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Ask the Professor: Coconut Oil

It’s February and winter is still plopped down on the sofa of our lives. Around this time of year, when winter has overstayed its welcome, we wish we could snap our digits and find ourselves on our own tropical island with coconut trees, where the only ice we see is blended into our piña coladas. The cast of Gilligan’s Island may even make cameos in our cabin fever fantasy. They do know island life quite well, and they could be considered authorities on everything coconut. Earlier this year Gilligan and The Skipper told us about the many wonders of coconut water. Now, the Professor would like to indulge us with some of the wonders and applications of coconut oil. This might also be a three-hour tour, depending on how quickly you read.

So, Professor, What is Coconut Oil?
“That depends on your source; just don’t ask Gilligan. Some schools of thought tout coconut oil for its healthy fat and lauric acid that help lower bad cholesterol levels, while others ascertain there isn’t enough conclusive evidence supporting the consumption of coconut oil. This line of thinking could, of course, be adopted for every single product carried at every single grocery store in the world. (I wish we had a Willy Street Co-op on this island.) But one thing is certain about coconut oil: it has numerous applications beyond eating. We’ll talk more about this soon. Let’s check out a few facts first.

“Coconut oil comes from the meat of coconuts and 90 percent of it is grown in just 18 countries. These countries are part of an organization known as The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community. Their goal is to, ‘promote, coordinate, and harmonize all activities of the coconut industry.’ Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and infection-fighting. It’s also a saturated fat with an average serving size of one tablespoon. At Willy Street Co-op, you can choose from two types of organic coconut oil: refined and unrefined. Refined coconut oil is the best for cooking because it has a neutral flavor and smell, in case you don’t want your food to smell and taste like the islands. It also has a higher smoke point than unrefined coconut oil. If you’re looking for this oil, a company called Spectrum offers it. Their refined coconut oil is expeller pressed. That’s another way of saying the oil was extracted from the meat of the coconut mechanically. Speaking of mechanics, do you have an extra helicopter?

“The other type, unrefined, comes from the first pressing of raw coconuts and retains its original smell and flavor. Unrefined might also be labeled as virgin or extra virgin; they are synonymous. Both types of oil are loaded with medium chain fatty acids, also known as MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), which help break down bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol, although the unrefined carries a slightly higher concentration.

“There is also the issue of whole kernel versus white kernel coconut oil. The grocery staff at Willy Street Co-op gets asked to explain the distinction quite a bit, I’m sure, so here goes. The whole kernel contains the brown membrane of the coconut shell, so it’s typically nuttier in taste. Other than that, the differences are nominal at best. And I would know, I’ve been consuming coconut oil for long time.”

What About The Applications of Coconut Oil?
“That’s a great question. Coconut oil has hundreds of applications that make it useful around the hut. I discovered this some time ago after I realized we were stranded. Coconut oil can be used for: soap, lip balm, toothpaste, face moisturizer, hair care, deodorant, sunscreen, and as a decongestant. It’s also a helpful remedy for: athlete’s foot, acne, gingivitis, pink eye, and ear infections. Coconut oil can even make your pet’s coat shiny and free of odor. Have fun shoveling!”

Available at the Co-op
Thank you, Professor. Willy Street Co-op has four coconut oil producers to choose from. All of them are organic. The aforementioned, Spectrum, sources its coconut oil from Colombia, India, Philippines or Sri Lanka. Dr. Bronner’s also sources it coconut oil from Sri Lanka, while Harvest Bay and Ojio derive their oils from the Philippines. Coconut oil is so popular in the Philippines it’s even used to fuel cars. How’s that for a super food?

The French poet, Victor Hugo, once wrote, “Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” So as winter continues to chap our lips and dry our foreheads, take a minute to discover the divine taste and wonderful uses of coconut oil. You may even make a new friend.
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