Coconut Oil: Health and Hair Benefits

Coming from a South Indian family, specifically from Kerala, there's no way I am not going to talk about coconut and coconut oil!  This is a place where elephants hauling large coconut tree branches isn't anything unusual and cooking food without coconut (and curry leaves) is quite unimaginable to most people - so yes, I just had to do a post on coconut oil.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition

Coconut oil is extracted from the white portion inside the coconut.  There are different ways of getting this oil out, but I have always used organic extra virgin coconut oil - made by sun-drying coconuts and expeller pressing the oil out.  It's unrefined, and in my opinion, the best in terms of nutrient concentration.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition

To be quite honest, I have never been that crazy about coconut oil.  Sure it's a somewhat regular part of my haircare routine, but until recently I didn't consider it that important health-wise.  Turns out, all the people in Kerala who swear by this amazing oil are actually absolutely right and here's why:
  • Coconut oil has a high saturated fat content - as do most oils that solidify at slightly colder room temperatures.  Though these are generally considered unhealthy, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid that apparently helps lower unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Because of it's ability to withstand higher temperatures, coconut oil is one of the few oils (another being unrefined mustard oil) that is great for cooking at higher temperatures.
  • With it's skin conditioning benefits, coconut oil is great for dry skin.  Plus it's antiseptic properties do come in handy in fighting minor skin infections.
  • When it comes to haircare, the reason coconut oil is so wonderful is because it has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft and actually prevent protein loss that happens with frequent shampooing.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Healthy Haircare Skincare Benefits Nutrition
Coconut oil turns into an almost white solid product at cooler room temperatures.  This melts
quite easily into a clear water-like oil with just slight warming.

While finding a space for coconut oil in your cooking might take some getting used to (I have added some recipes at the end of the post if you do want to try), it's easier to incorporate it in your skin and haircare routine.  Here's two ways to do this:
  • Coconut oil skincare:  Replacing the daily body lotion with a light coconut oil moisturization when the skin is still damp is ideal but the smell might not be for everyone.  Easier thing to do - incorporate it in a DYI body scrub.  Just mix finely powdered sugar and coconut oil to make a smooth paste.  Scrub wet skin with this and wash off - no need for a moisturizer after this.
  • Coconut oil haircare:  This is something most Indian girls would know quite well - a prewash coconut oil treatment for hair.  Massage your scalp and hair with warm coconut oil.  Leave on for a minimum of 20 minutes (I go up to an hour).  Wash off as usual.  You might need to shampoo twice to get all the oil out, but over time your hair will thank you for this.
Do you have any fabulous ideas for health and/or beauty from ingredients that you would find easily enough in the kitchen?  Do share, and I would love to try them out :)

Some recipes that use coconut/coconut oil:
Pumpkin Mulakushyam (Pumpkins cooked in lentil and coconut sauce)
Cucumber Pachadi
Manga Pulisseri (Mango cooked in Yogurt Sauce)
Ishtu - Vegetables stewed in Ginger-Flavored Coconut Milk Sauce

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Note:  This article is not qualified medical advice - it's just information I have read and know of and what works for me.   Please consult a doctor before deciding to make changes in diet.