Coconut oil has a saturated fat content of 90 percent. Oils high in saturated fats have been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases.
However, coconut oil has grown in popularity in recent years, amid claims that it can do everything from supporting weight loss to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Manufacturers have replaced other oils with coconut oil in packaged products, and many households use it for cooking. It features not only in fried food, but in sweets, shampoos, coffee, and smoothies.
In July 2016, results of a survey in the United States (U.S.) showed that 72 percent of people think coconut oil is healthful. However, only 37 percent of nutritionists agree.
After all, it is still saturated fat, and the American Heart Association (AHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) caution consumers against coconut and other tropical oils.
Find out more about the controversy, and if you should make coconut oil a staple in your diet.
Fast facts on coconut oil:
Here are some key points about coconut oil. More detail is in the main article.
- Coconut oil has increased in popularity in recent years due to reputed health benefits.
- Overall, research does not currently appear to support increasing consumption of saturated fats, including coconut oil.
- It can be a tasty addition to a number of recipes, but it should be used with care.
Uses for Coconut Oil in Cooking and Recipes
- A great cooking oil with a high smoke point. Great for baking, stir-frys or as a dairy free replacement to butter.
- Try adding to foods or smoothies daily for energy
- Or emulsify into coffee for a homemade coffee creamer (The only way I’ll drink coffee)
- In homemade Mayo without the high PUFA vegetable oils
- To season cast iron skillets
- It’s high Lauric acid and MCFA content helps boost metabolism when used in foods
- In healthy brain boosting snack for kids like Coconut Clusters
- Add to a filling and energy boosting Brain Power Smoothie
- Mix a tablespoon with a tablespoon of chia seeds for an all-day energy boost (do NOT take this at night!)
- Use as a replacement for vegetable oils in any recipe or in cooking
- Or try your hand at making coconut based grain free granola recipes
- My kids love these homemade meltaways (like candy)
- Use it as an anti-aging facial moisturizer
- Or make coconut cream concentrate for a brain boosting snack
Coconut Oil Health Benefits and Uses
- It has been shown to increase absorption of calcium and magnesium
- Internally as part of the protocol to help remineralize teeth
- Is an immediate source of energy when eaten that isn’t stored as fat
- Can help speed weight loss when consumed daily
- It can help improve sleep when taken daily
- When used in food, it may support healthy thyroid function
- Some studies show that it can help improve insulin levels when consumed regularly
- Topically, it help skin heal faster after injury or infection because of its beneficial fats
- When used consistently on skin it can help get rid of cellulite
- Some evidence shows that the beneficial fats in coconut oil can help with depression and anxiety
Coconut Oil Beauty Uses
The same properties that make it beneficial in cooking and recipes make coconut oil beneficial for hair and skin:
- On the skin as a basic lotion
- With other oils as part of an oil cleansing regimen for beautiful skin
- Whipped with shea butter for a soothing body balm
- In homemade lotion bars with other beneficial ingredients like shea butter
- In homemade deodorant– its natural antibacterial properties make it helpful in fighting odor.
- Coconut oil makes an excellent eye-makeup remover on its own
- It may help lighten age spots when rubbed directly on the skin
- To help increase sun tolerance and avoid burning when used internally
- As a naturally low SPF sunscreen on its own when used topically
- In basic homemade lotion recipes
- Add a couple drops of a favorite essential oil to make a delicious massage oil
Coconut Oil For Hair
- Rub into scalp daily to stimulate hair growth
- Or use in homemade shampoo bars
- A tiny dab rubbed on your hands and then through hair makes a great anti-frizz treatment
- As an incredibly intensive natural conditioner- Rub into dry hair, put a shower cap on and leave for several hours before washing out with several rounds of shampoo
Coconut Oil Uses Around the Home
- In homemade soap for laundry
- In Homemade Natural Bug-Off Lotion Bars
- To make a simple homemade soap
- Or make a clay and charcoal soothing soap
- Rub a small amount into real leather to soften and condition (shiny leather only… test a small area first)And use a small amount to dilute essential oils for use on skin
- For pets struggling with skin issues when used externally
- In coconut oil dog treats
- On hands after doing dishes to avoid dry skin
- Mixed with catnip, rosemary, or mint essential oils as a natural bug repellent
Natural Remedies for Coconut Oil
- In coconut oil pulling chews and oil pulling for oral health
- Rubbed on the inside of your nose it may help alleviate allergy symptoms
- The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties make it helpful topically to kill yeast or yeast infections
- The antimicrobial properties and beneficial fats make coconut oil a powerhouse in Remineralizing Toothpaste
- Can help sooth psoriasis or eczema
- Oil pulling with coconut oil and a drop of oregano oil helps improve gum health
- Can help improve cholesterol ratios
- Can help reduce appearance of varicose veins when used topically
- After initial heat is gone, can help speed healing of sunburn
- Blend a tablespoon into hot tea to help speed recovery from cold or flu
Coconut Oil for Pregnancies, Babies and Children
- As a cloth diaper safe diaper cream (just rub on baby’s bottom)
- I’ve used in kids ears to help speed ear infection healing
- In place of Lanolin cream on nursing nipples to sooth irritation (also great for baby!)
