This coconut oil comes in white plastic (food grade) buckets so the oil is protected from air and light. It is a saturated and therefore highly stable fat, and goes rancid much more slowly than other fats and therefore stores well. Plan on rotating it within a few years, and buy no more than a 5-year supply for your baking, cooking, and beauty regimen needs (see last paragraph below for ideas for your skin and hair). If you don’t have a cool area to store the oil in, I recommend buying only a two-year supply.
The oil is liquid above 76 degrees, and solidifies at cooler temperatures. If you want a liquid oil, just put the bucket in a sinkful of hot water until enough melts for you to use. (Don’t microwave the oil or you destroy many of its nutritional properties, including enzymes.)
A very successful political campaign in the 80’s and 90’s by the soy industry effectively blacklisted tropical oils (coconut and palm) and made “saturated fat” a swear word in nutrition. We were told instead to use canola or corn oils when we couldn’t avoid oil in a recipe. Unfortunately, refined and nutritionally inferior vegetable oils that replaced coconut oil increased health problems, rather than decreasing them.
Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are necessary in our diet and lead to silky skin and hair, as well as healthy cellular function buffered by lipids (fats) everywhere in the body. Organic, virgin coconut oil has the highest levels of MCFAs (58 percent) and has provided some of the healthiest and most beautiful people on the planet with excellent nutrition for thousands of years. Dr. Bruce Fife has documented in The Coconut Oil Miracle how indigenous Pacific Islanders who are relatively unaffected by Westernization have virtually no heart disease and cancer, with ideal height/weight ratios. Their diet is up to 60 percent fat, most of it saturated fat from coconut!1
MCFAs supply quick energy because they are metabolized in the liver like carbs rather than being stored in the adipose tissue or as belly fat. MCFAs enhance our immune system with critical nutrients. Coconut oil is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal—shown to kill strep, staph, fungus, the virus that causes leukemia, and much more.
My teenaged son once had a fungal infection on his face that wouldn’t go away all summer. We tried everything on it, including colloidal silver and even over-the-counter topical drugs. Nothing worked, and the spot was growing bigger and becoming a social liability. Finally I had the idea to apply some virgin coconut oil. The quarter-sized fungal infection disappeared in 36 hours! My 8-yr. old has twice gotten painful urinary tract infections, and they disappeared quickly when I had him eat a few spoonfuls of coconut oil twice a day. (He doesn’t like it plain, so I spread a thick layer on a sprouted-wheat English muffin or whole-grain toast, and he thought that was a treat.)
The good and bad fat debate centered on saturation for many years, obscuring other factors. Not all saturated fats are bad. Lauric acid (the immune-boosting compound in mother’s milk) is found abundantly in coconut oil, as well as in smaller amounts in butter. Many supplement makers isolate lauric acid or make it in synthetic form and sell it as an immune system aid. Coconut oil has lauric acid in the whole-food form, which is always utilized better by the body than an isolate or synthetic.
Unlike other oils, coconut oil does not produce dangerous trans fatty acids, even when cooked at high temperatures. (Even olive oil produces some TFAs.) For this reason, coconut oil is ideal for sauteeing. If you don’t like the coconut flavor imparted to fried foods, I would recommend non-virgin coconut oil–for this purpose only–since cooking with high heat would kill many of the enzymes and nutrients anyway. The non-virgin oils tend to be without the coconut flavor.
Although coconut oil is low in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), it increases the utilization of EFAs by up to 100 percent. It also nourishes the thyroid and increases metabolic rate for up to 24 hours. You may know that proteins and carbs have 4 calories per gram, and fats have 9 calories per gram. But you may be surprised to learn that the MCFAs in coconut oil actually have only 6.9 calories per gram, making coconut oil a slightly lower-calorie fat!
Again, eat coconut oil, but don’t go crazy with it. Bruce Fife recommends 3-4 Tbsp. daily for an adult. I personally don’t eat anywhere near that much, but including what I put it on my lips and face every day (my teenagers do the same), I get probably 1-2 Tbsp. daily. With fats, small amounts are all you need, and 10 percent of your diet is enough.
My nighttime moisturizer is organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. That’s all! I used to use complicated and expensive products, but just like with food, unadulterated, unprocessed ingredients are better used by the body. Coconut oil is absorbed quickly by the skin, and I’ve found it useful for healing dry skin on my heels, elbows, and lips. I also rub warm coconut oil into my hair (especially the ends) and leave it on overnight or for an hour or two before I shower, for silky hair.
Q: How long does coconut oil last?
A: Coconut oil is highly stable relative to other oils. Many estimates are 3-5 years, but if you aren’t keeping it in cold storage, plan on 2 years in the pantry. My coconut oil in cold storage (not heated in the winter, in the basement) is four years old and still tastes wonderful, no rancidity.