Short answer: super magical.
But what exactly is it about coconut oil that makes it so magically healthy? And which type is best?
Coconut oil is fat and contains the same 9 calories per gram as other fats. It’s extracted from the “meat” of the coconut, and it’s a white solid at room temperature that easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day, or when it’s in contact with your skin (assuming you’re not a frost giant).
The idea of adding coconut oil to your diet is NOT to add on to what you already eat, but to substitute it for some of the (possibly) less-healthy fats you may be eating now. There are of course exceptions, such as if you’ve been seriously fat-deprived since the fat-free craze of the Acid Wash Neon Scrunchie Era (i.e. the 80s and 90s). Fat-free belongs in the bin with beepers, landlines, and dial-up.
If you’re going to include (more) fats in your diet, coconut oil belongs in your party.
And here’s why: because not all calories or fats are created equal.
Coconut oil contains a type of fat known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). In fact, 65% of the fats in coconut oil are MCTs.
What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolizes them: they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, go straight to the liver, and they’re burned for fuel or converted into ketones.
This metabolic process, unique to MCTs, is what sets coconut oil apart from other fats, but the magic doesn’t stop there.
MCTs from coconut oil have also been shown to have a few different fat loss benefits.
First, it can help to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to a natural reduction in the amount of food you eat.
Second, because of their unique metabolic route, MCTs can also increase the number of calories you burn – this happens when you compare the calories burned after eating the same amount of other fats. A few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5%.
Third, some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”). It’s great for reducing insulin resistance – which is a top contributor to visceral fat gain, and one of the major problems people with PCOS might face, so adding some MCT-rich coconut oil to your daily menu is not a bad idea for supporting your health with this condition.
Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reviewing and reducing other fats and oils! Many of the studies that showed increased fullness, increased metabolism, and reduced belly fat only used about 2 tablespoons per day. You probably don’t need any more than that.
Now, there are so many coconut oil options available in grocery stores these days that it can be difficult to know which is best.
I generally recommend you stay away from “refined” ones, and opt for “virgin” coconut oil. That’s because virgin coconut oil is processed at lower temperatures and avoids some of the chemical solvents (like hexane) used in the refining process, and helps to preserve more of the oil’s natural health-promoting antioxidants.
Bonus points if you can get it fair-trade and in a glass jar over plastic!
One thing you should also consider is that each oil has a specific high temperature that you should avoid surpassing (e.g. its “smoke point”). For virgin coconut oil, that temperature is 350F. That means you can safely use it on the stovetop on a low-medium setting, as well as in most baking.
And definitely avoid “hydrogenated” coconut oil. It can be a health nightmare because it contains the infamous “trans fats.”
I’m ready to cast some magic with coconut oil – are you? Check out the recipe below.
Homemade Healthy Chocolate
- ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup cocoa/cacao powder
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 dashes salt
- 4 tablespoons slivered almonds
Melt coconut oil, and whisk in maple syrup, salt, and cocoa/cacao powder until smooth.
Stir in slivered almonds until evenly distributed.
Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.
Store in fridge or freezer to avoid melting.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Substitute other seeds, chopped nuts, or dried fruit instead of the almonds if you wish.