According to the internet, coconut oil can do just about anything short of making you the prom queen. It’s supposed to make you thinner, healthier, and softer. It’s also reported to boast a whole host of dental benefits. It almost seems too good to be true. How can a natural oil be as valuable as gold?
While the benefits of coconut oil are sometimes exaggerated, the core of most claims about coconut oil have been validated. If you feel tempted to pick up a coconut oil infused version of the everyday products you use, it certainly won’t hurt. Your toothpaste is no exception.
Why is Coconut Oil Different from Other Oils?
Coconut oil can be purchased at the grocery store in the baking aisle, lined up on display with every other kind of oil. Nestled between canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, and olive oil is the screw top jar with a white, waxy substance inside. It looks drastically different from every other oil it shares shelf space with, and in this case, looks are not deceiving.
Coconut oil has a unique combination of fatty acids. All oils have fatty acids, and most of those combinations leave oils in a pourable form at room temperature. The fats in coconut oil are 90% saturated. Olive oil is about 14% saturated fat and most vegetable oils (including soybean oil) are about 15% saturated fat. Coconut oil’s very high percentage of saturated fat is what keeps it solid until it’s warmed.
Dietitians warn us about saturated fats being less healthy for us from a dietary standpoint, but this is a different debate. Eating coconut oil and using it for personal care are completely different. This is due to the kind of saturated fat found in coconut oil.
Somewhere between 40% and 50% of the saturated fat in coconut oil comes from lauric acid, and that’s where all the power is. Lauric acid helps the body form a compound called monolaurin, which is a highly antimicrobial substance. Monolaurin kills fungus, bacteria, and harmful pathogens.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil in Health
Skincare and health care companies often use lauric acid (usually derived from coconuts) to give antibacterial properties to their products. Lauric acid is also a medium chain fatty acid that can be absorbed by the skin and hair, providing a vast amount of rich and deeply quenching moisture.
Coconut oil is naturally rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that the body needs to maintain skin and organ health. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it’s easier for the body to use when it’s ingested with or applied with a rich source of fat. Coconut oil is entirely fat, so the vitamin E it contains is potent and ready to work its magic.
That’s why coconut oil is commonly utilized as a base for lotions and treatment creams for psoriasis and eczema. Applying coconut oil to scars, sunburn, or other skin ailments will provide them with a readily available source of the vitamin they need to heal.
The health benefits of coconut oil are primarily enjoyed when the oil is not ingested. The American Heart Association recommends that fat consumption be limited to unsaturated fats only, as saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels and contribute to obesity. Coconut oil may not be the best fat to cook with, but it is the best fat to use topically.
If you’re seeking health benefits from coconut, you’re better off ingesting whole coconut or unsweetened coconut water. Coconut water is a powerful source of vitamins and electrolytes. It’s a valuable source of vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains a little bit of naturally occurring sodium, which can help the body recover from dehydration after an intense exercise session.
A single tablespoon of coconut oil contains 120 calories, all from fat. Coconut meat has a meager 70 calories for ¼ of a cup. A small serving of coconut or the addition of coconut to low fat plain yogurt or a fruit salad makes for a sweet and nutritious treat that will allow you to enjoy the pleasant flavor and health benefits of coconut without the concentration of its fat.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil in Beauty Care Products
Coconut oil is a wildly popular ingredient in topical products. Body lotions, body washes, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, leave-in hair treatments, makeup face primers, face serums, foundations, and lip balms often boast the power of coconut oil. Coconut oil is a beloved ingredient, and it seems as though brands will never run out of ways to incorporate it into their star products.
Coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids, including lauric acid, provide a direct source of moisture wherever they’re applied. Dry skin, brittle hair, and chapped lips that desperately need moisture are easily quenched by coconut oil. Medium chain fatty acids moisturize the top layer of the skin, as the molecules are too large to penetrate to the deeper layers of the dermis. Coconut oil is a wonderful aesthetic remedy with superficial moisturizing benefits.
Topical coconut oil when used in conjunction with proper vitamin supplements, adequate water intake, a healthy diet, and the daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen, can help to promote overall skin health. Skin that is properly moisturized, nourished, and protected from the sun is slower to show signs of aging or photodamage. That’s why you might see coconut oil infused beauty products marketed with anti-aging claims.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil in Oral Care Products
Coconut oil’s popularity in oral care first started with something called oil pulling. Oil pulling involves swishing oil around the mouth to trap and remove harmful bacteria that can lead to bad breath or tooth decay, and then spitting that oil out. Oil pulling technically works with any oil, but there are a few reasons why coconut oil is a standout.
The first reason is the lauric acid content of coconut oil that allows it to function as a natural antibacterial, antipathogenic remedy. Coconut oil is thick and greasy, and bacteria are very small. They’re naturally drawn into the coconut oil, especially when it’s swished around the mouth with force. Once they’re in the oil, they can’t escape. It’s almost like a fly on a glue trap.
Coconut oil will not only trap bacteria: it will kill bacteria. It will damage all bacteria it comes into contact with, even if it doesn’t technically “pull” them out of your mouth. This gives coconut oil a “two birds with one stone” kind of advantage.
Coconut oil is also a popular choice because it tastes better. Olive oil, corn oil, and canola oil taste much better when used to flavor or fry foods. They’re not so great when you’re swishing a mouthful of them all by themselves. Coconut oil smells and tastes like coconuts, making for a more pleasant taste sensation than its alternatives. It’s an agreeable, recognizable flavor that many people are keen to enjoy by itself.
Many oral care companies that create natural products have made the benefits of coconut oil pulling even easier to achieve. Coconut oil infused mouthwashes provide the same benefits in a more convenient way. The process of oil pulling is essentially the same as the process of using mouthwash. Swish thoroughly and patiently, then spit. If you don’t want to warm up coconut oil and make a mess, simply choose a mouthwash that’s already done the work for you.
Using Coconut Toothpaste
Bacteria buildup in the mouth can lead to gum disease, bad breath, plaque formation, cavities, and general tooth decay. Most toothpaste manufacturers utilize artificial ingredients or chemicals to kill bacteria on contact. Many of these chemicals are generally recognized as safe for use in small amounts, but health conscious consumers are trying to steer away from artificial ingredients that have perfectly effective natural alternatives.
Coconut oil toothpaste achieves the same feats as coconut oil pulling. Bacteria is attracted to the coconut oil, killed or significantly inhibited by the antibacterial properties of the oil, and then spat out. Coconut oil is a natural ingredient to trap and disable bacteria without introducing any artificial chemicals into your oral care routine.
Consumers who are very conscious of what they put into their bodies love coconut oil toothpastes and mouthwashes. There are no mystery ingredients involved. Coconut oil is highly effective and beneficial all on its own. It’s something that everyone recognizes and uses on a daily basis, and if sustainably sourced and organic, it has no negative impact on the planet.
Coconut oil is, in many cases, a wonderful ingredient. While it’s certainly not the healthiest oil to eat, it’s a promising topical treatment for oral care, hair care, and skincare. There’s no other oil quite like it. There are numerous antibacterial benefits you may experience by adding coconut oil to your oral care routine.
Whether you use coconut oil toothpaste, coconut oil mouthwash, or simply swish coconut oil before you brush your teeth, you’re going to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth the natural way.