There are very few fats that can compete with the array of health benefits offered by coconut oil. These benefits range from glowing hair and softer skin to lower blood sugar and quick bursts of energy.
More recently, there has been a lot of research evaluating the role of coconut oil in weight loss. From snacks and smoothies with coconut oil to bulletproof coffee, this healthy fat has taken the weight loss industry by storm.
But does coconut oil really help you lose weight? Let’s see what the evidence says.
5 Proven Ways Coconut Oil Helps Weight Loss
Almost 90% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat. However, the structure of this fat is quite special. Coconut oil has a significant amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCT oils are known to help in burning more calories throughout the day than their long-chain counterparts. Burning more calories on a daily basis is exactly what you want when trying to lose weight.
Long-chain triglycerides are found in fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and nut butter. MCTs differ from long-chain triglycerides in the way our body metabolizes them. MCTs are absorbed faster into the bloodstream faster and more efficiently than long-chain triglycerides (1).
This quick absorption of MCTs by the body may cause a thermogenic effect in the body which increases the body’s rate of burning fat.
There have been studies conducted on mice that concluded that virgin coconut oil can promote weight loss by treating metabolic dysfunction and improving glucose tolerance (2).
Another study conducted in Canada shows that long-term consumption of medium-chain triglycerides amongst healthy obese women burned more calories than the consumption of long-chain triglycerides (3).
There are also some studies that show that consumption of MCTs accumulates less fat (4).
It is important to note that although 50% of the fat content of coconut oil are MCTs, these MCTs can be extracted into a separate product. MCT oil sold commercially may be extracted from other sources such as palm oil as well, so be aware that it’s effects may not be the same as that of coconut oil.
Summary: The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil helps in burning more calories and may have a thermogenic effect in the body by being absorbed into the bloodstream quickly.
Increases Feelings of Fullness
Eating foods rich in fat has been found to have a positive effect on satiety. In comparison to a low-fat meal, a high fat one induces a feeling of fullness and this feeling remains for a longer time (5).
There are many other studies that observed eating food rich in saturated fats increased satiety. However, some of these studies indicated that the feeling of fullness may not be dependent on the fatty acid composition of the meal (6, 7).
Coconut oil consumption, in particular, has shown an increased feeling of fullness according to a 2018 study from Brazil (8). This lowers appetite and has a direct impact on reducing our overall food intake for the day.
Even though coconut oil helps in making us feel satisfied and full after a meal, consuming coconut oil in large amounts is not advisable as the high calorie intake will not only defeat the purpose of weight loss, it also can cause your cholesterol levels to spike and adversely affect your cardiovascular health.
Summary: Coconut oil helps in promoting a feeling of fullness because of its saturated fat content. This helps reduce the overall calorie intake and is thus beneficial to weight loss.
Improves Workout Performance
Often, people trying to lose weight tend to go on a low-calorie diet. Although it is effective in shedding pounds, it may leave the individual lacking energy and fatigued when attempting to get into an exercise regimen. It is important to incorporate exercise during weight loss to avoid losing lean muscle.
Coconut oil can aid in your weight loss process through the energy boost that comes from consuming MCTs. Since coconut oil contains 50% MCTs, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream because of the short-chains. They are directly transported to the liver, unlike the long-chain fats. These MCTs are converted into ketones by the liver.
Ketone and ketone bodies are produced as a result of fat metabolism. Some studies indicate that ketones prove to be a more efficient energy source when it comes to exercise endurance (9). However, more research is needed to firmly establish these claims.
Summary: The MCTs in coconut oil provide a boost in energy which is useful for improving workout performance and endurance. Regular exercise, in turn, promotes weight loss.
Helps Curb Food Cravings
Anyone who has ever failed at an attempt at losing weight will be aware that the downfall begins by giving in to one craving in the middle of the day or night which turns into a whole day of bad food choices, and before you know it, has snowballed into weeks and months of unhealthy eating. This is a very common factor that prevents several people from achieving their weight loss goals.
