If you spend much time on Facebook or Pinterest you may have seen links to articles touting the healthful properties of coconut oil for everything from diaper rash to weight loss. How much of these claims are true?
It’s 100% harmless. FALSE!
Allergic reactions to coconut are rare, but they do occur. Babies have had reactions to coconut and palm oils in formula and lotions, and when applied to skin it can trigger redness and itching in some people. And because it has a high comedogenic rating it can also trigger acne in babies and adults. As with any new skin care product, patch test a dab on skin for 12-24 hours before slathering it on yourself or baby, especially on sensitive face– or bottom-skin.
You shouldn’t feed coconut oil, milk or water to babies until at least 6 months of age. If you do, give a small amount and then wait for a couple of hours to watch for an allergic reaction. Before 6 months of age a baby’s primary hydration and nutrition source should be breast milk or formula.
It can help with diaper rash. TRUE!
Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties that kill the yeast that causes some kinds of diaper rash. It can also help with diaper chafing.
It’s good for cradle cap. SORT OF!
Cradle cap is a scaly, scabby scalp rash which about half of babies get, usually before 8 months of age.
Parents report mixed results from massaging baby’s head with the oil then combing out flakes. The oil does soften the flakes, and the anti-microbial properties of the oil may help keep the rash from recurring. But parents also report that it makes an oily mess that is difficult to wash out and clean up. It also clogs drains.
It’s a good body moisturizer. TRUE!
As long as you’re not allergic, coconut oil is an excellent (and cheap!) body moisturizer. It can also help with keratosis pilaris (hard bumpy skin that some people get on their upper arms) and help prevent the itching that comes with stretched belly skin.
It can help you lose weight. POSSIBLY!
One tiny study of seven humans found that eating a medium-chain triglyceride oil (like coconut) plus chili oil helped participants lose more weight than chili with sunflower oil. But other, larger studies have found only a modest or no difference in weight loss between participants who consumed coconut oil and other oils.
One thing we do know: you do need to consume fat when you’re pregnant, no-fat diets can be dangerous to the development of baby’s brain. About 20 to 35 percent of your diet should come from fat while you’re pregnant, which is between 225 and 325 grams depending on your BMI and activity level. The majority of your fat intake should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats, found in oily fish, vegetable oils and avocados, are healthier for you than the fat in dairy and meat.
You can cook with it. TRUE!
Coconut oil is also great for high-temperature cooking. You can substitute it for other oils for stir-frys, and use it in baking in place of a recipes that call for softened or melted butter. It is a little too firm for salad dressing, though.