If you've heard about coconut oil health benefits, you may be wondering how much you should eat every day to reap those benefits. Unfortunately, it's not cut and dry. How much you should eat depends on a number of factors, such as the diet you're eating.
There is no set amount to eat before you start seeing coconut oil health benefits. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming about 13 grams (about one tablespoon) of saturated fat per day.
Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, a tablespoon of coconut oil contains nearly 14 grams of fat and 121 calories. Of those 121 coconut oil calories, everything comes from fat because there is no protein, fiber, carbohydrates or sugar. Nearly all of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat. A small portion of it is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
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The AHA recommends that no more than 5 to 6 percent of your calories come from saturated fat. If you are on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, no more than 120 of your calories should come from saturated fat. This means that one tablespoon coconut oil is all you would need per day.
This would also mean you'd need to watch your saturated fat consumption from other food sources such as avocado and beef since it would not leave room in your diet for any other saturated fat.
Coconut Oil Health Benefits
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the difference with coconut oil compared to other saturated fats is that it seems to also help raise the good levels of cholesterol, or HDL, in your body. Though other saturated fats can give it a small boost, coconut oil raises it even more.
Does this mean it's a good option for heart health? The extra boost to HDL levels may make it seem so, but just because it's slightly "less bad" for you doesn't mean it will go a long way in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Coconut oil is primarily made of medium-chain triglycerides which, according to a January 2014 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , the body metabolizes differently. As a preferred source of energy, the body does not require these fat molecules to bind to protein and use of them first, which decreases the chance that they will be stored as extra fat.
Coconut Oil Side Effects
If you want to start using coconut oil, it's best to start slowly, with a teaspoon or so a day, and gradually work your way up to the full amount over one to two weeks. This is the best way to avoid coconut oil side effects. If you take too much too soon, you may experience diarrhea or loose stools and some nausea.
According to a December 2017 small-scale study published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, mild diarrhea was reported by some of the healthy volunteers during daily consumption of virgin coconut oil at a dose of two tablespoons per day.
Individuals also reported stomach pain and vomiting or nausea. After the second week of supplementation, these side effects subsided. No major safety issues were reported over the course of the eight week study.
It's important to remember that coconut oil is a high calorie food. Eating too much of it, especially if you're already eating a diet high in calories could lead to weight gain as a side effect.
How to Eat Coconut Oil
You can add coconut oil to your diet in a number of ways, such as:
- Eating coconut oil in the morning on an empty stomach off of a spoon.
- Eating coconut oil before bed off of spoon.
- Adding coconut oil to your coffee.
- Sautéing vegetables.
- Melted over air-popped popcorn.
- As a replacement for butter and a one-to-one ratio in most recipes.
As with anything else in your diet, moderation is key. Coconut oil calories can add up quickly and too much of it could lead to weight gain. It doesn't really matter if you eat coconut oil in the morning on an empty stomach or if you prefer eating coconut oil before bed. What matters is that you have healthy fats in your diet, regardless of what time of day you consume them.
However, when you first start adding it to your diet, eating coconut oil in the morning on an empty stomach may contribute to nausea. You may also find that eating coconut oil before bed contributes to the side effects. If this is the case for you, adjust your serving sizes and times accordingly.
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: "Oil, Coconut"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil and Health"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Daily Consumption of Virgin Coconut Oil Increases High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Volunteers: A Randomized Crossover Trial"