I’m not one for trends, particularly when it comes to health and wellness. Perhaps it’s due to being a child of the ’80s, when diet trends seemed to cycle one after the other with most of them contradicting each other. One day everyone was pushing artificial sweetener as the new low-cal savior, but now we know it’s not exactly the miracle product we once thought it was. So, excuse me if I’m more of the wait-and-see camp when it comes to certain trends. But, there’s one “trend” that I’ve fallen hook, line, and sinker for, and I make no apologies for it. In fact, some might even call me a bit of an evangelist when it comes to this health and beauty product. I am a devotee of coconut oil, haters be damned.

My obsession with coconut oil did not have a smooth beginning. If anything, it was a rather reluctant entry. I was appalled at the cost. I couldn’t understand why you would willingly put oil onto your face. Wouldn’t that just cause massive breakouts? It’s just a huge jar of fat, what’s the big deal? But friends kept extolling all the many virtues of this supposed miracle oil, so I broke down and bought a jar, only not really. Instead of getting actual coconut oil, I thought I’d be smart and head down the beauty aisle and buy some coconut oil for “skin and hair only.” The plastic jar with the purple lid was way cheaper, but I figured it would do the job. I was wrong. It smelled gross, was more crumbly than creamy, and had many more ingredients listed than just “coconut.”

I eventually caved and bought actual extra virgin coconut oil, like the kind you cook with. I started by slathering up my arms and legs after I showered. I immediately noticed a difference. My skin was more supple and definitely much silkier, and surprisingly, not greasy at all. It took a few weeks before I felt brave enough to try it on my face. With visions of breakouts in my mind, I gingerly applied some before bedtime. Over the next week or two I used it before going to sleep and started to see some improvements, and surprisingly no breakouts!

I then began incorporating coconut oil into my diet. A spoonful in my morning smoothie, swapping other oils for it when cooking up eggs or other food where the subtle flavor would work nicely. Eventually, I purchased one jar for cooking purposes and then one for beauty treatments. I soon found myself spreading the good word of coconut oil.

“Did you know you can use coconut oil as a makeup remover? It’s the best!”

“I swear a mixture of coconut oil and sugar helped get rid of the red patches on my upper arms!”

“A dollop of coconut oil in my smoothie totally fills me up!”

Who had I become? But more importantly, as somebody cautious of most trends that usually pan out to be bunk, I wanted to see if I was buying into something legit. Could all those “101 uses for coconut oil” listicles be right? Or will I wake up one morning, drowning in my own coconut oil obsession?

I spoke with Connecticut-based health counselor Carly Bergenholtz to find out if coconut oil is one of those trends that actually lives up to all the hype. “In the health world, food trends will always be there. New studies are made, and we wait with bated breath for the next secret to optimal health, longevity, and beauty,” Bergenholtz told me. “I think coconut oil is on the rise for its known health properties. Healthy fats like coconut oil are essential for our bodies. Lauric acid [found in coconut oil] promotes heart health and prevents high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Coconut oil can strengthen the immune system and fights off bacteria. With the help of other fatty acids, it also has antifungal and antibacterial properties. These fats will give us the shine and glow we are looking for.

“Bergenholtz explained that coconut oil is great for both internal and external use, and that when she has recommended incorporating coconut oil into her client’s lives, they have seen positive changes in both digestion and skin. “I would recommend use on the skin first,” she explained to me. “Using a small amount on the hands before bed will keep hands feeling smooth. This way they are able to get used to the oil’s smell and texture. A simple routine like this might get them comfortable enough to use it other ways.” As for cooking, Bergenholtz says that coconut oil is a great alternative to both butter and olive oil since it has a high smoke point. She suggests using it when cooking stir-fries, roasting vegetables, to help make chicken or fish come out crispy, and even as an addition to homemade granola, muffins and smoothies.

Despite Bergenholtz’s love of coconut oil — she said it’s been a staple in her own house for years — she cautions against thinking of it as a miracle cure-all. While worthy of the hype, it’s not the only thing our bodies need for optimal health. She also recommends reading the label of any coconut oil you purchase, either for cooking or skincare, and suggests using only unrefined virgin coconut oil to avoid any fillers.

For now, I’ll rest easy with my coconut obsession and most likely will continue to be that annoying friend that can’t stop talking about this health and wellness “trend” I can’t get enough of.

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