Can Coconut Oil Help You Lose Weight?

by Suzanne Hiscock
You know what I've realized? Sometimes I get a little too "I'm not going to hop on any bandwagon!  No, not me!" But, when you do that, you get stuck in a rut.  Stuck in a rut is not a good thing.

So, I finally decided to try coconut oil and see what all the hype was about, especially in relation to weight loss and healthy eating.

So, what exactly is it about coconut oil that makes it so healthy? And which type is best?

Let’s dive into some of the research and find out.

Coconut Oil is a Special Kind of Fat

Coconut oil is fat and contains the same 9 calories per gram as other fats.

It is extracted from the "meat" of the coconut. Coconut oil is a white solid at room temperature and easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day.  

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 and/or processed carbs you may be eating now.

And here’s why:  not all calories or fats are created equal.

Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat known as “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs). In fact, 65% of the fat in coconut oil are these MCTs.

What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolizes them;  they're easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, where they 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.

See: Does What and How You Eat Really Matter?

Coconut Oil MCTs May Help with Fat Loss

Coconut oil’s MCTs have 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.  I've been experimenting with this lately -- reducing processed carbs and adding in more fat (especially coconut oil).  And I do notice a difference in my satiety signals.  I can go longer between meals without a need to snack.

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.

In fact, a few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5%. These were small studies, however.  Still lots of research to be done on this!

Third, some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”).

See:  How to Get Rid of Belly Fat

Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reducing calories in other ways -- such as reducing other fats and/or processed carbs

And if you have carb cravings, reducing processed carbs and replacing some of those calories with fats, like coconut oil (a form of high-fat/low carb eating) can help curb carb cravings, and help keep your blood sugar and hunger hormones balanced.

How Much Coconut Oil Should I Eat?

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.

What Kind of Coconut Oil is the Best?

There are so many coconut oil options available in grocery stores these days  that it can make it difficult to know which is best.

I 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 used in the refining process;  this helps to preserve more of the oil's natural health-promoting antioxidants.

Refined coconut oils have a less "coconutty" taste, too.  I love the flavor of coconut so I like using the more flavorful virgin coconut oil.  I even fry my eggs in it now, too. Sounds weird but it's true!

Pro Tip: Always (and I mean ALWAYS) avoid "hydrogenated" coconut oil. It can be a health nightmare because it contains the infamous "trans fats."

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.

Is Coconut Oil Alone Going to Help You Lose Weight?

Is coconut oil the one thing that's going to make you lose weight on its own? Nope.  As a nutrition coach, I don't believe in the "one thing" to fix all approach.  But using coconut oil can be one strategy -- out of many -- that can help you drop the pounds if it helps you to feel full.

And if it makes you enjoy healthy food -- because it's so flavorful -- then that's a big plus, too.  I'm all about eating healthy foods that taste good. That, to me, is one of the keys to healthy weight loss.  If you don't enjoy the healthy foods you're eating, you're going to stop eating them, eventually. 

So, time to experiment!  Substitute some of the fat you eat with virgin coconut oil;  this may help you to lose weight and belly fat by naturally helping you to eat less, as well as slightly increasing your metabolism.

You can start with this recipe:

Recipe (Coconut Oil): Homemade Healthy Chocolate


Serves 12
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup cocoa/cacao powder
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 4 tablespoons slivered almonds

1. Melt coconut oil, and whisk in maple syrup, salt, and cocoa/cacao powder until smooth.
2. Stir in slivered almonds until evenly distributed.
3. Pour into a candy mold and freeze. (You could use an ice cube tray, but you might have trouble getting them out of the tray. A silicone mold works best!)
4. Store freezer to avoid melting.

Serve as a snack in between meals if you're experiencing hungerEat it slowly... and enjoy!

Tip: Substitute other seeds, chopped nuts, or dried fruit instead of the almonds if you wish.  And if you're really into coconut, sprinkle unsweetened shredded coconut on top before freezing.

Learn More
Add Peanut Butter to Your Diet The Right Way
How Can I Lower My Body Fat Percentage?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN1 Nutrition Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 16 years, she has been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website, FitWatch.com. Whether it's with one-on-one nutrition coaching, nutrition programs or courses, and tools or calculators, she can help you to eat better, move more and believe in yourself.