Coconut Oil: Is It Good for You?

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on December 20, 2022

Nutritional Info

from the WebMD Ingredients Guide
Serving Size 1 Tablespoon (13.6 g)
Calories 121
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13 g
Saturated Fat 11 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
Potassium 0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 0 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0 g

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Iron 0%
  • Vitamin B6 0%
  • Magnesium 0%
  • Calcium 0%
  • Vitamin D 0%
  • Cobalamin 0%
  • Vitamin A 0%

Coconut oil is an edible oil made from a pressing of the pale flesh inside the coconut. It is solid at room temperature and melts to a liquid when heated. It has a long history in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Polynesia, and Indonesia, where coconut trees grow.

More recently, coconut oil has gained popularity across the globe. It has a wide range of uses, from hair products to foods to sunscreen to deodorant. Its tasty flavor and adaptable properties make it the perfect ingredient to add to many different products. In some recipes, coconut oil can make a great dairy substitute for people with allergies or those on plant-based diets.

Coconut oil comes from the coconuts on coconut palm trees (Cocos nucifera). There are two main types of coconut oil, copra oil and virgin coconut oil. Although they have similar fatty acid content, virgin coconut oil contains higher amounts of nutrients such as vitamin E and bioactive compounds such as polyphenols (plant materials that have antioxidant properties).

Coconut oil has many nutrients that can contribute to your health and to a good diet. It’s full of fatty acids that your body needs and may help improve cognitive function, metabolism, and hair and skin health.

One serving of coconut oil (1 tablespoon) contains the following:

  • Calories: 125
  • Total fat: 14 grams
  • Saturated fat: 12 grams
  • Trans fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 0 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams

The following nutrients and minerals are found in coconut oil:

  • Lauric acid
  • Myristic acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Plant sterols
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)

Coconut oil has properties that can help treat many health conditions. 

Weight Loss

Lauric acid is a type of saturated fat found in coconut oil, and in fact, this oil contains the highest levels of lauric acid in a natural source. Studies have shown that lauric acid travels to the liver and is converted into energy instead of being stored in your body as fat, which could potentially help in weight loss. But more information is needed to confirm that coconut oil specifically contributes to weight loss and improved metabolism.

Improved Skin and Hair Health

Many companies and people are incorporating coconut oil into products for cosmetic reasons for their hair, skin, nails, and teeth. Coconut oil has been found to be a safe and effective moisturizer for conditions like xerosis, or rough, dry skin. In addition, coconut oil can decrease protein loss in your hair, improving your hair health.

However one study found coconut oil to be comedogenic, which means that it clogs pores. It may not be the best choice for people with darker skin or oily, acne-prone skin.

Improved Brain Function

More research would be needed to say conclusively that eating coconut oil improves cognitive function. However, the chemicals found in the oil, particularly ketones, have been associated with reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by providing other energy sources for damaged brain cells. 

Taken in moderation and used as a topical agent for moisturizing, coconut oil can provide many benefits. Still, there are a few potential health risks to be aware of, including the amount of saturated fat the oil contains. Here are some other potential health risks of coconut oil.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Even though some studies have shown that coconut oil can boost good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol, other studies have shown that compared to other oils like olive oil, coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol levels, the “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can raise your risk of developing heart diseases or having a stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends that only 5-6 percent of your total daily calories should come from saturated fats. That is about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat for someone who needs about 2,000 calories per day.

One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 12 grams of saturated fat, so it could be easy to overdo it on saturated fats if you get more than one serving. Too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, increasing risks of heart disease and stroke.

Show Sources


American Heart Association: “Saturated Fat.”

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: “Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

CDC: “LDL and HDL Cholesterol: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol.”

Dermatitis: “A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.”

ESHA Research Inc.: “Oil, coconut.”

Ghana Medical Journal: “Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review.”

Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “Health Effects of Coconut Oil—A Narrative Review of Current Evidence.”

Journal of Cosmetic Science: “Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.”

Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society: “The Properties of Lauric Acid and Their Significance in Coconut Oil.”

Lipids: “Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Coconut Oil.”

International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research: “Comedogenicity of Oils.”

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