If you Google the “health benefits of coconut oil” you will find websites advocating a wide range of impressive benefits, from stress relief to treating disease and helping people to lose weight.  While there are some good things to be said about coconut oil, it should not be considered a miracle weight loss solution.

The good news about Coconut Oil

Medium Chain Triglycerides

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Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which are a type of dietary fat that has been shown to provide health benefits (1).  Research has shown that medium chain triglycerides can help to increase energy expenditure (1, 2), promote fat burning (1, 2, 3, 4), and even contribute slightly lower calories as compared to other fat sources (1).

Flavor

Virgin (or unrefined) coconut oil has a pleasant, and slightly nutty coconut flavor and aroma. It’s perfect for baking or even sautéing. You can use this in a dish when you want to impart a tropical flavour (5).

Good for Vegetarians and Vegans

As those following a vegan or a strict vegetarian diet may have a hard time finding a suitable replacement for butter in baking, coconut oil can fill that void well (5).  Coconut oil can also provide a source of cholesterol free fat for individuals on this diet.

The not so good news about Coconut oil and weight loss

A Credible Verdict is Still Out

There is currently no conclusive scientific evidence to support weight loss claims (or health claims in general) for coconut oil (5, 6, 7).  Many of the claims you may find on the internet have not been validated in clinical, controlled studies.

Very High in Saturated Fat

Coconut oil is high in calories and saturated fat. One tablespoon contains 117 calories and 13.6 grams of fat. Coconut oil has more saturated fat than lard does (7).

Can Contain Trans-Saturated Fats

There are different types of coconut oil on the market.  The best kind is virgin, or unrefined. Virgin coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but is free of trans-saturated fat.

The other types that are available is a refined oil and a hydrogenated oil.  The refined oil has been more heavily processed and does not have the pleasant flavor of the non-refined (7).  The hydrogenated version has tran-saturated fat, which has been proven to be detrimental for health, and has been removed from many processed foods.

Can Lead to Weight Gain,

as with almost anything, if it is over-consumed. Coconut oil is almost all fat, very high in saturated fat, and contains 9 calories/gram as any other fat source.  If you add coconut oil to your diet, in addition to everything else that you are consuming, you could gain weight.  The recommendation for health is to keep your intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of your total calorie intake (7).

Recommendations about including coconut oil in your diet

Are coconut oil's weight loss properties_02

Can Be Used as Part of a Well-Balanced Diet.

As fat is part of a well-balanced diet, coconut oil can have a place in your dietary intake.  The key is to look at everything that you are eating, to ensure that you are 1) sticking to the limit on saturated fat, 2) getting the right proportion of total dietary fat, and 3) making sure to substitute coconut oil for another fat source like butter.

Also check out this Balanced 4 Week Diet Plan for Weight Loss developed by our team of experts.

Can Be Used in Baking and Cooking

Coconut oil has a great flavor and aroma, and can enhance recipes.

Can Help |Vegans and Strict Vegetarians

get the dietary fat that they need. As these individuals can be eating a diet that is lower in total fat without consuming any animal products, including coconut oil can help to satisfy the fat recommendation.

 

Yummy recipe ideas using coconut oil

If you are interested in cooking with coconut oil, I have found it to be delicious in muffins and cupcakes!  You can use it in place of butter in baking recipes.

You can also try coconut oil in stir fry recipes (in place of another oil you may use) to add depth and more flavor to your meal.   Remember, that you will get a slightly nutty, sweet flavor from this ingredient substitution.

References:

http://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/medium-chain-triglycerides-mcts/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12975635

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17570262

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/3/621.full

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442477202

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/weight-loss/expert-answers/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss/faq-20058081

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health?page=2

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