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Is coconut oil healthy? The honest answers + FAQ

Coconut oil has long been a hip product that is popular in the fitness and health world. The oil is now for sale at every supermarket and supplement store and is in the kitchen of many people. Why? Because coconut oil is healthy. At least that's what is being told. Is that really the case?

In this blog, we provide a detailed answer to the question of whether coconut oil is healthy and why this is or is not the case. In addition, we answer several interesting questions related to coconut oil.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a vegetable oil made from coconut. A coconut has white flesh. This pulp is pressed, after which a fatty substance remains. We also call this coconut fat or coconut oil. The name coconut fat is used because the oil is not liquid at room temperature, but solidified. It only melts when it is heated, for example in the microwave or frying pan.

Coconut oil is often used for cooking, baking, or frying. This, for example, to replace butter or olive oil. In addition, it is also used by some people when reaching for cookies, cakes, or bars. Since the oil solidifies when it comes to room temperature (or below), it provides a firm texture when preparing such products.

coconut oil

Nutritional value of coconut oil

The table below shows the nutritional value of coconut oil. The exact composition may vary by brand, but the information below will broadly correspond to the jar of coconut oil you have at home. This information comes from the Dutch Nutrient Database of the RIVM.

Where the Amount per 100 grams
Energy (kcal) 892
Protein (g) 0
Carbohydrates (g) 0
– Of which sugar (gr) 0
Fats (gr) 99.1
– Of which saturated (gr) 83.7
Fibers (gr) 0

What Makes Coconut Oil Healthy?

Coconut fat or coconut oil does not get the label healthy for anything you would say. Below we have elaborated on three reasons why coconut oil would be healthy and whether this is really true. Then read on to the reasons why it can be unhealthy.

Coconut oil contains a lot of lauric acids

Coconut oil is very rich in lauric acid. Lauric acid is known to be good for our heart and blood vessels. This is despite it being a saturated fatty acid and we always hear that saturated fats are unhealthy for us.

An extensive meta-analysis from 2003 among no fewer than 60 studies confirmed that lauric acid has a positive effect on our cholesterol levels. Does this immediately mean that coconut oil is healthy because it contains a lot of lauric acids? Not quite, since the oil still consists of other fatty acids that can also have an effect on our cholesterol level.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids

Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids, or MCTs (medium-chain triglyceride). The human body can digest these relatively easily and so they are easily absorbed. For people experiencing digestive issues, consuming more MCTs may provide relief in some cases. Please consult your doctor first. They can give you a referral to an expert who can help you with your digestion and possibly an MCT diet.

Coconut oil is suitable for baking and frying

Most coconut oil for sale is refined. Refined coconut oil has a smoke point of around 230 degrees. This means that the oil can be used perfectly for baking and frying. This makes coconut oil healthier to use for baking and frying than, for example, extra virgin olive oil and various other oils.

For example, when you use extra virgin olive oil (with a smoke point of about 177 degrees), harmful substances can be released when the temperature in the pan exceeds this smoke point. With coconut oil, this chance is therefore slightly smaller. The smoke point of the regular refined olive oil is comparable to that of coconut oil.

What makes coconut oil unhealthy?

Now that we have discussed the arguments that coconut oil would make healthy, we will of course also cover the other side. Below are the reasons why coconut oil can't be healthy and you might even want to avoid it.

Coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat

Two meta-analyses, both from 2020, show that coconut oil raises both HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) is seen as the bad variant and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) is good for us, as it removes cholesterol from our blood.

One of these meta-analyses concluded that LDL cholesterol increased more with coconut oil consumption compared to other oils. The other meta-analysis concluded that both HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol increased. All in all, it is therefore plausible that coconut oil may even have a negative impact on our cholesterol levels. The argument that coconut oil is healthy due to the amount of lauric acid (and will therefore have a positive effect on our cholesterol level) therefore seems a lot less strong.

Health claims rejected

Several claims have been made to the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) about coconut oil and the health benefits it is said to have. To date, none of these claims have received approval from the European Food Safety Authority. From this, we can conclude that many claims about coconut oil, often made by companies that sell coconut oil, can be taken with a grain of salt.

FUN FACT

Health claims submitted to the EFSA are often rejected, such as the health claims of Yakult. However, there is a type of chocolate (yes, chocolate!) that is considered healthy by EFSA.

Is baking in coconut oil healthy?

As we mentioned earlier in this blog, refined coconut oil has a smoke point of about 230 degrees. This makes it suitable for baking and roasting. Not all oils are suitable for this, such as extra virgin olive oil. The regular refined olive oil from the supermarket, on the other hand, has a similar smoke point to coconut oil. Olive oil also contains less saturated fats than coconut oil, but also less lauric acid.

Baking with coconut oil is therefore not unhealthy, but there are cheaper alternatives that also contain less saturated fats. Nevertheless, coconut oil is very useful, because it becomes a solid substance again at room temperature. This is useful for making, for example, your own carbohydrate or protein bars or other experimental bakes that you want to make.

So, is coconut oil healthy or not?

Coconut oil, therefore, has some advantages, but also disadvantages. Unfortunately, we cannot draw a crystal clear conclusion and say that coconut oil is healthy or unhealthy. It is possible that the regular intake of coconut oil increases your bad cholesterol, which we naturally want to avoid. However, this is not an absolute fact that we can mention, but is a conclusion that we can draw from various studies. On the other hand, the lauric acid in coconut oil is known to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. More research is therefore needed to be able to provide a definitive answer.

Like coconut oil is very practical because you're in solidified variant in the kitchen, we recommend you make sure not to buy this. So it's too unclear to conclude whether coconut oil is healthy or not, so we won't either. In addition, the rejected health claims also play a role in this. The choice is ultimately up to you whether you want to purchase coconut oil or not. In any case, don't expect any noticeable health benefits from it, as some websites, unfortunately, claim, because that's not going to happen.

Frequently asked questions about coconut oil

We close this blog with a number of questions about coconut oil that are regularly asked. After reading this blog, do you still have questions that are not answered below? Leave your question at the bottom of this blog and we will answer it as soon as possible.

Where should you store coconut oil?

You can simply keep coconut oil in your kitchen cupboard. In the congealed version (at room temperature), the product stays good for a very long time. Always check the expiry date carefully, but you don't have to worry about having to empty an entire jar of coconut oil within a month of purchase.

Where can you buy coconut oil?

Coconut oil is available at many stores these days. Take a look at your nearest supermarket, chances are they have coconut oil in their range. It is also available at any supplement and health food store.

Is coconut oil healthier than olive oil?

Coconut oil contains a lot more saturated fatty acids than olive oil. On the other hand, many of these fatty acids are lauric acid, which is known for its positive effect on our cholesterol levels. Based on the knowledge and studies that are available, the choice currently seems to fall on olive oil.


Go health-up only uses qualitative sources, such as scientific (meta) studies, to provide the most accurate and reliable advice possible. Although our articles are factually substantiated, we always recommend that you contact a doctor or specialist in case of complaints.
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