We begin our tour of the best natural ‘beauty foods’ with dreamy coconut oil…
Mother Nature provides the best, most effective beauty and health products, and more often than not they are a cheaper alternative to expensive creams, conditioners and toners. In this health and beauty series we’ll be discovering the best foods to utilise for your beauty regimes and (because we’re partial to snacking, cooking and baking) how to use the same food for inner health. It’s a holistic approach we’re going for and we’re kicking off with talk of the town: coconut oil.
Finally something so delicious we don’t mind adding it to our health and beauty regime – in fact we welcome it with open arms. Would we like to cleanse our bodies in a wholly natural, chemical free product and smell like an exotic pudding? Of course we would! That’s why coconut oil has us all enthralled, and why each time I open the jar to use it I look a little sceptically at the contents, and think how can this really be the answer?
Coconut oil has been a recent discovery for me – and I am joining the ranks who praise it to the skies. Just the thought of coconut conjures images of exotic beaches and clear, blue sea. In fact those who live in these tropical locations do eat a whole lot of coconut! The Tokelauans, who inhabit a small island in the South Pacific, are one of the healthiest populations on the planet and over 60 per cent of their diet comes from coconuts. While we can’t up sticks and move to a tropical island (much as we’d like to) we can take a leaf out of their book and look to coconut for health benefits.
So, we’ve been told coconut oil is now good for us. But why? Here comes the science…
There have been numerous studies conducted to test and discover the properties of coconut oil since it was banished from our cupboards a generation ago for daring to containing saturated fat. Coconut oil still contains a whopping 90 per cent saturated fat (compared to butter at 64 per cent) but after much poking and probing many scientists have delved into the ‘myths’ surrounding saturated fats and cholesterol and have shed a more positive light on this forgotten oil. Studies have found that it can increase your metabolism, reduce your hunger, help your memory and even work as sun protection.
The medium chain fatty acids (known as Medium Chain Triglycerides) in coconut oil are metabolised in a completely different way to the saturated fats that we find in dairy and meat and can therefore help with weight loss and energy levels. Not only that but some have even claimed that the way coconut oil is metabolised results in a therapeutic effect on the brain. Recent studies have shown that these MCTs can boost cognitive performance in older adults and especially help those suffering with memory loss.
It is ultimately the fact that the fats in coconut oil are short chain rather than usual long-chain fats we see in other fatty foods that makes them easier for our body to utilise. These have been found to reduce cholesterol and boost metabolism. The best way to make use of this oil for health is to replace certain fats in your diet with it.
We all know the beauty begins from within, so the best way to start your coconut journey to radiance is by including it in your diet. It’s easier than you think.
Coconut oil can help keep your liver happy as the MCTs are turned into energy quickly, thereby reducing the workload of the liver. Coconut oil also helps with the absorption of minerals, which includes calcium and magnesium – vital for healthy bones. It is also naturally antibacterial and antifungal and therefore can be used for irritated skin and to treat sunburn. It has even been claimed to reduce cellulite when used regularly on skin.
Coconut oil can be introduced to your diet in a number of ways. I use a little to fry aubergine in before concocting a vegetable curry using coconut milk, chopped tomatoes and spices and any veg I have in the cupboard. Just pop it all together in a pan, with your chosen herbs and spices (I use a little turmeric and cumin) and leave to simmer until the veg are cooked through then serve with quinoa or rice.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth too, coconut is a dream come true. With all the hype over sugar, you might want to try creating a few indulgent treats to satisfy your sugar craving without the high sugar levels. Try making hot chocolate using coconut milk and melted dark chocolate, and you can whip up your own version of a Bounty bar using coconut oil, coconut cream, desiccated coconut a little honey and some dark chocolate. This was a Sunday night treat for me and believe me it was so delicious. Just remember it is good for you, but not if you eat it excess!
Next up are a few beauty treatments that will have you simply radiating health. Remember that when purchasing coconut oil, it is advisable to go for a raw, preferably organic, product. When it comes to anything you put into and onto your body, the more pure and unrefined the better.
Coconut oil can penetrate hair follicles much better than any other kind of oil and in fact many conditioners contain coconut oil as an ingredient for this very reason. To rehydrate tired, damaged hair take a good dollop of coconut oil and work it through your hair. Comb the oil through to make sure it’s evenly distributed, and then leave for at least an hour (this is the time to paint your nails, catch up on the latest episode of House of Cards, or just curl up with a book and inhale the delicious aroma). Wash out with shampoo and conditioner as normal. Don’t bother heating up the coconut oil in the microwave or over a pan, all I do is run the jar under a hot tap and it soon melts it inside – much neater.
If it can moisturise your hair it certainly can do the same for your skin. There are a number of ways you can utilise coconut oil to make your skin super, silky soft. Add about a shot glass worth of melted coconut oil to your weekly bath; your warm skin will allow the coconut oil to be absorbed and, when used regularly, any dryness will disappear. Some like to rub it directly onto the skin just after a shower or bath for dreamily soft skin (and you’ll smell scrummy). Moisturise your face with a tiny pea-sized amount to reduce dark circles and wrinkles.
Make up remover
When I discovered that you could use coconut oil to remove makeup, it was a revelation. I have never experienced anything that takes off all my mascara so wonderfully. Rubbing coconut oil over your face is a little strange at first, but it’s strangely satisfying when a solid clump of translucent oil melts gently on your skin. Simply rub it into your face in swirls and then either wash it off using a gentle soap or use baby wipes to wipe clean your face.