Photo by Koshy Koshy
The first time I opened a container of coconut oil, I thought, “What is that?” When you’re used to cooking with vegetable or canola oil, or using conventional lotions and beauty products, coconut oil can seem a little intimidating at first.
But whether you’re using it for baking or for beauty care, coconut oil is one of the most multifunctional natural products that you can buy. Although it isn’t cheap, you can find good deals when you buy it in bulk, and it will be worth it, because once you discover all of the great things you can use coconut oil for, you’ll want to make sure that you stock up on it!
What is coconut oil?
• Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it looks kind of like chunky shortening, which was one of the reasons I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first. But, because of it’s low melting point, 76 degrees, it is easily melted for use in cooking and baking. And because it’s solid, it also makes it a great ingredient for personal care products like homemade deodorant and lotion.
• Coconut oil is naturally very shelf stable; it is not prone to oxidation and rancidity like many other conventional cooking oils today. It used to be regularly used in baked goods and items like packaged cookies and crackers to help extended their shelf life, before hydrogenated oils took over. It’s shelf stability is due to it’s high concentration of saturated fats though, which caused it to be lumped in with the other saturated fats, and labeled as unhealthy, many years ago.
• Coconut oil is actually one of the most healthy fats. It is one of the best sources of lauric acid (also found in breast milk) and it has natural anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It is making a comeback though, as more and more people are understanding all the benefits and uses of this unique oil.
There are two main different types of coconut oil that you can buy.
1. Unrefined coconut oil retains a little bit of the taste and smell of coconuts, as well as all the beneficial properties of the oil. It is usually labeled as “virgin” and “unrefined”. You can sometimes find unrefined coconut oil in the health and beauty section of a big box store, as well as at natural and health food specialty stores and online.
2. Refined coconut oil is just that, refined. It has been processed and bleached to remove the smell and taste of coconuts, and has lost many of the beneficial qualities as well. This type of coconut oil is cheaper than unrefined, and you can find it by the other oils, like olive and canola, in the cooking section at the grocery store.
I buy and use both refined and unrefined coconut oil for different things. My opinion is that you get what you pay for with coconut oil. I think the refined oil is fine to use in some situations, and you can save money by using the less expensive refined oil in this way. But, I also think that the benefits of unrefined coconut oil outweigh the cost, and in most cases, it is better to use unrefined coconut oil.
Photo by SingChan
The Many Uses of Coconut Oil
You can use coconut oil in place of almost any other oil in your cooking and baking. Just substitute it one for one in place of liquid oil or butter in a recipe. Unrefined coconut oil, that retains a little bit of the coconut taste, is great in baked goods. I love it in waffles, banana muffins, and pretty much any other quick bread or muffin, it would also be great in cookies.
To use coconut oil in baking, you usually want to melt it first, so it is in liquid form, and then add it to the recipe just like you would any other type of oil.
Coconut Oil works well for sauteing because it can withstand high heat. But, because of the flavor you have to be a little careful what you cook in it. I often use refined coconut oil for sauteing or frying when I want to make sure there’s no lingering coconut taste in my food.
You can also use it half and half with butter for sauteing and frying, it helps to add stability to the butter for high heat cooking, but you still get the great taste of butter on your veggies, or whatever else your cooking.
3. Adding to Foods
I got this tip from Healthy Snacks to Go, that adding a little bit of unrefined coconut oil helps to add a little bit sweetness to food, without having to add sugar. It’s also great for adding to things to boost their nutrition. I add a tablespoon or so to a bowl of oatmeal, with cinnamon, a little vanilla and frozen blueberries, and then I don’t have to add any brown sugar.
You can also add it to smoothies, but you want to melt it first and then pour it in as the blender is running to make sure it all gets blended in and doesn’t leave blobs of solid coconut oil in your drink. And if you’ve never popped popcorn on the stove top using coconut oil, then you are missing out on one of the finer things in life. It is so amazingly good! (I also go that method from Healthy Snacks To Go).
4. Personal Care Products
The uses for coconut oil in personal care products are only limited by your creativity. It can be use for so many things. Here’s a list of a few ideas:
- Homemade Deodorant
- Homemade Hand Lotion
- Homemade Lip Balm or Salve
- As a moisturizer for face or body
- As a hair gel, or to tame the frizzies (you just need a little bit!)
- For natural baby care – everything from diaper rash, to cradle cap, to moisturizer
- For healing dry skin spots or exzema
So go out and get yourself some coconut oil and see how many uses you can find for it around your home!
Do you use and love coconut oil? What is your favorite use for it?
If you are looking for a good place to buy quality coconut oil, I have to recommend Tropical Traditions. Their coconut oil is some of the best I have ever used, and they are always offering sales and free shipping so you can get a great deal on high quality unrefined coconut oil!
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