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.
1. Salad Dressing
Mix 2 parts olive oil, 1 part coconut oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, a dollop of Dijon mustard and a squirt of organic honey for the tastiest, healthiest dressing ever.
2. Cooking & Baking
A stable fat, coconut oil can be used for sautéing, stir-frying, coating pans so they’re nonstick, and swapping in for vegetable oil when baking. (Before mixing, heat it gently until it’s liquid (coconut oil gets solid at around 76°), and make sure the other ingredients are also at room temp.)
Coconut oil makes a great body and face moisturizer for all skin types; it can also be applied topically to treat some skin conditions, like certain types of acne. As with all oils, it’s best to spot test it on your face first.
4. Hair repair
Massage it into scalp and leave for at least 20 minutes to mend hair damage and scalp dryness.
5. First aid
Studies suggest that coconut oil may speed up the healing of cuts and scrapes.
Coconut oil is rich, smells nice, and doesn’t dry out or get “sticky” with friction. Offer to give your partner a massage and see where that leads.
7. Best-ever berry topping
Mix 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil with 2.5 tablespoons of cacao or cocoa powder and a smidge of honey. Pour over frozen berries. You will not regret this.