You’ve probably heard many good things about coconut oil, since there is plenty of research backing up its benefits for your body inside and out, but you may have heard some bad things too, which might seem confusing. So, let’s talk about the benefits of coconut oil, how to use it in your kitchen, your beauty routine and beyond, and why some people don’t agree that it deserves a place in your pantry.
What are the Benefits of Coconut Oil?
The reported coconut oil benefits are as varied as your imagination will allow. The obvious home for coconut oil is in the kitchen, as a culinary oil with a high smoke point and a wonderful hint of tropical flavor. Coconut oil has zero carbohydrates and features three medium-chain fatty acids: lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid—fatty acids that are metabolized quickly, providing a boost of energy to any dish instead of being stored as fat.
Coconut oil is also a natural moisturizer that nourishes and promotes healthy skin, and it has antioxidant properties. Many of our favorite coconut oil uses are cosmetic. It’s a popular ingredient in a wide variety of beauty products, including coconut oil body scrubs, coconut oil beauty creams, coconut oil lotions and coconut oil lip balms.
Coconut oil benefits include:
- Weight Management: studies have shown that coconut oil may help both men and women maintain a healthy weight, along with diet and exercise.1,2
- Energy Support: coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that your body uses for quick energy instead of storing it.3
- Cardiovascular Health: studies have shown that the particular type of saturated fats within coconut oil may support healthy blood lipid levels already within the normal range.3
- Cognitive Support: researchers say that coconut oil may provide energy for brain cells and boost brain function.3
- Digestibility: MCTs are more easily absorbed than other types of lipids making it helpful for people with certain gastrointestinal health concerns.4
50 Uses for Coconut Oil
We asked Swanson customers and coworkers how they use coconut oil. Below are some of the numerous uses for coconut oil. If you'd like to participate in the conversation about coconut oil or other natural health topics, we recommend you follow us on Facebook to connect with us and over 300,000 of your fellow health and wellness fans.
Below you’ll find a list of 50 different ways to use coconut oil including links to DIY coconut oil recipes to help you experience all of the amazing benefits coconut oil has to offer.
And when you’re ready to try it yourself, try our Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil—over 1,200 customer reviews to date rate it 4.9/5!
Now, let's get on to the amazing ways people use coconut oil to better their life.
Cooking and Eating
1Cooking at High Heat: Some oils are unsafe to cook with at high temperatures, coconut oil is a great alternative. Check out our Guide to Cooking Oils to find cooking oils to use in all your favorite recipes.
2On Toast Instead of Butter: Simply use coconut oil instead of butter on your toast as a delicious alternative.
3Eat it by the Spoonful: Coconut oil is that delicious! Enjoy 1 spoonful each morning, just be sure to watch your total calorie intake for the day.
4Smoothies: Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to your favorite smoothie recipe to boost your energy with the oil's MCTs. Check out this post for the Top Smoothie Ingredients.
5Fry Eggs: Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with liquid coconut oil to create a non-stick surface and delicious eggs.
6Popping Popcorn: A sweet twist on a classic snack! To make stovetop popcorn, you need a heavy-bottomed pan. First, add the coconut oil and popcorn to the pot. Coat the area of the pot with coconut oil, then use just enough popcorn to make a single layer over the bottom of the pot. Give the pot a little shake to make sure all of the kernels are coated with oil. Next, place the pot over medium heat. Put the lid on the pot, leaving it slightly open so that steam can escape. It should take about five minutes for the popcorn to pop completely.
8Oven Baked Sweet Potato Chips: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice sweet potatoes to about 1/8” thick. Place slices on a baking sheet and brush lightly with coconut oil. Bake for about 15 minutes or until chips are lightly brown. Add salt to taste, then serve with salsa or dip. (Or just eat them plain—either way they’re delicious!)
9Replace Vegetable Oil for Baking: The next time you make your favorite brownie recipe, replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil. Your friends will be begging you for the recipe.
10Pan Frying: When you fry up a batch of sweet potato fries or a piece of chicken, use coconut oil. The taste is great and the coconut oil benefits are even better.
11Grilled Cheese with Coconut Oil: No need for butter the next time you make a grilled cheese sandwich.
12Coconut Oil Coffee: Adding a spoonful to your coffee is a delicious way to start your day with a huge energy boost! Here is a great recipe for coconut oil coffee. Want a simple way to make coconut oil coffee quick? Try buying some coconut oil coffee creamer.
13Homemade Granola: Check out this delicious recipe for coconut granola.
