Is coconut oil good for you?

The nutrition world loves to debate about things. From saturated fat’s effect on heart disease to the existence of gluten sensitivity, there are always arguments going back and forth amongst professionals. And because I love a good debate as much as the next person, I thought I’d jump in with my two cents about one of the most hotly debated topics as of late: coconut oil.

Is coconut oil good for you?

That’s the big question everyone has been wondering these days: is coconut oil good for you?

Before I can answer that, I need to take a step back and look at the evidence. So you might have heard that coconut oil is a good source of a type of fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which is correct. On average, coconut oil is made up of about 86-93% saturated fat with over 65% of that saturated fat being the medium chain kind (1).

These MCTs act differently in the body and get rapidly absorbed directly into the bloodstream, rather than going a lengthy route through our lymphatic system like other fats (2). From the blood, they go right to the liver where they tend to get oxidized rapidly rather than getting stored as fat (3).

So far this all sounds good, but what does it mean for our health?

Is coconut oil good for you?

To answer this, I’m going to separate my points into each supposed effect of coconut oil that you may have heard about in the media:

Metabolism: MCTs may slightly increases metabolism, but the longest study on this was only several days long. MCTs may have no effect on metabolism over a longer time period (3).

Weight: Some studies showed that it may decrease waist circumference, and this was most evident in men. But the subjects ate a restricted diet and had 2 tbsp of coconut oil per day, which may not be realistic for some people (4). There are also some studies that show that coconut oil causes more weight loss compared to other fats (5), but the evidence for this is not consistent.

Cholesterol: Good news – coconut oil seems to increase your HDL cholesterol (that’s the good stuff)! It also raises LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) as well, but not as much as butter does (6).

Nutrition aside, one of the benefits of coconut oil is that it is a very stable fat and doesn’t tend to go rancid very easily. It also has a high smoke point, so it is better for higher temperature cooking like stir frying.

The bottom line: Coconut oil may not be the miracle oil that it’s promoted as in the media, but I think it definitely has a place in a healthy diet, especially for use in high temperature cooking. But I wouldn’t recommend using only coconut oil in your kitchen, because then you’d be missing out on the awesome benefits of other fats, like those in olive and flax oil. Like all aspects of our diet, I think a good balance is important!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Do you use coconut oil? What’s your favourite use for it?

Looking for more nutrition posts? Check out these:

Why fro yo isn’t healthier than ice cream
Are “healthy choices” on restaurant menus actually healthy?
How to choose a healthy granola bar


Filed under nutrition

42 Responses to Is coconut oil good for you?

  1. Great breakdown of coconut oil as a health food, Chelsea! Like most foods, the media really makes this to be THE food to eat. While it does have certain health benefits, it’s not an excuse to overdo it- after a certain point of consumption, the benefits can turn into negatives. I love the taste of coconut so often cook my veggies in coconut oil. I especially appreciate the fact that it has a higher smoke point than many other oils.

    • Chelsea

      I don’t really cook my veggies in it often, unless I’m making a Thai or Caribbean dish. I find the flavour so overpowering. I like using it in baking though!

  2. I love these posts of yours, because I know it’s coming from a knowledgable source. I don’t embrace the hype of coconut oil, but do enjoy using it in food and frying food with it…but only when I’m out of butter.

    • Chelsea

      Lol! I prefer butter for most savoury uses. Shrimp sauteed in garlic and butter? Yes please! Shrimp sauteed in coconut oil and garlic? Gross!

  3. Thanks Chelsea! This is exactly what I was looking for! You have explained the real facts, rather than making coconut oil to be this miracle worker….speaking of which, my sister called me the other day and told me she had bought these really expensive Chi seeds (which I translated to chia), because her friend told her they make you lose weight. I was like uhhhhh not exactly true, but yes its good you are going to add those to your food haha. Thanks for always being the unbiast truth!

    • Chelsea

      Haha it always amazes me when people think that just one food can be responsible for weight loss! That’s not how it works!

  4. Great perspective Chelsea! I am slow to jump on the latest health food bandwagon because so often there really isn’t a lot of research to back up the claims! I think coconut oil has a place in our diets too, but I agree that it shouldn’t be the be all end all of oils that we use! Variety makes for the healthiest diet. :)

  5. This was a great overview of coconut oil! I use coconut oil for stir frying and for recipes when I want to take advantage of It’s solid form (ie: cheesecakes)! It will be interesting to see what studies will prove in future years!

  6. Great info, girl! I really hate it when a food suddenly becomes a fad and people start thinking they need to base their entire diet around it. Coconut oil might be good to include in our diets, but not at the expense of other foods. Like you said, it’s all about balance and making sure we get a food variety of foods — the middle way is always the best.

