19 Research-Backed Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
There’s no doubt you’ve noticed coconut oil gaining popularity over the past few years. Whether you’ve heard of people using coconut oil in their coffee or slathering it on their body, it’s certainly quite trendy to use and eat coconut oil.
But is coconut oil all it’s cracked up to be?
I’m here to tell you that coconut oil really is a superfood. In fact, I often recommend coconut oil as part of a healthy diet. The long list of health benefits is impossible to ignore – which is why everyone is talking about coconut oil!
I compiled this list to show you proven, evidence-based health benefits of coconut oil.
How to Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used as a beauty treatment and as a food. It can be applied to your skin, hair, and nails to enhance your beauty and can even help fight infections. You can also add coconut oil to your favorite foods or use it in your cooking. Plus, it’s delicious!
One thing to remember is that not all coconut oils are equal. Be sure you’re buying only organic, unrefined, and extra virgin coconut oil.
How to Cook with and Eat Coconut Oil
Adding coconut oil to your diet is as simple as switching out your cooking oils and subbing in coconut oil.
Coconut oil has a smoke point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it stays stable at high temperatures. So you can put some into the bottom of your pan to sauté your favorite meats and vegetables safely.
Oils with a lower smoke point do more than just give your food a burnt flavor. When oil smokes and burns, the beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals break down. The burning also releases damaging free radicals that are a culprit in many diseases like cancer, diabetes, and asthma. Good news — coconut oil’s high smoke point eliminates these worries.
You can also use coconut oil in your morning coffee or add it to your favorite foods. Spread some on roasted vegetables, add it to a green smoothie, or drizzle it over a juicy steak. There are so many ways to enjoy this tasty oil.
How Much Coconut Oil to Eat Per Day
Eating two tablespoons per day of coconut oil has been shown to reduce waist circumference.1 Sticking to two tablespoons per day also allows you some room to still incorporate other healthy fats into your diet.
Two tablespoons of coconut oil have 24 grams of fat. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for fat intake per day in adults is 20-35% of total calories.2
This means that if you’re consuming a 2,000 calorie per day diet, about 400 to 700 of your daily calories should come from fat or 44 to 77 grams of fat per day.
So eating two tablespoons of coconut oil per day still leaves you with room to add other healthy fats to your diet. If you’re eating a low carb diet, like Keto, you may be able to squeeze in even more.
19 Research-Backed Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Coconut Oil and Skin
Using natural products on your skin is so important. Your skin is your largest organ, and what you put on it is directly absorbed into your body. That’s why I recommend applying coconut oil to your skin. It’s moisturizing and nourishing, but most of all, it’s safe.3
There’s also a UV protection component to coconut oil. It blocks about 20% of harmful UV rays.4 This means fewer wrinkles and signs of premature aging. However, if you’re going to be out in the sun for an extended amount of time, it’s best to combine coconut oil with an organic sunscreen. This will ensure your skin is fully protected.
When used on wounds, coconut oil even helps them to heal faster.5 The antimicrobial effects of coconut oil fight viruses, yeast, and bacteria.6 The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) also boost metabolism which helps the body repair and heal the skin more quickly.
2. Coconut Oil and Hair Health
Coconut oil is used around the world to nourish hair and keep it vibrant and healthy. It is an excellent conditioner. This makes coconut oil perfect to help prevent or treat dry and damaged hair.
Coconut oil has the unique ability to actually penetrate the hair shaft. This reduces protein loss which results in hair that is healthier and less damaged.7
Plus, the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil help to treat scalp conditions, such as dandruff.
3. Coconut Oil and Weight Loss
The fat that accumulates in your abdomen and around your organs is especially dangerous. It can cause a whole list of health problems from heart issues to diabetes. Fortunately, one study found that eating coconut oil is linked to decreased waist circumference and a reduction in abdominal fat.8
4. Coconut Oil and Heart Health
Many studies link low-grade bacterial and viral infections with heart disease. Coconut oil is effective in fighting many of these microbes.9
In a study using coconut oil on rats, it was shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.10 This is important because inflammation has been linked to heart disease.
Inflammation may be the underlying issue in all disease processes. So, if we can reduce inflammation, we can ultimately reduce the risk of a multitude of diseases.
