Dr. Berg small logo

Home / Keto Basics / Coconut Oil Benefits

Coconut Oil Benefits

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/21/2016

There are many benefits of coconut oil and coconut oil consumption is on a steady rise, and for good reason—its health benefits are hard to ignore.

Here’s why coconut oil is an excellent choice for your health and how you can incorporate this keto-friendly oil into your keto lifestyle.

Coconut oil and the benefits

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a cholesterol-free tropical oil and a rich source of vitamin E and polyphenols. It’s loaded with medium-chain triglycerides, including lauric acid and caprylic acid, which are excellent for ketosis.

Virgin coconut oil is made by cold-pressing fresh coconut meat to extract the oil. Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is typically produced from dried coconut flesh and is heavily processed, bleached, and chemically treated. 

Choose virgin coconut oil whenever possible to get the most nutritious oil with maximum benefit for your health. 

Watch the video below to learn more about coconut oil’s excellent health benefits.

Seven benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil contains saturated fat, which has received some negative press, linking it to an increased risk of heart disease. However, this claim is inaccurate. 

In fact, research suggests that saturated fats in coconut oil boost HDL cholesterol, the healthy cholesterol that protects your heart.

Here are seven examples of why coconut oil is an excellent choice for your health:  

1. Weight loss 

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, also called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which benefit energy metabolism. 

MCTs are easily digested and rapidly converted to ketones, a readily available fuel source for your cells. This may explain why coconut oil is known to curb appetite and support weight loss.  

Because MCTs are converted to ketones, coconut oil helps your metabolism get into ketosis quickly. When in ketosis, your body burns fat instead of sugar to produce energy. Utilizing your body’s fat stores as a fuel source promotes weight loss and steady energy levels.

2. Antiviral and antimicrobial 

Coconut oil is a rich source of saturated fatty acids, including lauric acid and caprylic acid. These saturated fats have potent antimicrobial and antifungal properties that support your immune system and reduce the risk of microbial infection. 

Caprylic acid is an antibacterial compound that lowers the risk of bacterial-related diarrhea and helps reduce symptoms of yeast infections like Candida

Lauric acid is a powerful antiviral and antimicrobial fatty acid, reducing the risk of viral gastrointestinal infections and protecting from H-pylori and E. coli infections. 

The only food sources of lauric acid are coconut oil, coconut milk, and palm oil

3. Heart healthy 

Coconut oil is rich in natural saturated fats that promote healthy cholesterol levels. Balanced cholesterol levels protect your heart and lower the risk of heart disease.

One study, in particular, found that coconut oil consumption reduces levels of harmful LDL cholesterol while raising healthy HDL cholesterol levels.

Excessive belly fat is one of the main cardiovascular risk factors—it increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. MCTs in coconut oil stimulate metabolic fat-burning, decreasing belly fat and lowering your risk of developing heart disease.

Woman holding coconut

4. Healthy brain function  

Lauric acid in coconut oil has potent antioxidant properties. It may reduce damage to neurons and brain cells, which supports healthy brain function. 

Lauric acid is also believed to improve cognition during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. 

MCTs in coconut oil are rapidly converted to ketones, the brain's preferred source of energy. Ketones fuel brain cells and support neuronal health, brain function, and cognition.

5. Improved mood

Regular coconut oil consumption can lower anxiety and depressive symptoms

Coconut oil increases your brain's sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is your body's natural feel-good chemical associated with feelings of pleasure and reduced anxiety and negative emotions.

Research also suggests that lauric acid in coconut oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial in maintaining healthy brain cell function and reducing symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.

6. Dental health 

Incorporating coconut oil benefits your dental health. The practice of oil pulling has been widespread in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for generations. It's used to fight dental disease and support strong teeth and healthy gums.

According to one study, oil pulling using coconut oil increases oral health by:  

  • Lowering levels of mouth bacteria, resulting in less plaque production

  • Decreasing the risk of gum disease 

  • Reducing bad breath

7. Skin and hair health 

Pure coconut oil has long been a leading natural treatment for skin and hair. Its unique fatty acid content helps to keep skin moist and hair healthy.

Coconut oil softens skin and can prevent transepidermal water loss, making it an excellent choice for dry skin and eczema. Lauric acid in coconut oil is hydrating and antimicrobial, protecting from skin infections, suppressing inflammatory markers, and supporting skin barrier function.  

Extra virgin coconut oil helps with frizzy, dry hair. Lauric acid and other MTCs in coconut oil condition the hair shaft making it an ideal treatment to detangle, moisturize and condition your hair. 

Lauric acid's antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties also support healthy scalp skin and can improve symptoms of dandruff.

Coconut oil's health benefits don't stop there. Coconut oil can even work as a mild sunscreen for skin and hair, blocking about 20% of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. 
 

Coconut oil hair treatment

How to use coconut oil

Coconut oil is a versatile fat with many health benefits that can be used in more ways than just for cooking. Here are several ways you can incorporate coconut oil into your lifestyle.

