Coconut oil is a health food favorite that's easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Ways to eat coconut oil include substituting it for butter in baking, when frying vegetables, by stirring into your morning cup of coffee, as a moisturizer or even by eating coconut oil straight off the spoon.
Ways to Eat Coconut Oil
There are many ways to eat coconut oil. While there is much debate about the actual health benefits of coconut oil, it remains a popular ingredient, especially for those following special food programs such as the ketogenic or Paleo diets.
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The simplest way to make coconut oil part of your everyday diet is by using it in place of olive or vegetable oil when cooking vegetables or meats. Refined coconut oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for stir-frying or roasting. Try drizzling sweet potatoes with coconut oil before placing them in the oven to roast for an extra boost of flavor.
Another way to integrate coconut oil in your daily life is by slipping it in a drink known as bulletproof coffee. Also called butter coffee, bulletproof coffee combines black coffee or espresso with one to two tablespoons each of unsalted butter from grass-fed cows and medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil (this includes coconut oil).
You can also use coconut oil to replace butter or vegetable oil in baked goods in a 1:1 ratio. Remember that coconut oil will solidify in cold temperatures, so you may have to melt it before using.
Some like eating coconut oil straight from the spoon. It can also be used as a moisturizer or hair conditioner. Although coconut oil is sometimes used as a sunscreen, the Mayo Clinic notes that coconut oil as a sunscreen blocks only about 20 percent of the sun's damaging rays rather than the recommended 97 percent found in an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.
Coconut Oil Benefits
Coconut oil has a unique flavor and a smooth, pleasant texture that can be incorporated into many food preparations. It also may raise HDL cholesterol — which is not a bad thing.
Dr. Qi Sun, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that coconut oil tends to raise beneficial HDL cholesterol more than other fats do, possibly because coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid that the body processes slightly differently than it does other saturated fats.
For those following a vegan diet, which avoids meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and honey, coconut oil may be helpful because it can give the richness of butter without the dairy. Still, you should keep in mind that coconut oil contains as many calories and total fat as other fat sources, about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.
Disadvantages of Coconut Oil
The main health concern with consuming coconut oil is its high saturated fat content. Just one tablespoon of coconut oil contains up to 12 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends ingesting less than 13 gram of saturated fat per day.
According to Harvard Medical School, coconut oil is often pushed as heart-healthy because of the suggestion it can raise HDL ("good") cholesterol, and because the type of saturated fats it contains is called "medium chain triglycerides."
But even if this is true, the American Heart Association noted in a 2017 statement that lowering the intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, there is not enough current scientific evidence to prove that coconut oil is good for you.
As a skin treatment, some people may find that using coconut oil as a moisturizer could clog their pores. If you're allergic to eating coconuts, you should also not use coconut oil. A 2017 trial found that some who ate coconut oil daily experienced mild diarrhea, but had no other serious adverse effects.
- 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"
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Coconut Oil"
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Cracking the Coconut Oil Craze
- AHA Journals: "Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association"
- HealthySD.gov: "Coconut Oil – Healthy or Unhealthy?"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Myth or Fact: Coconut Oil is an Effective Sunscreen"
- Organic Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil Recipes