Virgin coconut oil: the unsung hero

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By Savitha V

Coconut oil was, for the longest time, the black sheep in the oil family, left in the corner to contemplate upon all the evil fats it came with. But, over the last few years, new studies have turned the spotlight on this humble fellow, and nudged it to ever-increasing popularity.

The reason it was shunned for so long and considered harmful was because of its very high content of saturated fats. But, in recent years, research has revealed that virgin coconut oil is a source of healthy fats, is heart healthy, and helps in improving metabolism. The refined and processed varieties of coconut oils are still considered a less healthy option, though the world has more or less embraced virgin coconut oil (organic and otherwise).

Coconut oil, which has been in use in many Asian countries for thousands of years, is now finding a place in kitchens across the world. If you were to look up home remedies for, say, dry skin, pimples or split ends, you will be inundated with posts on virgin coconut oil.

What makes it special?

For long it was thought that coconut oil causes heart disease, but studies have shown that virgin coconut oil in fact boosts heart health and controls problem issues like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It supports optimal functioning of thyroid glands, improves metabolism and digestion, and is even thought to be effective in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these medical benefits, though, are still being researched and there is no real proof aboutthe oil’s efficacy.

Virgin coconut oil maintains nutrients even when heated to high temperatures. This makes it a good option for cooking and beats refined oils in nutrient content. With its high content of lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids, and other acids, coconut oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. With this oil in your diet, your immune system also gets a boost.

Uses

As mentioned earlier, it is used widely in several Asian countries (India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc.) as a cookingmedium. It is, in fact, becoming a healthier option as opposed to manyrefined oils. In cold regions, where the oil is solid and creamy at room temperature, it is used as a spread instead of butter and margarine. For vegans, it also stands in as a tea or coffee creamer.

When it comes to skin and haircare, organic virgin coconut oil is as versatile as it comes. Need to treat dandruff? Try it on your scalp. Need a leave-in conditioner for your tresses? Apply a few drops of the oil. Heading out into the sun? This could double up as your sunscreen. Forgot your sunscreen and got burnt? Dab on some virgin coconut oil. Worrying about your baby getting diaper rashes? Moisturise baby’s skin with the oil. Fancy a massage? Coconut oil makes for a great massage oil; add a few drops of an essential oil to add a twist of aromatherapy.

Quick-fix beauty tips

  • For healthy hair, massage virgin coconut oil into your scalp twice a week. Leave in for 30 minutes to an hour before washing.
  • Fix dry skin and sunburn rashes with a dab of the oil. Also try out a facemask of virgin coconut oil, honey and ground oatmeal.
  • Chapped lips in winter? Make yourself a lip scrub with sugar, virgin coconut oil and honey.

Have you tried using organic virgin coconut oil? Share your experience with us.

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