Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Coconut oil is a shelf stable product that really does it all. This pantry item can be used (nutritiously) in place of butter, shortening, and cooking oil, and then pressed into duty as a health and beauty aid.
One of my favorite things in the stockpile is my big jar of organic virgin coconut oil. And the craziest thing about that? I don’t even like coconuts. If you slip me a cookie that has those nasty little flakes of coconut in them, I’ll probably spit it out – I really, emphatically don’t like coconut! I am stressing this point because coconut oil has a place in the kitchen of even the most die-hard coconut hater.
Coconut oil is loaded with healthy fats.
Sometimes people who are seeking a healthier lifestyle make the mistake of avoiding all fats. Sure, eating a bag of Doritos covered in cheeselike substance is terrible for you (in more ways than just the fat content!) – but certain fats can be a healthy, and very necessary, part of your diet. In fact, these “healthy fats” can actually aid in weight loss, if that is your goal.
Some examples of these healthy fats would be those from nuts, avocados, seeds, certain fish, and coconut oil. Consumption of these fats will improve your hair, your skin, your immune system, and your organ function when consumed in moderate quantities. As well, certain nutrients are fat soluble and can only be properly used by your body in the presence of fat. For example, Vitamins A, D, E, and K should be taken when you eat a small amount of fat.
All coconut oils are not created equally, though. There are a few basic types of coconut oil, and it’s important to get the “right” kind for your needs in order to reap the full benefits of your purchase.
Should you get refined or unrefined coconut oil?
First, you’ll need to decide between refined and unrefined. This relates to the process of extracting the oil.
A refined coconut oil is separated by heat. Refined coconut oil is more heat-stable and can be used in cooking methods like frying. Many people opt for refined coconut oil because it is flavorless and odorless. The shelf life of a refined coconut oil, according to the expiration dates is 18 months to 2 years.
A refined coconut oil loses some nutritional benefits but how much really depends upon the refining process that is used. Here’s a small container of refined coconut oil if you just want to try it, or a 1-gallon bucket of refined coconut oil if you know you want to stock up.
- Expeller Pressed: This is the traditional method of extracting coconut oil. No chemicals are used in this method – the oil is extracted by a machine which physically presses out the oil, then is deodorized by distilling it with steam. If you opt for a refined oil, look for “expeller pressed” on the label.
- RBD: The RBD (refining bleaching deodorizing) process often uses chemical solvents like hexane to extract the oil. (Hexane is a toxic chemical that can be used to dissolve adhesive, cement and glue.) This process is generally performed on previously dried coconut kernel called copra, which is often made from lower quality or old coconuts.
An unrefined coconut oil is also called virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil. This oil has the light scent and flavor of coconut, which disappears somewhat when used in cooking. This type of coconut oil has the most nutritional benefits and the shelf life has been documented as anywhere from 2-5 years, to “indefinite”. Here’s a small container of virgin coconut oil if you’d like to try it, or the stock-up size.
The number one health benefit of coconut oil is that about 50% of it is lauric acid, an essential fatty acid that is only otherwise found naturally in such high levels in human breast milk. The human body turns lauric acid into monolaurin, which contains antiviral, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antifungal properties, so basically, it boosts your immunity in every possible way.
The Coconut Research Center summarized the health benefits of coconut oil, based on recent scientific studies. (You can learn more on their website.)
- Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
- Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
- Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
- Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
- Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
- Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
- Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
- Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
- Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
- Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
- Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
- Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
- Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
- Helps protect against osteoporosis.
- Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
- Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
- Improves digestion and bowel function.
- Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Supports tissue healing and repair.
- Supports and aids immune system function.
- Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
- Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
- Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
- Functions as a protective antioxidant.
- Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
- Does not deplete the body’s antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
- Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
- Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
- Reduces epileptic seizures.
- Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
- Dissolves kidney stones.
- Helps prevent liver disease.
- Is lower in calories than all other fats.
- Supports thyroid function.
- Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
- Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
- Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
- Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
- Reduces symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
- Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
- Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
- Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
- Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
- Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
- Helps control dandruff.
- Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
- Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
All these benefits and it’s completely non-toxic to humans – which is completely unlike many Big Pharma products.
Storage and Shelf Life
Coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celcius). If it is stored above that temperature it will be a liquid, and below it will be a solid. It doesn’t harm the coconut oil to be in the liquid state (keep in mind that coconuts originate from a tropical climate). The shelf life will be extended if the product is stored in a cool, dark place, however, if you store it in the refrigerator it will be rock hard. You can soften it by placing the closed jar in a pan of hot water.