14A Spoonful in Tea: Allow some coconut oil to melt and mildly flavor your next cup of tea.
15Salad Dressings: A simple recipe for a salad dressing with coconut oil can be found here.
Coconut Oil for Skin Care and Beauty
In addition to being an incredibly versatile ingredient in the kitchen, coconut oil is well known for skin care and beauty applications. In fact, when we polled our Facebook fans, we heard about more ways to use coconut oil for skin and beauty than for any other purpose. It’s a great moisturizer for skin, a wonderful addition to body scrubs, a perfect lip balm ingredient and it’s even used by some as a lubricant in the bedroom. Check out all the clever ways people use coconut oil for natural skin care and beauty below.
16Cheekbone Highlighter: Apply a small amount on cheekbones over makeup.
17Shaving Lotion: Get a close shave and moisturization at the same time.
18Facial Scrub: Combine coconut oil with Himalayan crystal salt and apply to the face each night. Washing it off is optional.
19Body Scrub: Just combine coconut oil and sugar. Check out this DIY Sugar Scrub recipe.
20Makeup Remover: Apply coconut oil to your face with clean hands to remove makeup. Use a cotton round or clean cloth to remove any excess.
21Homemade Deodorant: You only need a few ingredients in addition to coconut oil to make this simple deodorant recipe.
22Homemade Lip Balm or Lip Gloss: Apply directly to lips or create a flavored version with this simple lip balm recipe.
23Baby Care: Apply regularly to the baby's bottom to improve skin health.
24Cuticle Softener: Rub 1 teaspoon on cuticles to help soften skin.
25Moisturizer During Pregnancy: Moms-to-be love coconut oil to help moisturize a growing belly.
26Nipple Cream During Breastfeeding: Coconut oil is a popular choice for nursing mothers because it is a natural product.
27Massage Oil: Coconut oil is the perfect choice for a massage oil. It’s not too greasy and has a relaxing scent.
28Body Moisturizer: Apply directly to skin after showering.
29After-Sun Care: It’s a great moisturizer to use after you've gotten a bit too much sun.
30Facial Moisturizer: After you wash your face, massage a light layer on your skin.
31Mix in Bath Water: Melt about 1/4 cup and add it to your bath water and soak.
32Tanning Oil: Put some liquid coconut oil in a spray bottle and bring to the beach. Spray on to keep skin moisturized.
33Dry Feet: Mix with salt to form a foot scrub or use coconut oil directly on dry feet to moisturize.
34Elbow Rub: Helps manage the dry skin on your elbows.
Coconut Oil Hair Care
35Leave-In Overnight Conditioner: Looking for a deep conditioning hair treatment? Rub a small amount of oil into hair (mostly at ends), comb through and put hair in a loose bun before bed, then wash out in the morning.
36Hair Flyaway Tamer: Use sparingly on ends or areas with flyaways.
37Defrizzer of Split Ends: Just put a tiny amount on your hands and run them through frizzy areas.
38Static Reducer: Rub your hands together with a little bit of coconut oil on them and run them through your static-y hair.
More Ways to Use Coconut Oil
39Homemade Toothpaste: Combine equal parts coconut oil and baking soda. Sweeten with stevia and flavor with your favorite extract.
40Aromatherapy: The soothing aroma of coconut oil may help you wind down after a long, stressful day. Read The Beginner's Guide to Aromatherapy.
41Metabolism Booster: 2 tablespoons per day can rev up your metabolism.
42Thyroid Supporter: Regular coconut oil consumption has been shown to support healthy thyroid function.5
43Energizer: Just 1 teaspoon can give you a burst of energy, try this instead a caffeinated energy drink.
44Oil Pulling: Swish coconut oil around in your mouth for 10 minutes before brushing. Read next: Oil Pulling: Health Benefits or Healthy Hype?
How to Use Coconut Oil Around the House
45Help Deter Pests: Add essential oils like tea tree and citronella to make a deterrent.
46Season a Cast Iron Pan: Here is a nice explanation of how to season a cast iron pan with coconut oil.
47Remove Sticky Residue: When reusing jars and containers in the kitchen, coconut oil may help remove the sticky residue left behind after peeling off a label. Just apply some oil and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping clean.
Using Coconut Oil for Animals
Consult your veterinarian before beginning a new diet or care routine for your pet, but here are a few ways our readers use coconut oil for pets.
48Add Coconut Oil to Your Dog or Cat’s Diet: Coconut oil isn't just for humans. The MCTs are a natural source of energy for your pets, too.
