Go Nuts over Coconuts
By Meredith Cox, Health & Wellness Columnist
Coconuts. People seem to either love them or hate them; there is no in between. However, there are so many different uses for coconuts aside from just eating them. Some of the most beneficial features of these multifaceted fruits actually involve you not eating the coconut itself, but using its oil for other health practices. Hopefully this article will convince you to love coconuts and use them in unconventional ways, even if you do not like the taste.
Oil Pulling. Do not worry; this is not as painful as it sounds. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that requires you to take a tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth for about 20 minutes. It is believed to detoxify and clean the gums and mouth, improving oral hygiene by fighting against gingivitis and bad breath microorganisms.
20 minutes may seem like a long time, but this amount of time ensures that the oil is able to break through the plaque and bacteria found in our gums. It may be hard to start with a full 20 minutes of pulling, as the oil becomes thick and milky, so start out with 10 minute intervals, and increase from there. Afterwards, rinse with warm water and brush your teeth. This can be done once a day.
Lotion. Coconut oil acts as a great moisturizer. It is able to seal in moisture and keep your skin feeling soft for hours due to the saturated fats that limit water loss. However, this is not the type of hand cream you want to lather on when you are on the go. Use coconut oil on your skin when you are at home and have the time to let the thick oil absorb. Coconut oil is a common ingredient in many lotions already, but you can also just grab a dab from a jar of coconut oil and apply it directly to the skin.
Hair Care. Coconut oil acts as a great hair product, promoting optimal scalp health and overall hair strength. The composition of coconut oil, mainly the lauric acid, reduces the amount of protein lost by your hair from all of the harsh chemicals that it comes into contact with – think shampoos, conditioners, coloring treatments, hairsprays. This also aids in less breakage and dryness of hair. The oil can treat dandruff, protect against heat damage, and even be used as a styling product to tame frizz.
Try conditioning you hair with coconut oil twice a month. Warm two teaspoons of the oil in your palms, then apply it to your gently cleaned hair, starting at the ends and working your way to the scalp. Cover your hair with a shower cap and leave the oil on for one to two hours. After, gently shampoo your hair and style as usual.
Cooking. As mentioned before, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. This type of fat, when eaten in moderation, is actually a part of a balanced diet and can help you keep a healthy weight, as it aids in satiation. Using one to two tablespoons of coconut oil a day in your diet to replace calories from less nutritious sources can help with weight loss.
Another coconut product that you can swap in your diet is coconut water, which is a great substitute for sugary drinks. Finally, coconut flour has loads of fiber, so using that, or even coconut butter, in baked goods can add nutritional benefits and a nice flavor to some sweet treats.
So the next time you are in the grocery store, pick up a jar of coconut oil and test out some of these up and coming health practices.