5. Coconut Oil and Infection
The main MCFA in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid is a substance that has proven to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects.11
Coconut oil has been shown to fight microbes such as herpes, measles, hepatitis, listeria, staphylococcus, streptococcus, fungal/yeast infections, Giardia lamblia, and protozoa to name a few.
6. Coconut Oil and Digestion
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble along with essential minerals like magnesium, zinc, and calcium. This means our bodies need fats like coconut oil to absorb them.
Coconut oil is also easily digested and absorbed compared to other fats. Therefore, it can be used as a medicinal food to help nourish those with compromised digestion and difficulty digesting fats.
Also, MCFAs are often used to help nourish those that are recovering from a serious illness or injury. So go ahead and add a spoonful of coconut oil to a warm drink or a comforting bowl of oatmeal when you’re on the mend.
7. Coconut Oil and Energy Level
The MCFAs in coconut oil allow the body to quickly convert coconut oil into energy. Unlike other fats, MCFAs go straight to the liver and are quickly converted into energy. I suggest using coconut oil as a healthy way to boost energy levels when you need a quick pick-me-up.
Many athletes also use coconut oil to improve performance and endurance. So try having some before a workout and be sure to let me know what you think.
8. Coconut Oil and Blood Sugar Regulation/Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million adults and children have diabetes in the United States. This is a serious problem! But the good news is type 2 diabetes can often be reversed with diet and lifestyle modifications.
Many diabetics that get on a Native type diet have amazing success – by eating meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats and eliminating processed foods, dairy, and grains.
Adding coconut oil liberally to your diet can also help to control and effectively use blood sugar. Moreover, the satiating effect of coconut oil can reduce cravings for refined carbs and processed foods. These problematic foods create insulin resistance which is the underlying issue for diabetics.
9. Coconut Oil and Brain Health
Did you know that 60% of our brains are made up of fat with half of that being saturated fat?12
Coconut oil is made up of mostly saturated fat. This provides the brain with nourishment and aids in proper development.
If you restrict saturated fats in your diet, you may be starving your brain of the nutrients it needs to function. There is an epidemic of chronic neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, etc., around the world. Could it have anything to do with our efforts to cut saturated fat completely out of our diets?
One study found that the brain is less able to use glucose in Alzheimer’s patients.13 But evidence shows ketones are an effective alternative energy source. If you’re eating a standard American diet, your body is using sugar as its main source of energy. But when you begin eating a much healthier Native type diet that includes healthy fats like coconut oil, your body will then turn fat into ketones and use them as fuel instead. This helps improve metabolic flexibility and typically improves health and weight loss struggles.
MCFAs increase the blood levels of ketones. When patients were given medium-chain triglycerides – like those found in coconut oil – they actually scored higher on cognitive testing.
10. Coconut Oil and Cholesterol
A study done on people with coronary artery disease showed that coconut oil gives a boost to your HDL cholesterol.14 HDL is the good cholesterol that helps to remove the bad cholesterol (LDL) from your bloodstream. People with a higher HDL level have a lower risk of heart disease.
11. Coconut Oil and Your Thyroid
Hypothyroidism is characterized by a low metabolic rate. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, and lack of mental clarity. Many people with hypothyroidism feel cold much of the time, which is due to a slower metabolism.
Coconut oil has a “thermogenic effect.”15 It can raise your body temperature by raising your metabolism. This rise in body temperature and boost in metabolism helps to improve thyroid function.
12. Coconut Oil and Seizures
We’ve all heard about the keto diet. But did you know that a ketogenic diet in children with epilepsy dramatically reduces the number of seizures they have?16
MCFAs, like those found in coconut oil, help to increase the blood concentration of ketones. They can easily be used in an epileptic patient’s diet to induce ketosis, resulting in fewer seizures.
If you’re looking to kickstart ketosis, check out The Keto Starter Box. It’s chock-full of keto friendly products that can make your transition to a keto diet easier.
13. Coconut Oil and Dental Health
It’s so important to maintain your dental health. Research shows that the health of your teeth and gums is directly correlated to the health of your heart.
You may have heard of oil pulling as it’s become popular in recent years. This is when you place oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out.