49Put Coconut Oil on Your Cat's Paw: Put half a teaspoon on your kitty's paw and let your pet lick it off. It’ll help keep a shiny coat and cut down on hairballs.
50Brush Your Dog's Teeth with Coconut Oil: Dental health is important for pups, plus they love the taste.
But Wait… Is Coconut Oil Bad for You?
In a 2018 lecture titled “Coconut Oil and other Nutritional Errors,” Karin Michels, the director of the Institute for Prevention and Tumor Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg and professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, described coconut oil as “one of the worst foods you can eat.” Obviously, we take exception to that claim, but to be thorough, let’s take a look at where Ms. Michels is coming from.
Her stance is not unfamiliar. It’s the stance that fats — particularly saturated fats — are bad and should be avoided. According to Michels, coconut oil is dangerous because it consists almost entirely of saturated fatty acids, and she recommends oils like olive oil or rapeseed oil that are high in unsaturated fatty acids.
As is so often the case, you can find studies to back up both sides of the argument over saturated fats. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that people who routinely consume cheese, whole milk and other high-fat dairy products all high in saturated fatty acids are at no higher risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other illness than those who avoid such products.
Another study using data from 135,000 people in 18 countries and published in The Lancet, found that high fat and low carbohydrate consumption were associated with a 23% lower risk of death.6
Coconut oil was shunned for so long because of its high-fat content, but what many naysayers don’t consider is that most of that fat is in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), also known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These MCTs are processed by the body differently than other saturated fats. The fat in coconut oil is more easily digested by the body and delivered quickly to the liver for energy production.3 As such, coconut oil is used as a quick energy boost. Because it can be easily digested without requiring bile or pancreatic enzymes, coconut oil may also be a good option for those with blood sugar or gallbladder concerns.
So, Is Coconut Oil One of the Worst Foods You Can Eat?
Our take? We side with most dietary guidelines that recommend moderation. You can go overboard with anything, and coconut oil is no exception to the rule. Also, don’t forget that there are different kinds of coconut oil available. Virgin coconut oil, for example, is gently processed and may not result in some of the potentially negative effects that a highly processed oil might display even though the fatty acid composition remains similar. Harsh processing may destroy some of the good essential fatty acids and antioxidants, such as lauric acid, which may help maintain healthy blood lipid levels already within the normal range.7
It’s a good discussion that leads into our next section on what kind of coconut oil we recommend.
What Kind of Coconut Oil Should You Buy?
We recommend you buy a coconut oil that checks off these four important qualities:
- Extra Virgin
Organic, extra-virgin coconut oil offers the most benefits compared to refined alternatives. It’s extracted straight from fresh coconuts in a way that protects the inherent, natural properties of the oil. Unrefined coconut oil has the highest antioxidant potential and nutrient levels. Plus, it simply tastes the best. Refined oils lose nutritional quality and taste during the manufacturing process.
Swanson’s 54 oz Organic Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is our most popular coconut oil, and of course meets all of the recommendations above.
How Do You Use Coconut Oil?
The list doesn’t have to stop here! Tell us the many ways you use coconut oil to better your life in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article check out Be Fat Fluent: Best Fatty Foods for Your Diet and What is Keto Coffee, Coconut Oil Coffee and Butter Coffee? And sign up for Swanson Health emails to get exclusive promotions and new articles in your inbox.
1 An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226242/ (Accessed 12/07/2018)
2 Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058 (Accessed 12/07/2018)
3 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil#section10 (Accessed 12/07/2018)
4 The Use of Medium-Chain Triglycerides in Gastrointestinal Disorders. Nutritional Issues in Gastroenterology, Series #160 https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/Parrish-February-17.pdf (Accessed 12/07/2018)
5 Thyroid Problems & Coconut Oil. Wellness Mama. https://wellnessmama.com/36/thyroid-problems-coconut-oil/ (Accessed 12/07/2018)
6 Resetarits, Valentina. A Harvard professor just busted the myth that coconut oil is good for you, calling it 'pure poison'. Business Insider. 2018 Aug 20. https://www.businessinsider.com/harvard-speaker-busts-coconut-oil-health-myth-calling-it-pure-poison-2018-8 (Accessed 9/23/18)
7 Egan, Sophie; Rabin, Roni Caryn. Is Coconut Oil Good or Bad for You? The New York Times. 2018 Aug 21. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/well/eat/coconut-oil-good-bad-health.html (Accessed 9/23/18)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This article was originally published on 08/29/2019 and was updated on 12/12/2018.