But it isn't quite gaining full acceptance among medical experts. Coconut oil is more than 90 per cent saturated fat, which is generally considered a "bad" fat that increases cholesterol levels. In the Cleveland Clinic's comparison of olive oil vs. coconut oil, olive oil came out definitively on top for heart health.
Supporters, however, say that its saturated fat content isn't all bad. Medium-chain fatty acids make up about half of coconut oil's saturated fat, and those are easier to digest than long-chain fatty acids that you find in butter and other oils, but more study is certainly needed.
Though the debate around its healthy qualities persists, coconut oil's proponents have nevertheless found innovative ways to incorporate it into their lifestyles.
Here are several ways that coconut oil has been used to make people's lives better:
Coconut oil works better on the skin than some commercial moisturizers because many major brands use petroleum-based chemicals that can suffocate the skin, says celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. The oil strengthens tissues and removes excessive dead cells on the skin's surface that can make it dry and rough.
Stimulating Hair Growth
Coconut oil can help hair grow long, strong and healthy. It also helps keep the hair shiny, says Palmer's, which produces its own coconut oil formula.
Coconut oil works great in coffee if you do it correctly, writes Becca Ludlum at My Crazy Good Life.
First, you make a cup of coffee, then pour half into a blender or a frother. Add one to two tablespoons of coconut oil, milk, and five to seven scoops of Stevia. Then froth and blend.
According to Ludlum, you'll end up with a delicious latte.
Coconut oil can also make a good salad dressing. Epicurious has a recipe for a sweet maple and coconut dressing that combines coconut and olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, sesame seeds and more.
It's Better than Butter
Coconut oil can be used in the same way that you might use dairy butter or vegetable oil, says Artisana Organic Foods. You can spread it on toast, use it to cook food on the stove and even try it in place of vegetable oil when baking.
It's better than butter and trans fats, Penny Kris-Etherton, a cardiovascular nutrition researcher, told Web MD, though she warned that it's not better than vegetable oils.
Heidi Carolan from England reported a massive improvement in her son's skin after using coconut oil and soap nuts. She said the oil is lovely on his skin and easy to apply without much touching or rubbing, which can further irritate the condition.
Problems with hangnails? Try coconut oil! It helps to soften cuticles and moisturize hands, says dermatologist and author Dr. Ava Shamban.
Coconut oil makes a great addition to many curry recipes, giving Indian dishes a dash of extra flavour, BBC reports.
For Baking Cookies
Yes, you can even use it in cookies. It can enhance flavours, and if you use refined coconut oil, you can make chocolate chip cookies that taste just like the regular kind, says the Culinary Couture Blog.
Coat the bottom of a skillet with coconut oil to create a non-stick surface, then crack a couple of eggs to ensure they have an extra coating of flavour, says Swanson Health Products.
Add to Oatmeal
Coconut oil adds a "buttery richness" to oatmeal, writes Anjali Malhotra at the Perfect Morsel blog. It tastes great AND it's healthy.
Who needs butter on your popcorn when you can use a healthier alternative? You can either heat coconut oil on your stove (being careful, of course) and pop kernels in it, or air pop your kernels and toss them in two tablespoons of coconut oil.
Coconut oil was the original sunscreen, says the Coconut Research Center. It doesn't block UV rays like other sunscreens do: it lets in beneficial UV rays, the kind that allow for some natural vitamin D. For those coming out of winter with very pale skin, though, we'd suggest getting some SPF on you as well.
For Stretch Marks
Coconut oil can help make stretch marks from weight loss and gain, pregnancy or even just growing go away. It has moisturizing properties and antioxidants that can nourish the skin, says EarlyCare.org.