier to cook with than the unrefined coconut oil, but it doesn’t offer all of the same health benefits. Be very careful when buying refined coconut oil, though, and pay specific attention to the ingredients. Many refined coconut oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated…which basically, would be like eating trans fat (which is not good!). Oftentimes, refined coconut oil is refined using a chemical distillation process that has ill effects on the oil. So, if I were you, I wouldn’t buy this kind.
Unrefined coconut oil is my favorite, and you can usually tell it’s refined if the label says it is virgin, or extra-virgin. The flavor can be intense, depending on the brand you buy. They are made from fresh coconut, and there isn’t anything added to it. These are often more expensive, but in my opinion, it’s worth the extra cost.
Coconut oil can be expensive, so I recommend shopping around before you make a decision. I’m a big fan of the Nutiva brand – you can buy it at various places, but Costco is usually where I find it. Thrive Market is having a deal right now where you can get a free jar of Nutiva coconut oil (just pay $1.95 shipping) plus $15 off your next order.
Just be sure to follow some of the guidelines above, and you should be good to go. One thing I thought was weird at first was that it was solid! But, it melts so quickly, it really doesn’t make a difference. You can buy fractionated coconut oil, which is already liquid, but I have never used that kind, or even seen it.
Ways to Use Coconut Oil
Now, here are some of the ways you can put coconut oil to work! I’ve split it into different sections, and for the tips and ideas that don’t have a picture, I sometimes have included a link with more information. If you love any of these ideas, be sure to go to the actual site and pin that. However, if you want to pin this entire collection, please pin the image at the beginning of this post!
~Treatment for eczema: I have heard from several people that coconut oil is the only thing that works on either their own, or their family’s, skin. It’s definitely worth a try. Jack has a very mild case of eczema, and I have been meaning to try it out on him. Make sure it’s unrefined and extra-virgin coconut oil, and that it is liquid. Only use a small amount! You don’t need to wipe it off, as it is just similar to using lotion
~Helps with vitamin absorption: As I’ve mentioned before, I have a severe vitamin D deficiency, that seems to be resistant to supplements. While we are not totally sure why my body isn’t absorbing the vitamin, I’m getting very frustrated (mainly because the specialist I was referred to won’t call me back!) The website linked to for this section describes a study done with coconut oil and vitamin absorption in animals. Seems like it is worth a shot.
~Oil Pulling: Have you heard of this? I thought it was a bit cooky when I heard about it, but I’ve trying it lately after my sister said she liked it. Basically, you swish around coconut oil in your mouth for about 15 minutes. It is supposed to help whiten your teeth, freshen them, and kill bacteria. I have tried it when my teeth were hurting from some recent dental work, and I feel like it helped with the pain. Just make sure you don’t swallow it and rinse your mouth well – you don’t want to ingest the toxins it “pulled” out of your body!
~Thyroid Health: Around 20 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder. For those suffering from hypothyrodism, coconut oil may be able to help them. Be sure to read the post I linked to for more information.
~Alzheimer and Dementia Treatment: Now, this is one I’ve been particularly interested in. Members of my family have suffered from these diseases, and they are devastating. If there could be anyway to help slow, or even reverse, the effects of this disease, that would be amazing. There isn’t a lot of information yet about this, though Dr. Oz did talk about this, and it is getting more attention. I would love for more research to be done into seeing if this is a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s. Some of the stories I read did sound pretty remarkable. (Though, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!”)
~Cradle Cap: Just apply small amounts of the liquid coconut oil to the areas of a baby’s head affected by cradle cap. Doing this right after bath time is preferable.
~Heartburn, Indigestion, and/or Acid Reflux: You guessed it — I have terrible acid reflux. It started during my third trimester of pregnancy, and unfortunately, never went away. Jack also has it pretty badly. Working with my doctor, we are trying to find a medication that works for me, yet have yielded no results. However, I have noticed when I add a little bit of coconut oil to whatever I am eating, it does help a lot. Some will claim that coconut oil actually causes their heartburn…so I guess proceed with caution.
~Ear Infections: I don’t know why, but whenever I read something on Livestrong.com, I just trust it. Ha. Anyways, I thought this information was way interesting. As someone who had to give her child way too many antibiotics (which caused him to get c. diff,) for ear infections, I wish I had known about alternate ways to treat them. This link gives you the exact instructions on how to use coconut oil, and two garlic cloves, to treat an ear infection. This is probably one of my favorite uses I’ve found for coconut oil!
~H. pylori: You are finding out all about my health problems today, aren’t you? Back in October, I found out that I had an H. pylori infection, which was causing stomach ulcers. We never determined whether or not that was resolved, but I have a feeling it wasn’t. However, I am not keen on doing the treatment again (about 15 days of really heavy duty antibiotics.) So when I read about coconut oil possibly being able to kill the infection, I was so excited. It’s worth a shot!
~Acne: This site just talks about the benefits of coconut oil and acne. I’ve listed several facial scrubs above that you can make, or you can just apply it just in the simple, liquid form.
~Digestive Disorders: Once again, this stood out to me. Both Jack and I have some undiagnosed (yet) digestive issues. Since I’ve been putting about 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil in my oatmeal each morning, I have noticed a difference. I’m not totally convinced it’s because of the coconut oil, but it’s definitely a possibility.
A few other ideas:
~Put a small amount on popcorn instead of butter (tastes the same, if not better)
~Make garlic bread (so yummy!) or just on plain toast.
~Put 1/2-1 teaspoon of coconut oil in oatmeal
~Put on vegetables — any kind!
~Remember, a little bit goes a long way!
Beauty and Cleaning:
~Remove Labels and residue left behind
~Condition Wood Cutting Boards
~Furniture Polish: Mix coconut oil with a little bit of lemon juice. Safe for wood!
~Can be used to prevent or remove wrinkles
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor so don’t take any of this as medical advice. I have compiled information from my own research, but I suggest you do the same, as well as consult with a doctor before making coconut oil a permanent part of your diet, or as a treatment for health problems. I am not responsible in any way for any side effects a person may experience by using coconut oil. Also, this post may contain affiliate links.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.