Everyone’s talking about coconut oil these days, and if you call yourself “crunchy,” you probably have a jar in your cabinet right now.

Cookbook-writers are jumping on the bandwagon, touting the benefits of this slippery opaque goo.  From improved brain function, to shiny hair and soft skin:  Which of these claims are true, and which are marketing ploys?  We have to go to the experts to separate fact from fiction.

Did you know there’s actually a research center devoted to the nutritional benefits of coconut?  Bruce Fife, a naturalistic doctor, is the President of the Coconut Research Center, and has written his own cookbook based on science called “The Coconut Miracle Cookbook.”  Not only does he provide recipes, but he coaches readers about how to use coconut oil in the kitchen.

Coconut oil, when heated, doesn’t create toxins like other cooking oils’ byproducts.  This is one of the biggest benefits of switching to “CO,” as many crunchy moms call it.    Fife claims that coconut oil can be substituted for many of those other oils, such as margarine, butter, vegetable oils, and shortening.

There are two main kinds of CO: refined and virgin. Refined are flavorless for those who do not like the taste of coconut.  Virgin oil keeps some of its sweet coconut flavor, but is processed very little.  Organic varieties are easy to find and are suggested over non-organic.

Your jar of coconut oil will most likely be in a solid state.  To liquefy it, simply immerse the jar in hot water.  The shelf life of your CO is remarkably long: three years un-refrigerated!

When frying, it’s important to keep the temp of CO a bit cooler than other traditional oils, as its smoke point is only 360 degree Fahrenheit.  When baking, it’s OK to turn the oven higher than this, because the water evaporating in the food keeps the CO at a lower temperature.

In his book, Fife also talks about how to incorporate coconut milk and coconut water into recipes.

The Coconut Research Center has done a multitude of studies on Coconut Oil, and they’re about more than just cooking.  Check out their studies on cancer treatment, heart health, diabetes, neurological health, skin health, gut health, weight management, and so much more on their research page.

How do you incorporate CO into your diet and life?  What uses have you found for CO?  Have you been able to use it as a substitution in your recipes?  We’d love to hear your comments and tips in the comments below.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)