As a child growing up in the UK during the 1960s and '70s I didn't come across #coconuts very often. The mysterious, hairy fruit (or drupe to be more precise) was generally only to be found at fairground sideshows where the idea was to knock one off a stand by throwing an impossibly small ball at it from an unreasonably long distance away. Someone in our family must have had better aim than me though, because I do have a vague memory of winning the exotic prize on at least one occasion and being desperately disappointed when – after much whacking with a hammer to split it open – I finally sampled the rare and tempting flesh, only to discover it tasted nothing like the pink and white striped coconut ice we sometimes used to buy at the sweet shop on the corner.
Well, a lot of water (some of it of the coconut variety) has passed under the bridge since then and it seems that the world – UK included – has gone completely coco-nuts! In a matter of three or four decades the coconut has gone from being best known for the Bounty Bar (or possibly, in desiccated form, as something to be sprinkled over a Vesta Beef Curry in a hopeless attempt to make it taste tropical) to being a rising star of health food shops, diet and fitness blogs (like this excellent review) and even supermarket shelves. Coconut water, milk, cream and even coconut nectar have all risen to prominence as healthy and versatile every day cooking ingredients, especially for those following low-carb, anti- allergy and paleo diets. But the brightest star in the firmament has to be coconut oil.
#CoconutOil is 100% fat (plant fat, of course) and so its many health benefits were largely overlooked for years in a mistaken belief that its high saturated fat content made it an unhealthy food choice. However, the structure of fat in coconut oil differs crucially from other saturated fats often found in animal products (which are typically comprised of long-chain fatty acids). The fat in coconuts contains an unusually high amount of medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides, which are now known to provide protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight gain. Clinical and anecdotal evidence also suggests it may slow the development of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, its exceptional moisturising properties have made it a popular choice as a skin care and personal care ingredient. And, if that wasn't reason enough for its gain in popularity, it turns out that coconut oil possesses antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties too.
When I first picked up on the buzz surrounding this now ubiquitous product a couple of years ago, I started to experiment with its different uses and wrote my first blog post on the subject not long after. Since then I have become increasingly impressed with - and more and more reliant on – coconut oil for a host of reasons. The most important of these is that it has proven to be the answer to many of my vitiligo-related needs. For example, I had previously spent a lot of time looking for the perfect moisturiser for those of us with problem skin (sensitive skin, #vitiligo and other autoimmune conditions) in the knowledge that most commercial lotions and potions contain a cocktail of chemical ingredients that could make matters much worse, but I never found the perfect product. Some I have found come close but very few are completely free from potential irritants. Pure, quality coconut oil, on the other hand, has all the benefits of an excellent moisturiser with none of the "nasties". And, I have noticed, it is the main ingredient in many of the topical vitiligo treatments available on the internet, yet costs a fraction of the price.
The longer I experiment with coconut oil, the more I ask myself, "Is there anything this stuff can't do?" Contrary to this fun quote I spotted on Pinterest, it seems to be one multitasking superstar that actually does twenty times as much as any other product and does it ten times better!
_These are some of the ways coconut oil can be used:
A vitiligo friend also recently passed on a tip online that she had better results from taking her Boost capsules with some coconut oil, saying that this was what seemed to kick-start her current repigmentation.
Not surprisingly, the clutter that used to greet me when I looked in my bathroom cabinet has rapidly dwindled as I have used up (or, in many cases, ditched) my old task-specific and chemical-laden products and replaced them with a single tub of you-know-what! Not only am I much happier about the health benefits involved in this process but it is also saving me a ton of money. But, if you are considering following suit, it is worth bearing in mind that, depending on the way in which they are grown, harvested and processed, not all coconut oils are created equal and that the quality and health benefits will usually be more or less in direct proportion to the price. A good rule of thumb is to choose an a virgin or extra virgin cold-pressed and preferably organic product. My own favourite at the moment is a Fair Trade one from Tiana.
If only I had known, as a child, what an exceptionally versatile and health-giving thing that exotic, hairy, inanimate target in the fairground sideshow really was, I might have treated it with a bit more respect (or maybe practised my aim so I could win a few more). Suffice to say that, now that I have been educated in the mysterious and wonderful ways of the coconut, I have nothing but the greatest reverence for it. And if I am ever fortunate enough to be stranded on an uninhabited desert island, I know that as long as there is at least one coconut palm growing on it, I will be just fine :)
My name is Caroline.