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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Can someone explain the deal with coconut oil?

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Lately it seems like everywhere I turn, someone is recommending that I buy coconut oil. It's been on more "must haves" and "essentials" lists than I can shake a stick at.

Normally I'm quick to jump on the latest health bandwagon. I have the half-finished packages of chia seeds and quinoa in the back of my pantry to prove it. But for some reason I don't quite get the hype surrounding coconut oil.

Recently we were at Trader Joe's and I saw coconut oil for sale.

"Should we get some?" I asked Frank, thinking of all the lists I'd read touting the stuff.

"What for?" he asked.

I couldn't think of a single thing to say!

For cooking, I've read that coconut oil can be better than olive oil when you're cooking over heat. But I've also read that it's much higher in saturated fat, which makes me question whether it's really that much of an improvement. Besides, we've been getting along fine using olive oil and butter.

For personal care, I've heard a lot of people recommend coconut oil for things like moisturizing skin. But I've been using regular lotions, eye make-up removers, moisturizers, and so on for years, with no problems. And to be honest with you, the thought of using the same jar of oil for cooking and then turning around to slather it on my baby's behind grosses me out a little bit. I mean, is it a food or a personal care product?

I stood there racking my brains, but I couldn't think of a single convincing argument in favor of buying the coconut oil. And I haven't been able to think of one since.

I don't know, guys. Am I missing something? What can I use coconut oil for that I can't just use regular olive oil or personal care products for? I can't be the only person out there confused about the coconut oil craze!

16 comments:

  1. I found coconut oil pretty handy after our son was born. I found it worked better for soreness from nursing than lanolin. And, I've heard it works wonders for diaper rash. We haven't had that problem (at least not yet), but I always have it handy just in case!

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    1. That's really good to know about using it for nursing soreness—that alone might be reason enough to buy it! Thanks for the tip. :)

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  2. I have a vegan friend who uses coconut oil to make popcorn. I imagine it would add an interesting flavor, but when I checked it out I concluded I wouldn't enjoy it. I use canola to make my popcorn (least amount of saturated fat), or olive oil when I'm being indulgent! I think most, if not all, "healthy" food crazes are just marketing ploys.

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    1. haha! Probably true. When I told Frank about oil pulling, which everyone seems to be into these days, he declared that he's going to invent his own weird health fad around a random food item so he can make money off it. :P

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  3. I love this question! When I read it, I laughed out loud because I had a vision of myself as Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail when he responds to Kathleen Kelly's question about business trouble (cracks knuckles and index finger dives to keyboard).

    Here's an article that does a good job loving on coconut oil but not going ga ga for it:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/dining/02Appe.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    And in response to the comment above: Canola oil has only been considered a "food" since like the 1950s at which point it hit the mainstream health market with a bang (much like coconut oil is today) because everybody started hating on saturated fats. I would argue that coconut oil is less of a trend than canola oil because at least coconut oil has been a food for a good long time...But I 100% support your decision not to use coconut oil to make popcorn. It tastes funny.

    And in answer to the final question: bake with it and get some lauric acid up in your system, and rub it on your baby's bum because it works and it smells good and it's relatively cheap ;)

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  4. I just try to use it instead of canola oil in baking, but I still use olive oil mostly when I'm cooking on the stove. And I have a separate jar to use for diaper rashes :)

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  5. I've used coconut oil instead of butter and olive oil (except for popcorn). Also I've used it as sunblock, and when I forget that part, it works great as skin repair after a sunburn. Also, it's great as an after-blow-drying hair moisturizer, and instead of lotion. We use the unsweetened, all-natural coconut oil, because the other stuff smells horrible.
    Country Girl’s Daybook ~ recently: Heaven is for Real review (release date April 16) http://bit.ly/1h0O6Rd

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    1. Good to know! I would definitely be interested in trying out the after-blow-drying use—somehow that always makes my hair so frizzy. And I'll remember to look for the unsweetened kind... maybe I'll just have to do a sniff test right there in the store!

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  6. I was told it is helpful in preventing the baby's meconium from sticking to their little bums :)

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  7. It does have saturated fat in it, but it's the good kind your body needs and uses. It's great for cooking at high temps. It's also moisturizing and anti-microbial, I use it on cuts and as an eye make up remover. I keep a jar in the kitchen and spoon some into a small old glass moisturizer jar for personal care us.

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    1. I like that you keep it in two separate jars—I think that's what I would do too. I do appreciate the anti-microbial properties... that's one of the biggest things that makes me want to at least try it out.

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  8. My sis just told me something about swishing it around in your mouth a few seconds/minutes daily to draw out all the negative stuff. LIke a mini cleanse? I dunno. Haven't googled that yet.

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  9. I'm so glad I'm not the only one mystified by this trend! I bought some at Trader Joe's to see what the fuss was about. Used it as a moisturizer - and my skin felt oily. Cooked stir fry in it - everything tasted coconutty, duh. I still want to attempt oil pulling though. Also, I read that it is the best thing for popcorn - all movie theaters use it.

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  10. I'll admit to being a fan of coconut oil! I don't use the same jar for everything- I buy a big container of organic virgin coconut oil online or from Costco and divvy up some of it into smaller containers to put in the bathroom and Margot's nursery.
    Ways we use it:
    1. as a diaper cream (it's naturally antifungal and can be mixed with a bit of tea tree oil to be antibacterial, too!); we use cloth diapers and conventional diaper creams can cause absorption/build up issues on cloth diapers.
    2. in place of canola oil in baking. canola oil is no bueno, and I find that you can't really taste the coconutty flavor if it's used in baked goods.
    3. in place of butter (sometimes). we have dairy issues in our family, so we try to limit the dairy for certain individuals.
    4. as a makeup remover and night time moisturizer. I know you've said you use conventional lotions with no issue, but I'd heartily recommend zipping over to the Skindeep Database and seeing if there aren't unwanted toxins in your beauty items. our skin really is our biggest organ and absorbs everything into our bloodstream! so, I try to use the simplest and most cost effective items possible.... and coconut oil fits the bill.
    5. in coffee- I use it in place of creamer! (blend a tsp of it in a mini blender with your everyday cup of joe. it emulsifies and makes coffee "creamy" with no dairy! and adds an extra boost of energy.) google Bulletproof coffee to find out more :)
    6. I love having things in my home that are multi use and not confined to one purpose, because it saves us money.
    7. not all fats are equal. Yes, coconut oil is saturated fat, but not hydrogenated. and it's a medium chain fatty acid, which is easily broken down by the digestive system, stimulates the metabolism, and doesn't cause an insulin spike. It's also good for the heart :)

    So, there you have it. My treatise in defense of coconut oil!

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    1. I second every. single. thing. in this comment.

      Also I might feel oily after using the coconut oil for moisturizing but my skin feels so soft when I wake up in the morning.

      Also when Sebastian was born we were gifted so many nice lotions and oils for him -- organic etc etc. Fancy stuff that's nicer than anything I've ver bought for myself. But I ended not using any of it because I became so conscious of putting strong smells on him and I was super over protective about what I used on his skin. It felt good to use the coconut oil because it was pure, organic, and the smell wasn't overpowering for his little self (or my big nose).

      Aaaaaaaand it tastes really good just straight.

      And last one -- I LOVE IT for popcorn.

      Done. Get you some, girl.

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  11. My skin and hair are very sensitive and dry. I use it as a make up remover, moisturizer and for hair and scalp treatments. I do like olive oil, but I think coconut oil is much lighter and absorbs more quickly.

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