Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts

Calories in Coconut Oil and Its Health Benefits

Overhead view of spoonful of cold coconut oil on jar
Russ Rohde/Getty Images

One of the few plant sources of saturated fat, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. The oil is pressed from the "meat" of the coconut fruit and is rich in lauric acid (which proponents say has antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties).

Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 tsp (5 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 40 
Calories from Fat 40 
Total Fat 4.5g7%
Saturated Fat 4.2g21%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 0mg0%
Potassium 0.09mg0%
Carbohydrates 0g0%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 0g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0% · Iron 0%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The sweet-scented tropical oil is said to offer benefits such as weight loss, better diabetes control, and a stronger immune system. To date, scientific support for the health benefits of coconut oil in humans is limited.

Many of the purported benefits point to it as a source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that is absorbed and metabolized more efficiently than other fats. There is some debate about whether lauric acid, the primary fatty acid in coconut oil, acts more like a long-chain fatty acid than a medium-chain fatty acid in the body.

Proponents claim that coconut oil can increase your levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, making it a better option for your heart than the saturated fats in cheese, butter, and red meat. (A large study, however, suggests that having higher HDL cholesterol may not be as beneficial for your heart health after all.)

Some research indicates that coconut oil can also raise your LDL ("bad") cholesterol. A 2016 review published in Nutrition Reviews found that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol less than butter, but significantly more than unsaturated plant oils.

Although there is evidence from large population studies showing that coconut consumption doesn't appear to have negative effects on heart health, many of these studies involved populations who consumed the whole food or minimally processed coconut products (such as coconut flesh or coconut cream) and ate a traditional diet low in processed foods.

There is much debate in the nutrition community about saturated fat and how much it contributes to heart disease. Coconut oil is still considered by many to be an oil that should be limited due to the saturated fat content. For example, the American Heart Association advises that healthy adults limit their saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of their total daily calories (and adults who would benefit from lowering their LDL cholesterol reduce their saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories).

Common Questions About Coconut Oil

1) Can it help with weight loss? 

Although coconut oil is sometimes said to help with weight loss, it has 120 calories per tablespoon, which is comparable to olive oil and other oils. Although it doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it, it likely isn't going to do much to help you lose weight.

2) Is it a good cooking oil?

Refined coconut oil can be used at a medium-high heat. It is often used for baking. Unrefined, or virgin, coconut oil should only be used at low temperatures or not heated at all.

If you're looking for an oil that can be used at high heat for frying and sautéing, look for monounsaturated fat-rich oils such as almond oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil.

3) How many calories are in coconut oil?

One teaspoon of coconut oil has 40 calories and one tablespoon of coconut oil has 120 calories.

4) Could I have allergies to coconut oil?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies coconut oil as a tree nut for food labeling. Although it is technically a type of fruit called a "drupe" (like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans) rather than a true tree nut, some people may still have allergies to coconut.

Choosing a Coconut Oil Product

Coconut oil can be purchased at most natural-foods stores and at many grocery stores. When selecting a coconut oil, stay away from hydrogenated oil or oil that has been treated with heat, solvents, or bleach.

Opting for "virgin" coconut oil means that the coconut oil was extracted from fresh coconut flesh at low temperatures without being refined, bleached, or deodorized. In addition, virgin coconut oil tends to offer a richer flavor than refined coconut oil.

In addition to 100 percent coconut oil, some companies make a product made from the whole coconut, not just the oil, so it also has protein and fiber. It is called coconut butter or coconut manna and is used in smoothies, shakes, desserts, dressings, and sauces.

Healthy Ways to Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be used as an alternative to butter, or in moderation in recipes that complement the oil's unique, subtly sweet flavor:

  • Add coconut oil to your coffee
  • Use coconut oil on your popcorn instead of butter
  • Try baking with coconut oil
  • Saute onions and garlic
  • Roast vegetables in coconut oil
  • Add shredded coconut or coconut manna to a smoothie

Coconut oil also has skin and hair uses. It's sometimes used topically to moisturize dry skin or as a massage oil.

Coconut Oil Recipes

Here are some delicious recipes that use coconut oil:

Carrot-Coconut Soup With Harissa and Crispy Leeks

Maple, Pecan, and Sour Cherry Granola

Spinach-Broccoli Soup With Garlic and Cilantro

A Word From Verywell

We've been hearing about the benefits of coconut oil everywhere in the last several years. All in all, coconut oil has a tropical, naturally sweet flavor that could make it a good addition to your pantry. But remember, it's calorie-rich (like other oils, it contains about 120 calories per tablespoon), so it should be used to add variety to the oils you use, like olive oil, rather than to add extra oil to your diet.

Sources:

Cox C, Sutherland W, Mann J, de Jong S, Chisholm A, Skeaff M. Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 Sep;52(9):650-4.

Eyres L, Eyres MF, Chisholm A, Brown RC. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80. 

Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem. 2004 Sep;37(9):830-5.

Vijayakumar M, Vasudevan DM, Sundaram KR, et al. A randomized study of coconut oil versus sunflower oil on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with stable coronary heart disease. Indian Heart J. 2016 Jul-Aug;68(4):498-506.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading