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Coconut Oil: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, Uses
Coconut oil is plant-based tropical oil which is derived from the flesh of coconuts. It is available in both virgin and refined forms. Refined coconut oil, also known as all-purpose coconut oil, goes through processing which gives it a more neutral smell and flavour. Virgin coconut oil is less processed and preserves the sweet tropical flavour of the coconut.
It is one of the most controversial cooking oil. Some nutrition experts embrace coconut oil for the nutritional benefits it offers, however, some experts may refer to it as a potential artery- clogger for the high saturated fat in the oil. If we consume coconut oil in moderation like any other saturated fat, we can derive its benefits and may use it as an alternative to animal fats like butter or lard.
Nutrition Facts of Coconut Oil
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nutrition facts for a one-tablespoon serving of coconut oil are as follows −
Quantity in grams (g)
The nutritional profile of coconut oil is similar to other cooking oils like olive oil. A single tablespoon of coconut oil almost meets the American Heart Association’s recommended 13 g per day limit on saturated fat if your daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories per day.
Coconut oil does not contain carbohydrates even though it is plant-based oil. The saturated fatty acids in this oil are mostly composed of lauric acid and may offer health benefits. Additionally, coconut fruit has micronutrients which can help you in many ways. Let us understand the health benefits of coconut oil.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil may not be good for heart health as it has saturated fats. People who are not at risk of heart disease may consume coconut oil in moderation to reap its health benefits. The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of coconut oil may improve oral, skin and hair health along with promoting weight loss. Here are the evidence-based health benefits of coconut oil.
May Protect Hair Damage
Coconut oil can deeply penetrate hair strands and increase the strength of hair. This prevents hair from breaking under tension and makes them more flexible. Research conducted in 2021 recommended that coconut oil can be applied to the scalp to promote healthy bacteria which can decrease flaking and result in the reduction of dandruff in hair.
May Boost Skin Health
The lauric acid present in coconut oil's saturated fats has antimicrobial properties which may benefit the skin. Many people recommend its usage for cosmetic purposes to enhance the health and appearance of the skin. Likewise, coconut oil can boost the moisture content of dry skin and improve its functioning. It prevents excessive water loss from the skin and protects the skin from external factors like chemicals, allergens and other infectious agents.
A recent study stated that you can apply six to eight drops of virgin coconut oil on your hands and leave it overnight to prevent your dry skin from frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Additionally, coconut oil may reduce the severity of mild to moderate symptoms of atopic dermatitis. It is a chronic skin disease caused by skin inflammation and improper skin barrier functioning.
May Augment Oral Health
The antibacterial properties of lauric acid react with saliva to form a soap-like substance in the mouth and prevent cavities. It may also reduce dental plaque buildup and gum inflammation. Another use of coconut oil for maintaining oral hygiene can be oil pulling. This process involves swishing coconut oil in the mouth like a mouthwash to kill the harmful bacteria in the mouth. However, limited evidence is available on the effectiveness of coconut oil in oil pulling and this process cannot replace dental therapy.
May Encourage Fat Burning
Coconut oil has medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are a type of saturated fat. Some studies claim that consuming MCTs may increase the number of calories the body can burn and thereby promote weight loss. However, limited evidence is available to prove the same. Alternatively, coconut oil is high in calories and may easily lead to weight gain if consumed in large amounts.
Apart from the above-mentioned health benefits, there is one more benefit. Coconut oil remains stable under heat and does not create harmful compounds like free radicals when it is used in cooking.
Use of Coconut Oil in Cooking
Coconut oil can be used in stir-fries, to cook eggs, for making popcorn and in baked foods. You can choose virgin or refined coconut oil as per your taste preferences. Some people may also prefer to add a few drops of coconut oil to their coffee. Alternatively, you can also spread a small amount of flavourful virgin coconut oil on toast and have it in the morning for breakfast. Adding a dollop of coconut oil to a smoothie may also give it a unique taste.
You can try any of the below-mentioned recipes that use coconut oil −
Coconut Waffles − This is a whole wheat breakfast recipe which uses minimal sugar and maintains sweetness.
Thai Chicken Curry − Mix coconut oil in a chicken curry to give it a tropical flavour and serve it with brown or white rice.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut oil − You can bake your favourite chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil and saviour your taste buds.
Vegan Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk − The grated coconut can be squeezed to get coconut milk and you can add this to a Vegan soup. Serve the hot soup with a slice of whole-grain bread and enjoy a delicious meal.
Banana Chips − Peel the skin of the raw banana and slice to medium thickness. Transfer the slices into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Pour some water into this bowl and give it a good stir. Drain off the water and now deep fry the banana slices in hot coconut oil on medium flame. Drain off the crisp chips over kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
Use of Coconut Oil in Beauty Routine
Use coconut oil on your hair as an in-shower mask to boost the moisture of your hair or smooth a bit on your dry hair to tame frizz. The antimicrobial properties of coconut oil may support scalp health and treat dandruff.
Coconut oil can be used as a lip balm or as a body moisturizer as well. Research has proved that people suffering from atopic dermatitis or eczema which are inflammatory skin conditions can apply coconut oil on the skin to relieve their symptoms of redness and itchiness. This oil can clear staphylococcus aureus bacteria from the skin as it has antifungal and antiviral properties. Skin dryness in children as well as adults can also be relieved with coconut oil and it may not cause any major side effects.
Coconut oil has many health benefits, both when you add it to your diet or use it for cosmetic purposes. You should always consume oils and fats in moderation and the same is applicable to coconut oil. You can keep a jar tightly sealed in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. Virgin coconut may last up to two to three years while the refined version may last for a few months. If you notice any discolouration or unpleasant flavours, the oil should be discarded immediately.
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