- Nursing moms can take a couple tablespoons a day (and Vitamin D) to increase milk supply and nutrients
- To help sooth the itch of chicken pox or poison ivy
- Use on skin to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy
- Used directly on the perineum to help heal after birth
- To get rid of cradle cap on baby- just massage in to head, leave on for a few minutes and gently rinse with a warm wash cloth
- With apple cider vinegar as a natural treatment for lice that actually works
Types of Coconut Oil
There are several choices when it comes to using this healthful fat.
Refined Coconut Oils
Refined coconut oil is often tasteless and has no coconut smell. It is usually heated, bleached and deodorized. Healthy options are available but many refined coconut oils do not have the benefits of unrefined.
What Type to Use?
For external uses, expeller pressed, fractionated or other types of refined coconut oil will work, but for internal use, an unrefined organic oil is best.
Want to try it out? I love this organic extra virgin coconut oil that is made from all Non-GMO all natural ingredients.
Most of the fats in coconut oil are saturated but they are in the form of MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides, also called MCFAs), which affect the body differently than short and long chain fats. The MCTs are composed of:
- Lauric Acid– This beneficial fat makes up 40% of the total fat composition, making it one of nature’s highest natural sources. The body converts lauric acid to monolaurin, which is beneficial for immune function.
- Caprylic Acid– Another healthy fat with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- Capric Acid– This converts to monocaprin in the body and has immune boosting and antimicrobial properties.
Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
Most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed. Coconut oil is high in short and medium chain fatty acids, which are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production.
Because MCFAs are sent right to the liver for digestion, nobile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food even for those with diabetes or those who have gallbladder problems.
MCFAs can help increase metabolism since they are sent directly to the liver and give the body an instant source of energy. Most of the MCFAs in coconut oil are the highly beneficial Lauric Acid.
Benefits of MCFAs (MCTs)
All of these MCTs are beneficial to the body. They are metabolized differently than longer chain fats, going straight from the digestive system to the liver. This provides a quick source of energy and brain fuel.
These rare oils are naturally free of cholesterol and hard to find in nature.
This may be part of the reason that coconut oil is so beneficial to the brain and for weight loss. It isn’t digested or stored in the same was as other fats and is more quickly available for use.
Coconut oil is also a decent source of several fat soluble vitamins (mainly A and K) as well as healthy polyphenols.
Lauric acid is found in abundance in human breast milk and converts to a substance called monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin has been shown to be useful in increasing immunity and fighting viruses and disease.
One study combined lauric acid-rich coconut oil with oregano oil, and found it effective in fighting the staph bacteria than antibiotics. It has also been shown to be preventative against some cancers.
Coconut Oil is over 40% lauric acid, the richest source naturally available.
What Can’t Coconut Oil Do?
Still working on this one! As if all the above uses weren’t enough, studies have linked coconut oil to the following health benefits:
- High lauric acid content can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It doesn’t increase LDL and helps keep arteries flexible and prevent atherosclerosis
- Studies show that coconut oil may help increase thyroid health because of its unique combination of nourishing properties and the fact that it travels directly to the liver without the need for hormones or enzymes in digestion
- Coconut oil can help boost metabolism. Since it travels directly to the liver, it is used for energy and not stored as fat. It also helps a feeling of satiety and can assist in weight loss.
- Can increase bone strength by allowing better absorption of calcium, vitamin D, and other minerals
- It’s antifungal properties have been shown to help reduce candida and yeast in the body and fight yeast infections
- Can help fight infection and flu due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties.