Where to begin!
Coconut oil, which comes from the edible, fleshy “meat” of a coconut, “is one of the healthiest of all dietary oils, if not the healthiest,” says The Coconut Oil Miracle author Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. (And he would, wouldn't he? But seriously, it's all true.)
“It can boost energy levels, stimulate metabolism, help balance blood sugar, support brain and eye function, battle bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, reduce inflammation, and much more,” says Fife. That means it’s fantastic for making salad dressings, cooking, baking, skincare, hair repair, first aid—the list goes on.
Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. “Coconut oil is a rare ‘saturated medium chain fatty acid’—almost all other natural fats we consume are long-chain,” explains nutritionist/trainer Noelle Tarr, N.T.P., of coconutsandkettlebells.com. So, instead of being stored like other fats in the body, its fatty acids go straight to the liver to be to be burned as energy. “That’s what sets it apart as a nutritional powerhouse,” says Tarr, adding that some studies suggest it may even increase endurance and improve performance. Plus, coconut oil’s primary form of saturated fat, lauric acid, has antibacterial properties, can help fight inflammation, boost immunity, and even lower cholesterol.
But which type of coconut oil to use?
There are two basic types, says Tarr: refined and unrefined. “Refined oil is extracted from dried coconut meat, then bleached with clays and deodorized,” says Tarr. “But even though some nutrients are lost, refined oil from a reputable source is a great option if you don’t like the taste of coconut” or don’t want to taste it in a dish you’re making.
“Unrefined oil comes from fresh coconut meat, and isn’t bleached, deodorized, or exposed to any kind of chemicals, so it has phytonutrients and polyphenols, which are lost in the refining process,” says Tarr. “It’s great when you want all the oil’s beneficial nutrients, or are using it for skin care.”
For ways to take your first crack at using coconut oil, go to mensfitness.com/coco.