Give your body a boost with versatile coconut oil. It’s the all-in-one health and beauty fix everyone’s talking about.

From the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom, coconut oil has a number of surprising health benefits. We share five good reasons why you should always have a tub of coconut oil at hand…

1. It’s a super fat
Coconut oil, which comes from the dried fruit of the coconut palm, is one of the richest sources of saturated fat. It consists of a unique combination of fatty acids (lauric acid is the principal fatty acid) and is highly resistant to oxidation at high heat, which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking such as frying.

While coconut oil is high in saturated fats, which are usually associated with high cholesterol, the saturated fats in coconut oil don’t seem to increase LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. This means it may actually protect the arteries and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Used in cooking, coconut oil is easy to digest and has been shown to slow the rate of digestion of other foods. In this way, it helps to stabilise blood-sugar levels, helping you feel fuller for longer. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil also don’t seem to get stored in the adipose (fat) tissues in the body. What’s more, the fatty acids seem to help speed up metabolism, making coconut oil a boon to anyone trying to control their weight.

The antimicrobial lipids in coconut oil also have great antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties: lauric, capric and caprylic acids. Lauric acid is converted to monolaurin in the body, which has been shown to fight off viruses and bacteria, including herpes and influenza.

2. It’s great for hair
If you’ve never used coconut oil on your hair, you’ve been missing out. This oil penetrates deep into the hair shaft, where it works its magic. Plus, it’s free of harmful chemicals and generally less expensive than other hair products.

The unrefined, cold-pressed, natural oil not only helps to encourage new hair growth, but gives hair a healthy shine. Use it as a conditioner and massage it into your scalp to prevent dandruff, hair damage and, yes, even lice. It’s best to apply the softened, melted oil onto dry hair and to leave it on for an hour or two before washing it off with a good-quality, natural shampoo.

Applying a drop of melted oil to dry hair will also help control frizzy hair.

3. It’s good for bones and teeth
Coconut oil can assist the body to absorb minerals such as calcium and magnesium from the foods we eat, which in turn promotes stronger, healthier bones and teeth. In this way, it may also lower your risk for osteoporosis later in life.

An ancient Indian technique called “oil pulling”, which involves swishing a tablespoon of coconut (or other vegetable) oil in your mouth for a few minutes at a time, may also help to fight gum disease, plaque and bad breath. Take care not to swallow any of the oil while you’re swishing it, and to brush and floss your teeth afterwards.

4. It keeps skin moist and healthy
Using coconut oil on the skin can form a chemical barrier and ward off infection. It’s also been shown to alleviate symptoms associated with skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis by supporting the natural chemical balance of the skin.

Coconut oil can soften the skin, relieve dryness and flaking, and even prevent wrinkles and age spots. It’s also a fantastic lip balm, under-eye cream and cuticle softener.

Apply softened oil to your skin twice a day to improve skin moisture in very dry skin (it’s easy to soften the oil by rubbing it between your hands). Just remember that coconut oil doesn’t protect the skin against UV damage, so use a good sunscreen as well.

5. It’s the perfect massage oil
Using coconut oil as a massage oil will not only moisturise your skin – when used to massage your scalp, it may help fight mental fatigue (“brain fog”).

Interesting research also shows that massaging preterm and newborn babies with coconut oil helps them to grow and gain weight more quickly.

Tip: Don’t soften coconut oil in the microwave, as this may destroy some of the active compounds. Rather heat the oil gently on the stove or rub a small dollop between your palms before applying it to your skin or hair.