  7. Really interesting to read Chelsea! I can always count on you to break this sort of thing down ;-) I like coconut oil and I use it, but like everything else I use it in moderation – I like it for cooking at high temperatures (stir fries, like you said) but I still go for olive oil more often.

    • Chelsea

      Same here – I much prefer olive oil’s more neutral taste! I don’t really like coconut oil in savoury dishes unless it’s a dish that’s supposed to have coconut flavours in it, like Thai curries.

  8. Thank you for breaking this down like this hun! I’m always curious if different stuff like this is actually as good as people claim. I like the flavor of coconut oil for roasting veggies every now and then, but I usually forget about it and use olive oil instead :P

    • Chelsea

      I like coconut oil with certain veggies, like squash and sweet potatoes. I feel like it compliments the flavour of sweet vegetables the best!

  9. I find this post so ironic since I bought coconut oil for the first time yesterday! Perfect timing. I really appreciate you simplifying all the evidence there is on the pros/cons of coconut oil! You are so informative :)

  10. I found this post very informative and helpful. I’ve actually been wondering if coconut oil is really the next big thing or if it’s just the great white hype. I’ve heard so much contradictory information that I’ve naturally shied away from it and instead focused on more tried and tested fats like olive oil and yes, even the occasional pat of butter.
    Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.

    • Chelsea

      I’m glad you found this helpful! When fad foods get so much hype, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not.

  11. Thanks for all this information! My mom and I are huge fans of coconut oil (because we love coconut), but we’ve gotten mixed messages as to whether it’s healthy or not. This clears things up! Moderation is always the answer!

  12. Angela

    What do you think the the healthiest oil is? And do you recommend canola oil?

    • Chelsea

      It’s hard to classify any one oil as the healthiest. There are many that have equally good benefits depending on how you look at it. I definitely recommend canola oil because it is a great source of omega 3s! However here in Canada 80% of canola plants are genetically modified – if this is a concern for you, be sure to seek out a non-genetically modified brand!

  13. Excellent points! Rather than getting pulled into the next fad diet or superfood, I think it’s important that we promote 1) overall health + a healthy lifestyle 2) real wholesome food 3) everything is ok in moderation.

    I love coconut! Not only do I use it in cooking, but it’s also a big part of my skincare and haircare routine. But, it’s not the only oil I use. If I’m using it in cooking for example, I consider the dish I am making, the flavors I am going for and the overall properties of the oil.

    • Chelsea

      I love coconut oil as a moisturizer too!

      And I agree about considering the dish I’m making when using coconut oil. I tend to only use it in savoury dishes if I’m making Thai or Caribbean cuisine.

  14. i slathered it on my coconut flour pancake this morning!

  15. Great post!!! I love coconut oil but mostly for the taste. I generally use it in baked goods or for roasting and olive oil for salad dressings. I recently bought walnut oil though and I’m excited to start experimenting with it!

    • Chelsea

      I tend to use coconut oil more for baking than cooking as well. Also in raw dishes – it goes so well with dates and chocolate!

  16. It’s my preferred cooking oil, and I also love using it in baking or for magic shell chocolate. Or to rub on my nasty broken, battered feet!

    I have a bottle of MCT oil and even a tiny tsp of it makes me SO NAUSEAS

  17. LOVE ME SOME COCONUT OIL! YES! I was so scared of it for so long, but I am thrilled I got over that fear because NOW IT IS A STAPLE IN MY LIFE :) Spoonfuls on the regular!

  18. awesome post girl! I like coconut oil, but nothing is a miracle and I think that hype has really ruined it for me. I don’t think any food is all good or bad as you know, but I think that coconut oil fanatics need to remember that it is still saturated fat- and not enough research is out there to say it is different in “superfood” ways

  19. Fantastic post! I love how you covered all angles. I feel the same way – its nice to have around but I’m sure as heyy not using it as my only fat in the kitchen!

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  24. This was a REALLY good post!! I seriously love the way you wrote it! I totally agree with it too! I use coconut oil for a lot of things, but I still love me some EVOO! (And flax oil for smoothies!)

  25. I am a huge proponent of coconut oil, but I prefer to eat it as opposed to cook with it. If you haven’t tried, Nikki’s flavored Coconut Butter, you are missing out!

  26. Linda @ Fit Fed and Happy

    Coconut oil and MCT oils are an essential for me because I’m on the keto diet. Once you’re keto adapted, they aid in the productions of ketones like no other food! That’s why I rely so heavily on them :)

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  28. Thank you for putting clear and true information out there, not many people are willing to do that and it’s wonderful to see! If you haven’t yet I highly recommend coconut oil for making granola, as you said it goes well with things that are supposed to be a little sweet.

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