In the kitchen 

Coconut oil has a high smoke point, meaning it can safely be heated to high temperatures. Its mild flavor is ideal for baking, sauteing, pan-frying, and roasting. 

Because coconut oil is high in saturated fats, it holds firm at room temperature and is the perfect oil for keto fat bombs.  

To benefit from its many health benefits, substitute other oils like vegetable oil, soybean oil, or sunflower oil with coconut oil. You can stir coconut oil into your coffee or add it to your favorite smoothie for a creamy texture. 

Choose extra virgin coconut oil and avoid heavily processed coconut oil made from dried coconut meat that is lower in quality. 

Store coconut oil in a cool and dark place with a tight-fitting lid. Compared to other vegetable oils, coconut oil has a long shelf life, and virgin coconut oil can last up to five years.

In the bathroom 

Unprocessed, cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil is best for skin, hair, and dental care. Coconut oil can be applied as a moisturizer or face mask to clean skin, but you want to limit its use if you have oily skin. 

To use coconut oil to improve oral health, try oil pulling. Put one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish for 10 minutes, like it’s mouthwash, and rinse.   

You can apply coconut oil to your hair and scalp for deep conditioning and to reduce frizz.

Coconut oil

Key takeaways

Considering its science-backed health benefits, it's not surprising that coconut oil is one of the most beneficial fats for your health. Adding coconut oil to your diet supports healthy body weight, lowers cardiovascular risk factors, and fuels your brain cells.

But coconut oil's benefits don't stop there. It's a natural, chemical-free treatment to soften skin, help maintain oral health, and is an excellent hair treatment. 

Coconut oil is packed with beneficial fats and is an excellent oil to support your body. Choose unprocessed, virgin coconut oil for maximum nutrition and health benefits.

FAQs

1. Is coconut oil good for weight loss?

Yes, coconut oil is excellent for weight loss. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs, a saturated fat that stimulates your metabolism to burn fatty acids for energy. As a result, more body fat is used as fuel, supporting weight loss and preventing weight gain. 

2. Is coconut oil healthy?

Yes, coconut oil is healthy. Coconut oil health benefits range from supporting brain health and heart health to lowering the risk of bacterial infections.

Around 90% of coconut oil is saturated fat. Saturated fat intake has in the past been linked with heart disease. However, the claims that saturated fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease aren’t accurate. 

In fact, compared to other saturated fats, the fatty acids in coconut oil support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. Watch this video to understand the common misconceptions about coconut oil and saturated fat. 

3. Can I have coconut oil daily?

Yes, coconut oil can be used daily as part of a balanced, nutritious diet. Use coconut oil for baking, cooking, or sauteing, or add it to your favorite smoothie or coffee. 

4. What are the benefits of coconut oil?

Coconut oil has numerous benefits for your health. It supports healthy weight, increases beneficial HDL cholesterol, lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular risk factors, and provides fatty acids that are quickly converted to energy. 

Coconut oil can also support skin barrier function, improve hair and scalp health, and reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth, resulting in lower plaque buildup. 

5. How much coconut oil should I have per day?

To get the most health benefits, consume one to two tablespoons of coconut oil daily. 

6. Is coconut oil healthier than olive oil?

Both coconut oil and olive oil are healthy dietary fats with many health benefits.  

While coconut oil contains more saturated fat and MCTs, olive oil is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. To get the maximum health benefits, consume both oils regularly.

7. What is the fat content of coconut oil?

Coconut oil is 100% fat, of which around 90% is saturated fat. Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides like lauric acid, myristic acid, and palmitic acid. Coconut oil also contains long-chain fatty acids and small amounts of unsaturated fatty acids.

8. Are there benefits to using coconut oil for skin?

Yes, coconut oil is very beneficial for skin health and helps to soften and moisturize your skin. Lauric acid in coconut oil reduces water loss and hydrates the skin. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties support skin barrier function and help wound healing. 

9. How many calories are in coconut oil?

Coconut oil contains 117 calories per tablespoon. 

10. Is coconut oil good for your heart?

Yes, coconut oil is heart-healthy. Lauric acid in coconut oil supports healthy cholesterol levels by increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol. This type of cholesterol protects your arteries and heart and is associated with lower risks of heart disease. 

MCTs in coconut oil have metabolic benefits and increase fat-burning. Increased use of fat for energy leads to lower abdominal fat and improved cardiovascular health.

11. Can I have coconut oil while fasting?

No. Maybe you have heard that coconut oil doesn't break a fast. This might need to be clarified. There is evidence that MCTs can be consumed without breaking the fast, but this is only the case for pure MCT oil, a supplement containing concentrated medium-chain triglycerides, not coconut oil.

Coconut oil is keto-friendly but high in calories, and you want to avoid having any while fasting. When doing intermittent fasting, only eat coconut oil during your eating window. 

12. Does coconut oil contain too much cholesterol?

No, coconut oil doesn’t contain cholesterol.

Up Next:

Tags

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan

Eliminate hunger & cravings for an energetic and healthy body