Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Coconut Oil - A Healthy Alternative

Coconut oil has long been touted as a natural health remedy as well as a healthy addition to any diet.  In recent history, we have been trained that unsaturated fats are good for us and saturated fats are bad, but more and more studies are showing this just isn't true.  While saturated fats may be harder to burn and should not make up a majority of your diet, they are more natural and better for your body than many of the polyunsaturated vegetable oils that have saturated the market in recent years.

Here are a number of ways coconut oil can benefit you:

Coconut Oil squircle
Coconut Oil (Photo credit: Ennor)
Skin - Coconut oil is a great multipurpose skin care item.  Like many other oils, it is great to use for massages, but also provides moisture for your skin.  It can also be used to treat certain skin infections like acne and eczema.  It contains antioxidants that help neutralize skin-damaging free radicals and has even been shown to help prevent wrinkles! Coconut oil is also great for sunburns - I got a pretty bad one earlier this summer, and used coconut oil on it for several days - I didn't peel at all.

Hair - Massage coconut oil gently into the scalp or even use it as a conditioner.  Not only is this oil treatment good for your hair, it also has essential nutrients to keep your hair strong and healthy.  It will help stimulate hair growth, moisturize your hair and scalp, and leave your hair looking beautifully shiny.  It can even help get rid of lice and their eggs.

Stress Relief - To help ease fatigue and regenerate yourself, apply coconut oil to the head and then gently massage.  You’ll feel better and ready to go.

Heart Health - While it does contain saturated fats, coconut oil also contains quite a bit of lauric acid, which helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure - contrary to popular opinion.  Coconut oil can also help prevent other heart issues.

Weight Loss - Sure, coconut oil contains fat (all oils do), but coconut oil actually has less fat than many commonly used cooking oils.  And the fats in coconut oil are more easily converted into energy rather than being stored.  It also helps your body absorb more essential nutrients from other foods to keep your body in tip-top shape. (Interesting Note: Before grain became a staple for livestock feed, many livestock owners - especially in South and Central America - used to feed their cattle with coconut husks, which contain a good amount of oil. The cattle were very healthy, but not very fat, which meant it took longer to get them ready to sell, and they were smaller. Then they discovered that if they fed the cows corn instead, they gained a LOT more weight - much faster. The rest is history. But this does have interesting implications if you look at the rate of obesity in this country....)

English: Coconut oil in solid state
Coconut oil in solid state (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Immunity - Coconut oil contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds that help fight diseases before they can take hold so you stay healthy and get sick less often.

Infection - The same properties in coconut oil that keep you from getting sick can also help heal or slow illnesses once you get them.  Coconut oil not only has antibacterial properties to help fight normal infections, it has also been shown to help viral infections including HIV.  It helps when taken internally, but it can also be applied to cuts and bruises to speed healing and form a protective barrier to prevent infection and other irritants from getting in.

Digestion - The antibacterial properties of coconut oil also help soothe irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders.

These are just a few of the health benefits of coconut oil that have been discovered.  Coconut oil has been shown to have a lot more benefits as well, and is believed by some to do everything from preventing liver disease to strengthening your teeth. Try replacing your cooking oils with coconut oil. Be sure to choose extra-virgin, and organic is best. Fresh coconut oil should have a light, coconutty scent. If it has no scent it's probably old, and won't be as effective. It's also great for baking - however, I've found it tends to make baked goods light and fluffy, rather than chewy, so keep this in mind depending on what you are baking. Coconut oil keeps at room temperature for many months if well sealed, but you may also refrigerate it if you like.
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