Coconut oil has officially become the cure-all of our generation. From soothing burns, to moisturizing hair, to cooking, it appears to be the go-to panacea for the holistic-focused and health-conscious.
But just because you know you want to stock up on this cure-all doesn't mean you know exactly what kind is right for you. Organic? Refined? Virgin? Extra Virgin? It's easy to get confused and, at the end of the day, do any of these qualifiers really matter?
In order to avoid a potential existential crisis in while filling your cart, we turned to holistic nutrition expert, Jocelyne Eberstein, LAc, O.M.D. of eCenter Wellness to get the lowdown on coconut oil.
According to Eberstein, the benefits of coconut oil are vast and certainly worth the hype.
"Coconut oil is great for blood sugar regulation, improving gut function, aiding yeast infections and lowering cholesterol," she said. "It also contains lauric acid, caprice acid and caprylic acid, which make it anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.”
In short, coconut oil isn’t just healthy and full of nutrients, it’s also a natural germ-fighter. Not to mention, it acts as a low-carb energy source — "[once consumed], it goes straight to the liver and turns into energy," Eberstein explained.
And one more benefit to add to its rolodex of ridiculously healthy versatile properties: coconut oil is the only oil stable enough to withstand mild heat-induced damage while keeping the afore mentioned health properties intact.
But not all coconut oil is created equally. And the more popular this food becomes, the more the market is saturated with lower-quality varieties. To ensure you pick a healthy version, be on the lookout for the following labels.
Refined coconut oil is treated with chemicals and often derived from dried coconut flakes known as copra. Refined coconut oil isn’t necessarily bad for you, but it doesn’t offer the same nutrient content as its unrefined counterpart. Eberstein explained that while you should certainly seek an unrefined brand, you don’t need to worry about whether it’s labeled virgin or extra virgin, as there is “virtually no difference” between them.
Whenever possible, opt for a USDA-certified organic brand of coconut oil, as Eberstein affirmed that there is an “absolute difference” between the organic and non-organic varieties.
In order to meet the growing demand for coconut oil, more and more brands are turning to GMO’s and chemical additives to mass produce the product as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.
“When reading product labels, look out for words like hexane, deodorization, hydrogenation and bleaching. If you see any of these additives, move on. Your body can’t properly absorb these chemicals and they severely weaken the health benefits of pure, raw coconut oil,” Eberstein said.
Less is More
If you’re in the midst of shopping and your head starts to swell with the long list of dictionary-worthy terms to look out for, just remember the age-old truism — “less is more.” In other words, the shorter the ingredient list, the better off you are.
And now that you’re armed with enough coconut oil facts to write your own wiki page, it’s time to start putting that newfound knowledge to good use. Thrive Market carries all the best coconut oils on the market at wholesale prices so you can enjoy the benefits without breaking the bank. And if you need some tips on how to incorporate it into your diet, my holistic hero, The Wellness Mama, shares 101 practical and tried and true uses for your next coconut oil purchase. Which one will you try?
Photo credit: Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr