Achieve better living through coconut oil

I am naturally skeptical of any product that is purported to have dozens of diverse applications. I don’t think I’m alone in my preference for items that perform one specific task really well, over ones that have like 34 barely functional features. So, about a year ago, when a friend informed me of the many awesome applications of coconut oil, I felt an instantaneous twang of doubt, coupled with a reluctant sense of intrigue. But I did some research, and slowly started testing some of the supposed uses of coconut oil. Fast forward to today, and I’m using the stuff to cook, wash my face, flavor my coffee and boost my energy. I know, I sound like the “wait there’s more” guy, but before you dismiss this article as a sham, hear me out. It might wow you.

My culinary skills are pretty much limited to foods that can be seasoned and thrown on a grill or in the oven. It is a constant struggle to cook meals that are both healthy and tasty. In many cases, these qualities are mutually exclusive. For instance, my favorite dinner dish consists of chicken, sweet potatoes and asparagus. I like this dish because it is fairly healthy, but it can also be really bland. I got to a point where I was soaking the chicken and asparagus in butter, and piling a small mound of margarine onto my potatoes just to make the meal palatable. The pursuit of flavor was totally undermining the nutritious nature of my food. That’s when I heard about coconut oil.

Butter tastes so good because it is full of fat, and fat is pretty much synonymous with flavor. Fat absorbs and preserves the flavor of foods, making them taste better for longer. It also adds that savory texture. The drawbacks of fat are pretty well known, but not all fats are created equal. Coconut oil, like butter and chocolate, is high in saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature but melt delightfully in your mouth. The differentiating factor in coconut oil is that it is made up primarily of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), whereas most fats consist of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).

Our bodies are able to digest MCTs much more efficiently than LCTs, because they are smaller, and require less energy to use. MCTs get broken down by enzymes in our saliva, and get shipped directly to the liver, where they are quickly converted into usable energy. LCTs, on the other hand, have to travel to the pancreas to be broken down and reprocessed. From there, they are launched through the lymphatic system, and circulate our bodies via the bloodstream until they are absorbed into our tissues. Whereas we frequently store processed LCTs as body fat, MCTs are rapidly translated into energy, and burn up too fast to really accumulate. Because the mitochondria, or energy producers, in our cells can absorb medium chain fatty acids so quickly, they actually speed up our metabolism, creating a positive, fat-burning feedback cycle. Thus, coconut oil offers the delectable flavor of a saturated fat, without the accompanying guilt and regret come bathing suit season.

Along with being an excellent substitute for butter, and a generally great ingredient that can easily be added to improve most dishes, coconut oil also enhances the taste and the effects of coffee. Instead of diluting the taste of coffee with cream and sugar, try stirring in a spoonful of coconut oil. It complements coffee’s natural flavor by adding a rich, savory texture and a subtle, coconut aroma. Plus, those MCTs that burn fat also stimulate the production of ketone bodies, which are essentially high-octane fuel for the brain. According to a study published in the Neurobiology of Aging, a single 40 ml dose of MCTs produces enough ketone bodies to significantly and instantaneously improve cognitive ability. The study also revealed that MCTs in coconut oil are highly effective for preventing and combating Alzheimer’s.

I was skeptical about using coconut oil as a cosmetic, because I have really sensitive skin that is prone to acne breakouts and dry patches. Plus, it sounds counter-intuitive to think that lathering your skin in oil could actually clear it up. But, I’ve tried pretty much every other combination of face creams and moisturizers, so I figured, why not give it a shot? I’ve been using coconut oil as a face wash/moisturizer for about 3 months now, and it’s been really effective. The excess oil tricks your skin into thinking that it’s made too much, and so it slows down production, decreasing the amount of natural oil exuded from your pores. It also has antibacterial properties that afford you a deep cleanse, without that irritating, alchoholy feeling that characterizes most commercial face washes. It is important to use virgin, or unrefined coconut oil as a cleanser. It is all natural so you don’t have to worry about polluting your pores with chemicals.

Coconut oil is purported by its proponents to provide a plethora of additional applications, but I can only attest to the ones that I have tried myself. Some people apparently use this stuff the same way that the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding used windex. A short list of some of the unbelievable utilities of coconut oil include: deodorant, lice killer, yeast infection treatment, antidepressant, cure for cold-sores, hemorrhoid pain reliever, remedy for cellulite, and tooth whitener.