Oil pulling isn’t just another fad though. Oil pulling with coconut oil has been shown to reduce plaque on your teeth and plaque-induced gingivitis.17
14. Coconut Oil and Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a progressive worsening of bone density and quality. As the structure of your bones becomes more porous, they’re more prone to fractures. Most people do not even know they have osteoporosis until they get a fracture.
Adding extra virgin coconut oil to your diet may help maintain bone structure and prevent bone loss. One study was done on postmenopausal rats who were fed extra virgin coconut oil for six weeks. When that time was up, they had greater bone volume and density.18
If you take a peek at the digestive benefits of coconut oil again, you’ll see coconut oil helps our bodies absorb calcium and vitamin D. Both of these are crucial to keeping our bones healthy and strong.
15. Coconut Oil and Stress
Stress – we all deal with it in some way or another. But it’s so important that you don’t let stress consume you. Finding a healthy outlet to relieve stress benefits not only your mental health but your physical health too.
One study done on mice found that using virgin coconut oil helped to combat oxidative stress and reduce immobility times after a stressful event.19 It also reduced adrenal gland weight and provided for a better serum biochemical profile — both markers of a lower stress level. It's believed the stress-relieving benefits are due to the high MCFAs in virgin coconut oil.
16. Coconut Oil and Arthritis
Arthritis is characterized by pain and stiffness in your joints caused by inflammation. It greatly reduces the quality of life of those who suffer from it.
An animal study found that virgin coconut oil reduces swelling, inflammation, and inflammatory markers due to the oil’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.20
17. Coconut Oil and Cancer
The lauric acid found in coconut oil has profound effects on various microbes, as we discussed earlier.
It gets even better. Coconut oil is also shown to suppress tumor growth in colon cancer patients. It also improves the quality of life of breast cancer patients. Lauric acid found in coconut oil inhibits cell growth and promotes cell death of cancer cells in both breast and endometrial cancers.21
18. Coconut Oil and Hormones
Keeping our hormones in check really is a balancing act. Especially when talking about menopause in women.
Based on this study, I recommend that pre- and post-menopausal women consume coconut oil daily.22 Coconut oil helps maintain a healthy cholesterol level. This helps to keep estrogen levels in check, reducing some of the negative symptoms of menopause.
Another simple way to keep hormones in check is with Native Nutrients. You can add it to your favorite beverage or smoothie to enhance detoxification, maintain a healthy hormonal balance, and help manage your weight.
19. Coconut Oil and Bladder Infections
If you’ve ever had a bladder infection, otherwise known as a urinary tract infection (UTI), you definitely remember it. They’re painful, annoying, and really disrupt your life.
UTIs are caused by bacteria entering your bladder that aren’t supposed to be there. The bacteria multiply and cause the symptoms you experience.
Recurrent UTIs can be caused by bacteria encased in biofilms. Biofilms encase the bacteria to protect them from being killed by antibiotics. Antibiotics can never free you from your UTI if they’re not able to kill all the bacteria causing the infection — continuing the UTI and inflammation cycle.
Cranberry juice is typically a go-to for relief of UTI symptoms. But a study found that adding coconut oil and oregano to cranberry juice helps to disrupt biofilms.23 This allows the bacteria inside to be exposed and killed by an antibiotic. Also, the coconut oil itself has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe and relieve pain down below.
Side Effects of Coconut Oil
There are very few side effects of coconut oil. The main concern is to never use coconut oil in any form if you are allergic.
Another hot topic regarding coconut oil is its potential health implications after the American Heart Association released a statement cautioning against the use of coconut oil. The American Heart Association also states that lauric acid (found in coconut oil) helps to raise HDL — the good cholesterol that everyone needs more of. 24 So the advice is a bit conflicting.
At the end of the day, it’s important to diversify where you are getting your healthy fats from and to not go overboard on any one fat source. Keep things in moderation to ensure you reap the full benefits of coconut oil.
Thinking of Adding Coconut Oil to Your Life?
Go ahead! Add some coconut oil into your diet, skincare, or haircare routine. As I said earlier, make sure you’re only purchasing coconut oil that is organic, unrefined, and extra virgin. There are many grocery stores nowadays that carry this, but you can always buy online if that makes your life easier.
Drop a comment below to let me know what you think about incorporating coconut oil into your life. Has coconut oil helped you? I look forward to hearing from you.