It is a popular notion that eating a diet high in fats keeps cravings at bay (10). One study found that participants on the high-fat diet had reduced craving for food rich in carbohydrates than those on low-fat diets (11).
The healthy fat content in coconut oil is not only a good source of energy for the body but is also effective in reducing cravings. This makes coconut oil a good choice if you do not want to get thrown off the wagon in your weight loss journey.
Summary: Giving in to cravings is a common problem that prevents us from achieving our health goals. High-fat foods like coconut oil help in curbing cravings.
Blasts Belly Fat
Belly fat is very dangerous for the heart and is often linked to cardiovascular disease. Research shows that coconut might be helpful in burning this stubborn fat that tends to accumulate on our abdomen.
A study conducted among 40 overweight women showed that consuming coconut oil every day helped them lose belly fat and reduce their BMI. According to the study, one group of women consumed 30 mL of coconut oil whereas another group consumed soybean oil which is a long-chain fat.
The group who consumed soybean oil did not show any improvement in belly fat although they too lost weight (12). However, 30 mL of coconut oil is too high an amount of saturated fat to be consumed daily and is not recommended by the AHA.
Summary: Coconut oil may help in burning belly fat more effectively when compared to other long-chain oils.
4 Tips for Adding Coconut Oil in Your Diet
Swap your Regular Cooking Oil with Coconut Oil
The best way to incorporate this healthy oil is by using it to cook. You can replace your regular cooking oil with coconut oil and avail of its many health benefits. When cooking with coconut oil, it is important to note that it has a low smoking point and must be used accordingly.
Coconut oil is extracted from the dried nuts of the coconut tree. Coconut oil tends to be solid at room temperature in cold climates while in tropical zones, it remains in liquid form.
Coconut oil has a very unique smell and taste which may take a while to get used to. You will eventually fall in love with its nutty taste and aroma. Drizzling some coconut oil on salads as a dressing is a quick way to add this nutritious oil in your diet.
Have a Spoonful of Coconut Oil Every Day
You can ingest it directly if you do not want to experiment with cooking your food in it. Begin by taking 1 tablespoon a day and gradually ease your body into it, especially if you are not familiar with the taste of coconut oil.
When adding coconut oil to your diet or any fat for that matter, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way. Yes, it does reduce your appetite and keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time, but we must be mindful that it is high in calories.
It is recommended that no more than 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil should be consumed every day because of the high content of saturated fats.
Take it 20 Minutes Before Meals to Suppress Appetite
If you choose to have a spoonful or two of coconut oil to promote your weight loss efforts, the timing is also very important. Since coconut oil naturally works as an appetite suppressant, consuming it, about half an hour to 20 minutes, before a meal can limit the calories consumed during the meal.
Lowering your calorie intake is obviously vital for inducing weight loss. The MCT in coconut oil also promotes a feeling of satiety and it leaves you feeling more energetic even if the meal you had was low in calories.
Add it to Hot Water, Tea or Coffee
Cooking with coconut oil might seem daunting to some people who have never used it before. In such cases, adding a spoonful of coconut oil to a glass of warm water or to your smoothies may be an easier option.
You can also take coconut oil by mixing it with your morning cup of tea or coffee for an energetic start to your day. Since coconut oil may solid at room temperature, it will melt in the hot liquid when you stir them together.
Coconut oil is known for its high MCT content which gets digested quickly to provide us with energy. So it’s no wonder that it’s a favorite ingredient in pre-workout smoothies.
The Final Note
Coconut oil has several health benefits. It can be useful in aiding weight loss when consumed in the right quantities. It promotes a feeling of satiety and reduces appetite. It is quickly digested and offers more energy for exercise. It may also help in boosting your metabolism.
But larger and more well-designed studies are needed, to study the benefit of coconut oil for weight loss and its effect on cardiovascular health, before we can confirm these benefits.
It is crucial to recognize that coconut oil is not a magic potion when it comes to weight loss. For sustainable and long term weight loss, it is important to follow the basic principles of good sleeping habits, regular exercise, a balanced diet with natural foods, and stress-free lifestyle.