Virgin coconut oil: Why it's healthy and how to use it

Coconut oil is grabbing lots of attention lately. Supermodels and celebrities swear by it, downing tablespoonfuls every day to maintain flawless skin and glossy hair. And scientists are studying its disease-fighting powers.

Healthy oils—like virgin coconut oil—are essential to a fast metabolism, too. Here's how to buy it and try it:

Stick with virgin coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil is the good stuff. It's pressed directly out of fresh or newly dried coconuts. It's a unique oil:

  •  Virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants (ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid, and Vitamin E) that are terrific for skin and can even help wounds heal.
  • It contains lauric acid, a rare fatty acid (found in breast milk, but hardly anywhere else) that boosts immunity and metabolism.
  • Unlike most other fats, virgin coconut oil contains mostly medium-chain fatty acids. Your liver metabolizes these faster than regular long-chain fats, so you're more likely to burn coconut oil for energy—and less likely to store it as fat. It's a saturated fat, but a healthy one. (Read more here about good and bad fats.)

    In The Fast Metabolism Diet, we use coconut and coconut oil—along with other healthy-fat foods like salmon, avocado, nuts, eggs, and olive oil—to fuel your metabolic fire in Phase Three.

    Avoid refined coconut oil, though. It's usually chemical-laden, bleached, deodorized, and sometimes partially hydrogenated, which creates artery-clogging trans fats. Refining destroys a lot of the healthy antioxidants and essential fatty acids, too.

    How does it taste?

    Crack open a jar of virgin coconut oil, and you'll immediately smell fresh coconut. It tastes mild and faintly sweet.

    Here are a few ways to try it:

    • Stir it into your morning oatmeal.
    • Sub it for butter. Virgin coconut oil stays solid at room temperature, but melts when it gets a little warm, so you can spread it on sprouted-grain toast or English muffins.
    • Melt it over sweet potatoes, butternut squash—any cooked veggie, really. It's fantastic with bitter greens like kale.
    • Sauté or grill with it. Your food will pick up the faint coconut taste—think coconut shrimp, chicken stir-fry, and grilled pineapple.

      Other ways to use coconut oil

      The kitchen isn't the only place you can use virgin coconut oil. It's great as a skin moisturizer or hair balm. It makes a fine eye-makeup remover and can even be used for diaper rash. There's a nice article on the Wellness Mama blog, "101 Uses for Coconut Oil" that includes tips and links to skin-care recipes.