From being known as the ugly stepchild of the dietary world to transforming into a total superfood nowadays, coconut oil has been on both sides of the nutritional spectrum over the past few decades.
But, the real question is: Has this so-called superfood received health halo status just ’cause or is it actually worth the try?
Well, if these eleven science-backed benefits are any indication, coconut oil is indeed a superfood for the taking.
So, let’s see why!
What's Inside This Article?
What is Coconut Oil?
Before we jump onto the actual benefits, we should probably take a moment and see what hides inside this popular cooking oil.
So, coconut oil (CO), which is also known as copra oil, derives from the meat or kernel of mature coconuts.
Due to its sometimes-solid-sometimes-liquid nature, the alleged superfood has various applications, from mouthwash (ever heard of oil pulling?) to skin moisturizer to cooking.
But, here’s what’s interesting about this ingredient…
While most oils out there are rich in saturated fat (SF), CO is by far the one with the highest concentration.
So, to put these numbers into perspective, it means that for every 100 grams of coconut oil you consume, you ingest about 82 grams of saturated fat. #yikes
And yes, this may seem bad (and health-wise, it can be if you consume the oil in large quantities), but it also means that CO takes longer to oxidize.
That’s why it’s resistant to rancidification and can last up to six months without going bad.
11 Science-Backed Benefits of Coconut Oil
1. Coconut Oil Curbs Your Hunger
When it comes to weight loss, I firmly believe that portion control is the way to go.
But, what happens when your appetite gets the better of you and you want to eat your way through last week’s groceries in one sitting?
Well, coconut oil can help.
As mentioned above, CO is packed with lauric acid, which is a well-known medium-chain triglyceride (MCT).
A Research concludes that MCTs can suppress a person’s appetite, presumably by triggering specific thermal and oxidative mechanisms throughout his body.
So, to put it simply, coconut oil enhances thermogenesis and oxidation inside the male body, and in its turn, this leads to a reduced appetite – which brings us to the next point!
2. Coconut Oil Promotes Weight Loss
As stated above, coconut oil (or better yet, the MCTs in it) put your body in thermogenesis and oxidation modes.
That means that the oil makes your body burn more calories than usual, which inevitably results in weight loss.
But, how legit is this theory?
Well, according to a recent study, MCTs do cause a modest reduction in weight without affecting your lipid profile, especially compared to their “cousins,” a.k.a. long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).
But, that’s not the only study that supports the whole coconut-oil-for-weight-loss idea.
Long before that, an in-depth analysis showed that men who consumed MCTs (and thus, coconut oil) in low-to-moderate quantities increased their daily energy expenditure.
That means they burned more calories throughout a day without changing any of their habits.
In the long-term, this could lead to gradual weight loss and a slew of related health benefits.
Now, if you combine these facts with a reduced appetite (check above), you can see why coconut oil is heralded as an A-lister when it comes to weight loss.
3. Coconut Oil Increases Your Energy
One of the most surprising -and often neglected- benefits of coconut oil is that it can boost your energy like crazy.
You see, much like every macronutrient out there, fat needs to be broken down (digested) before your body absorbs it.
The duration of this chemical process depends greatly on the length of the fatty acid chain, and in the case of coconut oil, we’re talking about medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs).
That means that fat molecules are broken down and absorbed pretty quickly.
Experts conclude that MCFAs can be digested just as quickly as carbs, which means they can supply your body with energy in a matter of minutes. #ByeByeComplexCarbs
4. Coconut Oil May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
It’s no secret that the human brain consists of 60% fat.
So, it comes as no surprise that the organ needs fatty acids to work properly.
Of course, not all fatty acids are created equal – which is where coconut oil steps in.
As the superfood is packed with MCFAs, it works as a direct source of energy for people with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease.
For those of you who don’t know, the condition reduces your brain’s ability to use glucose for energy, stopping it from working at its full capacity – hence the memory loss.
So, by providing your brain with an immediate source of energy (hey, ketones!), coconut oil keeps your brain’s function intact and nips Alzheimer’s disease right in the bud.
Of course, research is still limited in scope, so you should take these findings with a grain of salt.
5. Coconut Oil May Reduce Epilepsy Seizures
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the ketogenic diet.
The low-carb lifestyle supports the idea that fat (in the form of ketones) could readily sub carbs (glucose) as the primary source of energy.
As research proves, this swap is indeed possible and could result in a variety of health benefits.
However, the main reason this diet came to be in the first place was to treat epilepsy.
The mastermind behind it, Mr. Russel Wilder, believed that high-fat foods could significantly reduce the frequency of epilepsy seizures by forcing the body to enter a catabolic state.
So, the idea that coconut oil could be part of an epilepsy-friendly diet isn’t far-fetched.
On the flip side, it’s downright logical and has science’s stamp of approval.
6. Coconut Oil May Protect You Against Diabetes
I think we can all agree that there’s no one magic bullet to prevent diabetes.
But, in the case of coconut oil, experts conclude that this healthy-ish food can work wonders when it comes to blood sugar regulation.
Specifically, one recent study showed that the superfood could reduce the risk of diet-induced insulin resistance and all related complications (think sugar spikes, slow metabolism, etc.) thanks to its antioxidant properties.
That is, of course, if you consume it in moderation and opt for virgin CO instead.
7. Coconut Oil Improves Oral Health
While brushing your teeth is a surefire way to score the brightest smile around, researchers suggest that there’s another way to keep your pearly whites… um, white.
Thanks to its anti-microbial properties, coconut oil can significantly reduce the number of bacteria that grow inside your mouth and in-between your teeth.
That’s actually why oil pulling has gained so much traction in the past few years and is directly linked to reduced plaque, gingivitis, and fresher breath.
So, if you, too, want to whip your whites back in shape, ditch the store-bought stuff and use coconut oil as a mouthwash at least two times a week.
8. Coconut Oil Nourishes Your Hair
Nutritional reasons aside, many people use coconut oil for cosmetic purposes, one of which is to keep their hair as healthy and lush as possible.
If you take a look at most hair products out there, you’ll see that they use CO as a main ingredient.
That’s because the superfood keeps hair shafts from losing a significant amount of their proteins, especially when used as a pre- and post-wash grooming product.
A research also shows that due to its low molecular weight, coconut oil can penetrate inside the hair shaft and nourish it from within.
9. Coconut Oil Minimizes Skin Damage
Next to pollution, sun rays, and the blue light on our devices, extreme changes in weather conditions can make our skin look dry and in some cases, severely withered.
Luckily, modern-day dermatologists present us with a wide variety of natural ingredients that work as excellent anti-age agents, and coconut oil lies at the top of this list.
Thanks to its oily nature, the superfood can increase our skin’s lipid levels, helping it retain most of its moisture.
By doing that, it keeps the skin moisturized and makes it healthier.
And if you’re still not convinced, note that coconut oil can also work as a weak sunscreen, blocking as much as 20% of the sun’s UV rays.
10. Coconut Oil Staves Off Infections
Whether we like it or not, harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi are practically everywhere.
But, here’s some good news: Certain types of saturated fat, including lauric acid, are a great way to defend your body against these nasty microorganisms.
And if you’re wondering how that occurs, well, the fatty acid prevents the pathogens from growing and taking over the area around them.
11. Coconut Oil Improves Bone Health
Even though osteoporosis is an issue that affects mostly women, it doesn’t mean we should sit this one out.
The bone-weakening disease can also be a threat for guys, and the worst part is that its symptoms are awfully “silent.”
So, to prevent your bones from losing their mass and weakening as time passes by, you could always introduce virgin coconut oil to your diet.
According to a study, the food is rich in antioxidants, which prevent free radicals from building up and eating away your bone structure.
The “Dark Side” of Coconut Oil
As mentioned above, CO is rich in saturated fat.
While this type of fat may come with some benefits (reduced appetite, etc.), it also comes with several side effects.
The American Heart Association recently released a report through which they advocate against the use of coconut oil, mainly due to its high saturated fat content.
To be exact, the report stated that coconut oil and saturated fat could increase bad cholesterol and your overall risk for heart disease.
This idea contradicts the notion that CO could benefit your heart health, an idea that several scientists have endorsed up until that point.
So, due to its conflicting nature, the report caught like wildfire, and was the reason behind several ominous headlines in the likes of: “Coconut oil was never healthy! Here’s why everyone has been lying to you!”
But, here’s what you should keep in mind: Saturated fat and, by association, coconut oil, aren’t the root of all evil.
In fact, it’s as evil as you let it be.
That said, if you consistently consume more than the doctors recommend (that’s 13 grams or less per day, btw), chances are you’ll develop a bunch of health issues down the road.
But, if you are mindful as to how much goes into your meals, you have nothing to worry about.
And that’s because your body needs saturated fat as much as it needs most micro- and macro-nutrients out there.
So, it’s your job to make sure you don’t consume more than your body can take.
And if you want to talk numbers, know that one tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 12 grams of saturated fat – which means you’re good for the day.
The moral of the story here?
Coconut oil comes with a plethora of benefits, but it’s definitely not a magic elixir that will fix all your problems.
So, you should be extra careful as to how much of it you consume daily because its high saturated fat content could come back to bite you.