People consume coconut oil in many different ways, including as a cooking oil, as an alternative to butter in baking, and in smoothies. While coconut oil may have health benefits, it is high in saturated fat, and eating too much can be harmful.
In this article, we discuss ways to incorporate coconut oil into the diet and how much may be healthful.
Why eat coconut oil?
Coconut oil may help promote ketosis.
Saturated fat makes up nearly 90% of coconut oil. However, a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid makes up a substantial amount of the fat in this oil — between 48.40% and 52.84%.
Unlike other saturated fats, such as that in butter, lauric acid may have health benefits, including:
- promoting ketosis, a state in which the body burns fat for energy
- increasing beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels
- decreasing the risk of heart attack
However, the researchers behind these and similar studies cannot predict the long term health effects of eating coconut oil.
People may wonder how much coconut oil to consume for the maximum health benefits and minimum adverse effects.
The following sections look at how much to consume and some ways to include coconut oil in a healthful diet.
How much to use
While small amounts of coconut oil may have health benefits, people should limit their intake.
Coconut oil is a high calorie food that contains mostly saturated fatty acids. Diets high in saturated fatty acids may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
However, researchers have found that 2 tablespoons (tbsp), or 30 milliliters, of coconut oil per day can have beneficial effects.
In one small 2017 study, 2 tbsp of coconut oil increased levels of HDL cholesterol, or "good cholesterol," in healthy adults. However, some participants experienced mild diarrhea during the study.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 tbsp, or 13.6 grams (g), of coconut oil contain:
- calories: 121 kilocalories
- fat: 13.5 g
- carbohydrates: 0 g
- protein: 0 g
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that saturated fats make up less than 10% of a person's daily intake of calories.
Based on this recommendation, an adult who consumes 2,000 calories per day should get fewer than 200 of their calories from saturated fats, which equals about 1.5 tbsp of coconut oil per day.
People who want to start adding coconut oil to their diets can begin with 0.5 tbsp and increase to 1.5 tbsp per day.
1 . Use it as a cooking oil
A person can use coconut oil as as cooking oil.
Coconut oil stays solid at room temperature. Its saturated fatty acids keep it stable at high temperatures, making it an ideal cooking oil.
However, compared to other cooking oils, such as canola and soybean oils, coconut oil has a relatively low smoking point of 339.8°F (171°C). This means that it may produce carcinogens after use in continuous deep frying.
As a result, people should avoid deep frying foods in coconut oil and instead opt for oils with higher smoking points, such as canola, corn, or soybean oils.
For uses other than deep frying, replacing traditional cooking oils with coconut oil is an easy way to incorporate more coconut oil into the diet.
Ways to cook with coconut oil include:
- using it when sauteing or stir-frying vegetables, meat, eggs, or fish
- mixing it into sauces and salad dressings
- coating meat or poultry in coconut oil and spices before baking
2. Bake with it
People can make baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and brownies, using coconut oil.
Simply replace the oil that the recipe calls for with melted coconut oil at a 1:1 ratio.
Allow any milk and eggs to come to room temperature before mixing them with coconut oil to prevent the batter from clumping.
3. Add it to drinks
Another way to enjoy coconut oil is by adding a small amount — about 1–2 teaspoons (tsp) — to drinks, such as coffee, tea, and smoothies.
Below are some simple drink recipes featuring coconut oil:
Tropical smoothie for one:
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- half a cup of coconut water
- 1 to 1.5 cups of mango
- half a cup of pineapple
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
- 1 tsp of coconut oil
- half a teaspoon of matcha powder
- a quarter cup of hot water
- 1 cup of coconut, almond, or oat milk
- optional: 0.5 to 1 tbsp of honey, maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
- Warm the coconut milk and coconut oil in a pan over medium to high heat.
- Boil the water. Meanwhile, add the matcha powder to a clean mug. When the water comes to a boil, add it to the matcha and whisk until smooth.
- When the coconut milk and coconut oil mixture begins bubbling, turn off the heat and stir in the sweetener of choice using a milk wand or whisk. Pour the mixture over the matcha.
- Serve immediately.
When buying coconut oil, be sure to choose pure versions that are intended for human consumption. People can buy coconut oil in supermarkets, health food stores, and online.
Coconut oil is available in supplement form.
People can take coconut oil in capsule form. While supplements may offer convenience and easy dosage control, this is not the best method of consuming coconut oil.
Most supplements contain 1–3 g per capsule, and a person would have to take 13 capsules to get the equivalent of 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Try cooking or baking with it instead.
Coconut oil contains high quantities of beneficial medium-chain fatty acids, primarily lauric acid. Adding coconut oil to the diet may lead to health benefits.
However, coconut oil is rich in saturated fats and a high calorie food. People should get less than 10% of their daily calories from saturated fats.
To get any health benefits of coconut oil while minimizing any adverse effects, stick to 1–2 tbsp of coconut oil per day.