If you are purchasing a large quantity of coconut oil (for example, a 1-5 gallon bucket) use a sterilized, completely dry spoon or scoop and dip out enough oil for regular use. I keep a 1-pint jar of coconut oil in the bathroom and a quart jar in the kitchen.
As mentioned elsewhere in the article, the shelf life declared by the coconut oil companies ranges from 18 months-2 years for refined coconut oil and 2-4 years and beyond for virgin coconut oil. I’ve been storing coconut oil for over a decade and have never had any become rancid.
How to use coconut oil in the kitchen
Coconut oil can serve many purposes in the kitchen. If you use virgin coconut oil it will impart a very light coconut flavor to your cooking, but it isn’t really comparable to the flavor you get from adding flaked coconut. I suggest you get a small jar to test it out before investing in a large quantity because there’s nothing worse than making a large investment in something that you find distasteful.
For the best results, raise or lower the temperature of your coconut oil to reach the consistency of the item you are replacing. For example, if you are baking and the recipe calls for shortening, briefly chill the coconut oil until it is a firm consistency. If you’re replacing cooking oil, melt it until it is a liquid.
You can use coconut oil in place of:
- Butter (use 25% less coconut oil than the amount of butter called for)
- Vegetable oil for cooking
- Vegetable oil for salad dressings
You can also make popcorn in coconut oil over popcorn for a lightly flavored sweet treat.
Other uses of coconut oil
- Facial moisturizer
- Moisturizing body wash
- Body lotion
- Treating minor burns
- Treating skin rashes
- Treating insect bites
- Deep conditioner for hair
- Cuticle treatment
- Make-up remover
- Lip balm
- Deodorant (because of the antimicrobial qualities)
- Toothpaste (mix with baking soda)
- Nipple cream for breastfeeding women (and it’s non-toxic to Baby, unlike the commercial products)
- Diaper rash
- Cradle cap
- Personal lubricant (do not use with latex condoms)
- Insect repellent (mix with lavender or peppermint essential oil)
- As a healthy fat supplement for aging pets (my dogs love it)
- Athlete’s foot
- Treating minor cuts and abrasion
We use coconut oil in many of our homemade skincare products, too.
Add this multi-tasking product to your stockpile.
In my own stockpile, the only fats I have stored are organic virgin coconut oil and organic olive oil, with the majority being coconut oil. Because it is a nutritional goldmine, coconut oil is a very worthwhile substitute for many of the fats commonly used in our kitchens. I have limited storage space, also, so I like to store things that can serve many uses.
Once you try this multi-tasking superstar, you’ll wonder how you got by so long without it.
(Also, this song has been stuck in my head since I started writing this article. You’re welcome. )
For more information about coconut oil:
Health Benefits of Organic Coconut Oil
The Coconut Research Center
What are Healthy Fats?
I love coconut oil I use it for so many things facial moisturizer ( I do think since I started using it on my face I have less wrinkles) Make deodorant lotions lip balms, toothpaste, hair conditioner and cook with it. I have just started a diet and I am taking a Tabl a day. Yes I also love coconut oil.
Hope you are having a great day!
I can confirm it works on cradle cap, diaper rash & eczema – the twins are/were frequent sufferers. I often rub the boys down after a bath for moisturizing. It also doesn’t hurt cloth diapers like some creams/lotions/ointments do.
Be careful with daily serving of oil, it can get a slow thyroid going again. My skin is looks better since using it as a after bath rub, and my hair is healthier since baking with it. I love the deodorant too. Debra
I used cooking oil to treat a skin rash once. I was surprised to find it works nearly as good as most anti-inflammatory salves. More often than not I have learned home remedies are worth giving a second look.
Great write-up! Coconut oil has many great uses so we always make sure that we’re stocked up. What I typically try to do is use the oldest bottle first that way we don’t have to worry as much about the expiration dates.
I love coconut oil for its amazing results for fungal infections, its healing properties are awesome.
I read this article a few days ago and could have sworn there was info on where to get a 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil and also other natural oil sunscreens with higher protections. For the life of me I can’t find them now… maybe it was a link or something?
Try Tropical Traditions or Wilderness Family Naturals (though I think it now may go by Wildly Organic…..liked them when they were smaller). Tropical Traditions will periodically run free shipping promotions. They also carry unsweetened coconut flakes, etc that are wonderful!
