What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of matured coconuts and harvested from the coconut palm tree, a member of the Arecaceae plant family. Coconuts, despite their name, are technically not nuts but drupes (a fruit with a single seed).
Whether it’s drinking coconut water, using the oil as a moisturiser or adding a spoonful to bakes, we’ve seen the coconut rise to prominence in both our kitchens and bathrooms. Virgin coconut oil is deemed to be higher quality than refined coconut oil and is said to be richer in antioxidant polyphenols as well as nutrients like vitamin E.
Nutritional benefits of coconut oil
1 tbsp (11g) provides:
- 99 kcal / 407 kj
- 11g fat
- 9.5g saturated fat
- 0.7g mono-unsaturated fat
- 0.2g polyunsaturated fat
Top 5 health benefits of coconut oil
1. Contains medium-chain fatty acids
2. Has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties
3. May be helpful in the treatment of skin conditions
4. May protect hair from damage
5. May be helpful in the prevention of dental caries
Is coconut oil safe for everyone?
Coconut is typically safe for most people, but some adults and children may experience allergy to coconut or to other members of the Arecaceae plant family, including the oil.
If you are looking at coconut oil to support weight loss or heart health, you may need to think again. Although MCFAs reputably are less likely to be stored in the body as fat and more readily used as a source of energy, this does not appear to be as effective in coconut oil. This is because most of the MCFAs in coconut are lauric acid, which has a relatively long carbon chain, making it behave somewhere between the useful MCFAs and the not-so-great long-chain triglycerides.
It is worth noting that EFSA has yet to find sufficient evidence that the MCFAs present in coconut oil can, as frequently cited, reduce body weight. Furthermore, despite the many health claims, coconut oil is not the best choice to reduce LDL cholesterol or support heart health.
Enjoyed this? Now try…
Have you experienced the health benefits of coconut oil first-hand? Do you regularly use it in your cooking at home? Share your tips and experiences below in the comments.
This article was last reviewed on 23rd August 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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