Coconut Oil – Why’s everyone so nuts about it?

FUN FACT ABOUT THE COCONUT – The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means “monkey face” because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means “nut-bearing.”

In England you can’t go anywhere without hearing about coconut oil. We’re told to cook with it, put it in our hair, on our skin, and to drink it! It’s used a lot in health / vegan recipes as a binder when ingredients such as butter or egg have had to be admitted. It’s also seen as a healthier alternative to most cooking oils for pan-frying, especially as it has a high smoke point making it perfect for stir-fries.

It has become quite the fad with health food cooks and eaters, however the main problem is that this is not a cheap ingredient in the UK. Coconut oil, once overlooked in the supermarket, has now had its price tag multiplied. It’s now sold as a ‘new’ health product with implications that it’s going to change your life!

However, the oldest discoveries of the coconut are fossils that date back 55 million years ago, found in India and Australia. Furthermore, ‘coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders have long considered coconut oil to be the cure for all illness.’

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The Coconut Boss. Varkala, Kerala.

Personally I am quite sold on it. Slightly behind, I first discovered it while being massaged with it two years ago in India. I started using it as moisturiser while living there. Famously Indian women use it to keep their plait of shiny black hair looking so luscious. Over there, this product is being sold in 1 litre bottles for no more than a pound, this same amount sold in two smaller pots is an extortionate £30 at Holland and Barratt and probably more at Whole Foods! Everyones going crazy for it – a friend of mine gargles it in around her mouth for 10 minutes a day, she ensures me it will make her teeth whiter! You can only afford that if you live in India (it’s also really unpleasant to do). Also – fun fact – when used as sunbathing oil it apparently has a natural SPF of 6 – super handy!? There are claims it’s good for heart disease, seizures and promotes weight loss etc.


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Don’t mess with the coconut man. Varkala, Kerala.

‘Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties.’

But more interestingly ….

To cook with – As a really simple way of bringing coconut oil into your diet I would recommend using it firstly, when roasting any vegetables for a more interesting flavour. I once had kale roasted in the oven in coconut oil with sesame seeds until crisp, then finished off with cooked brown rice and soy – delicious. Secondly, try it as an alternative to butter in baking – I have tried with great success. Thirdly, try using it instead of your normal veg oil. You can get coconut oil with reduced flavour so that your dish isn’t smothered by it!

The strangest / most unusual uses that I’ve come across online are –

  1. Using it with apple cider as a natural treatment for lice – which works apparently.
  2. By itself as a natural deodorant – not sure about that one!
  3. Evidence suggests that regular ingestion of coconut oil can help prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s.
  4. As a natural lubricant that won’t disturb ‘vaginal flora’ – I’ll let you be the judge of that!
  5. It can be rubbed on the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Anyway, give it a go and let me know how it goes (if you can afford it in England)!

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Behind the coconut stall – A hard days work!


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