Coconut Oil is good for you, yet it is not this magical cure all that so many want to make it out to be. Olive oil is good for you, Macadamia Nut oil is good for you. The list goes on. You can find sites that will tell you how great it is (along with links to buy it from them of course), and you can find other sites that state that it’s not really this super live forever snake oil some want you to believe it is. Now I don’t want to get into the perceived pro’s and cons of it because I really don’t feel like getting into a coconut nerd turf war here. Just reminding people to do their full research on stuff. While I will agree, coconut oil is probably not bad for you in most cases, I can’t see it being the best thing around either. Buyer beware, and beware of the sales hype too.
Since this IS a prepper site tho, let’s keep this prepper orientated then shall we? The longevity issue is something to definitely consider when stockpiling oils or the likes. Remember, you may not have refrigeration when the fan switch gets flipped, so something like coconut oil which may not need to be refrigerated after opening is an item to consider. Good ole bacon grease lasts a bit too.
Thank you, Daisy, for the article. Good information to know.
I would stay away from the RBD (refining bleaching deodorizing) process since it uses hexane mentioned. When working in a factory we used hexane as a solvent to clean the machinery and spills. It would ‘tingle’ on your skin before been absorbed. Another reason to stock up on rubber/latex gloves since during a SHTF situation you can’t be sure what is around. Perhaps this grade of coconut would make an o.k. candle material.
P.s.: While this article is not about Olive Oil, I would recommend also the first cold-pressed extra virgin grade for a dressing, as heat does degrade the quality somewhat. “California’ brand Olive Oil is rated well although it’s not cheap it’s not a mix of various olive oils. Shelve life is limited for olive oil.
In the same vein, research how coffee is processed. Some are washed with petroleum, others are imported with as much as forty percent twigs and soil grounded along with the beans.
Awesome article with so much info! I always think of that song when I think of coconut, lol. I haven’t really considered coconut oil for much other than using it to fry foods. I’ve been making some meals in a bag (DIY MREs) and was thinking I would have to get some powdered milk for the mac and cheese ones, but since I have coconut oil on hand, I could vacuum pack small packets of coconut oil for them instead. Do you think that would work as well as using powdered butter? Thanks!!
Coconut oil is also a good choice because healthy fats will keep you fuller longer, which means you’ll be able to make food reserves stretch out farther.
Consumer Reports just listed coconut oil as bad for you, according to my dad who gets the magazine. Do you or anyone else have an opinion on that?
I still use it and have a stockpile. I like to pop my popcorn in it and use it in some baked goods. I have a few recipes for toothpaste using coconut oil that I will use should I ever have to.
We also purchased some organic Spectrum shortening that I think is palm but listed as “all vegetable”. It was mentioned on Survivalblog, if I’m not mistaken. It was recommended as an oil with no expiration date. Haven’t used it yet though.
I would say that CR said coconut oil is bad for you because it is a saturated fat, and some people still can’t wrap their head around the fact that the whole “saturated fat is bad for you” thing was, and is, a bunch of BS. Our brains are 60% saturated fats, as is breast milk. If saturated fat was so bad, why would nature have put it in our brains or in a baby’s first food? Look back on the last 30 years: since “researchers, scientists, and doctors” started pushing the whole “saturated fat is bad for you” baloney, we have become sicker; look at the Alzheimer’s rates (maybe people’s brains miss the saturated fats?), the diabetes rates, the cancer rates. They told us to consume overly-processed vegetable oils for “heart health” and the obesity and chronic illness rates skyrocketed. Saturated fats, and animal fats were the only fats people ate for generations, and besides disease usually spread by lack of sanitation, these people typically lived free of the ailments we know today. Do yourself a favor and read Dr. Weston A Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It will forever change the way you look at food, and the lies governemnet food pyramids and researchers have been telling us.
I agree with Susan! It is a good fat that we can digest well and is a benefit. All the other saturated fats are one that our bodies don’t know what to do with!
I checked through all the article text and the comments to see if this was mentioned…
Since this is a preparedness community, it’s worth mentioning that in addition to all the other wonderful benefits of coconut oil, it also makes a useful fire starter. A half-teaspoon amount on either a cotton ball, a more compact flat cotton cosmetic removal pad, or a wad of dryer lint — plus a match — and you have a dynamite first starter combination!
So you can eat it, cook with it, shave with it, use it for all kinds of skin external issues, and even start your campfires with it (even if those little wood gas backpacking stoves otherwise give you fits to fire up). And all without the need of refrigeration.
OK, somebody with more literary creativity than me can write an additional verse to that “lime in the coconut” song about fire with the coconut!
This recent and stunning discovery is a 20:45 minute video that needs to be added from Mike Adams on how to clean and lubricate your firearms with coconut oil: