Coconut oil is a plant-based oil derived from coconuts. Despite coming from a plant, it’s uniquely high in saturated fats compared to most plant oils. As such, there’s great debate and controversy about whether it’s healthy for you.
Some studies suggest it may support heart health by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels, while others have found it may increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It’s also been linked to weight loss, though it is highly contested.
Due to conflicting research, most experts still recommend limiting your intake of coconut oil. Because of this, you may be confused about how much to take and how to eat it.
This article explains how to include coconut oil in your diet and the optimal amount.
How much coconut oil per day?
Coconut oil can be a nutritious addition to your diet and should be treated like any other fat or oil.
Despite the purported health benefits of coconut oil, such as weight loss, healthier skin and hair, and increased metabolism, little research proves these claims. As a result, there is no standard recommended dose of coconut oil for treating or preventing disease.
Instead, keeping your total saturated fat intake from all food sources, including coconut oil, to under 10% of your total daily calories is recommended. This would be around 200 calories of saturated fat per day based on a typical 2,000-calorie diet.
Since one tablespoon (14 grams) of coconut oil equals around 117 calories, limiting yourself to around two tablespoons (28 grams) a day is best. Remember that this leaves little room for other saturated fat sources, such as butter or shortening.
After this, consuming mostly unsaturated fats is best, associated with better health outcomes, such as lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduced risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.
That said, as long as you moderate your intake of coconut oil, you can enjoy it as part of a healthy diet.
Summary: Coconut oil is high in saturated fats and should be treated like any other fat or oil. While it can be part of a nutritious diet, it’s best to stick to two tablespoons (28 grams) or less per day.
How to eat coconut oil
There are several ways to include this oil in your diet.
Use coconut oil for cooking
Pure coconut oil has a smoke point of around 350°F (175°C), making it suitable for medium-heat cooking and baking. Highly refined versions may reach slightly higher temperatures but are unsuitable for cooking beyond 400°F (204°C).
Moreover, almost 90% of the fatty acids found in coconut oil are saturated fats, which causes it to be semi-solid at room temperature. This makes it less ideal for salad dressings or sauces but an excellent choice for stove-top cooking or baking.
Here are several cooking ideas:
- Sautéing or stir-frying: Use 1–2 tablespoons of this oil to cook vegetables, eggs, meat or fish.
- Popcorn: Drizzle melted coconut oil on air-popped popcorn or try it in this stove-top popcorn recipe.
- Baking: Coat poultry or meat before rubbing it with seasonings.
Use coconut oil in recipes
In most recipes, coconut oil can be substituted for oil or butter in a 1:1 ratio.
Be sure to let cold ingredients like eggs or milk come to room temperature before blending it in so it mixes in smoothly instead of clumping.
It’s best to melt it gradually and add it to smoothies and protein shakes.
Add coconut oil to coffee or tea
Another way to take this oil is in coffee or tea. Aim for a small amount — about a teaspoon or two. Below is a quick tea recipe featuring coconut oil.
Cocoa chai tea for one
- Chai tea bag (herbal or regular).
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder.
- 1 tablespoon cream or half and half.
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil.
- Stevia or another sweetener.
To make this, pour boiling water over the tea bag and let it steep for 2–3 minutes. Remove the tea bag, add the remaining ingredients, and stir until well-mixed.
Suggested read: Butter: Good or bad?
Due to coconut oil’s high saturated fat content, it’s semi-solid at room temperature and melts at 76°F (24°C). Therefore, storing it in a cupboard rather than the refrigerator is best to keep it pliable.
During the colder months or if stored in the refrigerator, it may become very solid and difficult to scoop out of the container. This can be remedied by whipping it with an electric mixer or in a blender.
Summary: Coconut oil can be used for medium-heat cooking, in recipes, and to add delicious richness to hot beverages.
Coconut oil is a popular yet controversial ingredient. Advocates say it has numerous health benefits, while skeptics say the science suggests otherwise.
Regardless, coconut oil is widely used in many cultural dishes and can be part of a healthy diet. Due to its high saturated fat content, it’s best to stick to no more than two tablespoons (28 grams) daily.
If you want to try coconut oil, it’s best used in medium-heat cooking, such as sautéing or baking. It should be stored at room temperature in the cupboard to keep it pliable.
Like most things, coconut oil should be enjoyed in moderation.