Coconut oil didn’t always enjoy its good reputation. Once shunned for having a generous saturated fat content, which purportedly causes heart disease, it’s now been resurrected as a healthy fat.

By generous, we’re talking 90 percent saturated fat. But before you turn your nose up in disgust, it’s important to know that not all saturated fats are created equal. As opposed to the longer-chain saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, that of coconut oil is mostly lauric acid — a medium-chain saturated fatty acid that has a positive effect on heart health. In fact, coconut oil is the richest source of lauric acid after breast milk.

But not all coconut oil is made the same. Those labelled “virgin” or “extra virgin” boast higher antioxidant levels, as they are delicately extracted from the coconut flesh via cold-pressing, and usually have a stronger coconut flavour and aroma. Refined (or expeller-pressed) coconut oil, on the other hand, is a more processed version with a more neutral taste and scent. So if you’re all about slathering that oil on after a shower, go for this option to avoid smelling like a walking beach vacation.

There is a plethora of reasons why you should start incorporating coconut oil into your daily routine. Besides being great for the heart, coconut oil can pretty much work its magic on just about every part of your body, both inside and out. Here are 5 benefits that will make you reach for a bottle.

1
Get your glow on

Besides the obvious moisturising properties, coconut oil can treat and alleviate skin disorders such as burns, eczema, dandruff and psoriasis thanks to its lauric acid and caprylic acid contents. Inflammation is reduced internally and externally, while moisture is kept locked within the skin to aid healing. Besides, the oil’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties help eliminate candida or fungal sources that aggravate these skin conditions in the first place.

Image: Pat McGrath Instagram

2
Shiny hair, don't care

Can’t tame that stubborn frizz? Coconut oil acts as one of the best hair conditioners nature has to offer. While many commercial products in the market include the oil in their formulation, the small dosage won’t do you any good, so save that money and just stick to the real deal instead. Lauric acid has a low molecular weight, so it easily penetrates the hair shaft to nourish it with vitamins and those fatty acids that give it its shine. Simply lather on a good amount after shampooing and rinse off, or for better effect, keep it on for a couple of hours.

Image: Vogue Instagram

3
A little digestive SOS

It’s hard to show off those rock-hard abs if all you have is a bloated tummy. Coconut oil’s high concentration of beneficial fats makes it a great digestive aid, helping the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium and magnesium. Besides, the antimicrobial properties can help fight gut irritation and candida imbalances, which cause poor digestion and inflammation.

Image: Victoria Sport Instagram

4
Forever young

You are what you eat, so if you’re binge eating pizzas and candy, chances are you’re not going to look your age. Ingesting coconut oil can help reduce stress on the liver and even support detoxification, so your body renews itself better. Fewer toxins and irritants within the body means reduced inflammation, and your body can focus on restoring itself.

Image: Sara Sampaio Instagram

5
Brain games

Yes, that includes memory, so if you find yourself forgetting meetings and anniversaries, better start on some now. Easily absorbed, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil provide instant energy to brain cells to keep them going throughout the day, so you’re always at the top of your game.

Shatricia Nair
Deputy Editor
Shatricia Nair is a motoring, watches, and wellness writer who is perpetually knee-deep in the world of V8s, tourbillons, and the latest fitness trends. She is fuelled by peanut butter and three cups of coffee a day.