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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 01, 2009

Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil

By Worker Bee
243 Comments

We’ve written about the nutritional benefits of coconut, shared recipes that include coconut milk, and discussed the merits of coconut flour, but we’ve never actually fully covered one of the best coconut products out there: coconut oil.

Coconut oil consists of about 92 percent saturated fat and is therefore nearly solid at room temperature. It can be used in cooking, but is also a common ingredient in home remedies and skin care products.

Although it gets a bad rap in some circles for its high saturated fat content, we know that such fats can offer many health benefits. For example, coconut oil has been found to help normalize blood lipids and protect against damage to the liver by alcohol and other toxins, can play a role in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases, and is associated with improved blood sugar and insulin control and therefore the prevention and management of diabetes. In addition, coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. On a more superficial level, meanwhile, coconut oil is thought to help strengthen mineral absorption, which is important for healthy teeth and bones, and can also help improve the condition and appearance of the scalp, hair and skin when ingested or topically applied.

So how is this veritable miracle food manufactured? In brief, coconuts are collected, broken open and then the flesh is allowed to dry. To extract the oil, the dried flesh is then heated at a low temperature until any moisture is evaporated, leaving you with an oil residue. Now, the thing to note here is that in most coconut oil manufacturing processes chemicals are used to expedite drying as well as to speed the heating process. However, if you select an organic coconut oil, no chemicals will have been used during processing and the original coconut itself will have been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Regular coconut oil production, however, often subjects the coconut meat to chemical solvents in order to maximize extraction. If you want to avoid any chemical residues, stick to organic coconut oil. This shouldn’t be difficult, since most coconut oil available in stores seems to be organic.

One other thing to note is that with coconut oils there are many different grades, or values of refinement. According to the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Standards for virgin coconut oil, coconut oil can only be sold as such when it is “obtained from the fresh and mature kernel of coconut by mechanical or natural means with or without the application of heat, which does not lead to alteration of the oil.”

Refined coconut oil – which is generally what you’ll see in stores – is made from copra, the dried meat of the coconut. However, because the process of drying the coconut is somewhat unsanitary – it includes laying them out in the sun, putting them in a kiln, or smoking them  – the oil is inedible, and is therefore required to undergo a refinement process that includes some combination of using high heat to deodorize the oil, filtering the oil through bleaching clays, adding sodium hydroxide to remove impurities and prolong shelf-life, or performing some kind of hydrogenation or partial-hydrogenation process. In industry terms refined coconut oil is RBD – refined, bleached, deodorized.

The choice is clear – steer clear of the refined stuff and stick with organic virgin coconut oil.

A word of warning about coconut oils labeled as extra virgin. Experts note that there is no other – or more virginal – process of extracting oil from coconuts and the concept of the “extra” is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Coconut oil is less sensitive to heat than other oils (won’t oxidize as easily) so it’s great for stir-frys and sauteeing. You can substitute it in baking (when making Primal energy bars, for example) and in recipes that call for butter, lard or any other high-saturated fats. It is fairly similar in consistency to butter so it can be used as a spread for vegetables. It makes an excellent addition to a smoothie and can also be used in place of a creamer in coffee or tea.

Our verdict? This is one seriously tropical way to get some more healthy fat in your diet.

What do you use coconut oil for? Share your thoughts in the comment board!

Further Reading:

10 Steps to “Primalize” Your Pantry

Choose Your Own Stir-Fry Adventure

Guest Post by Modern Forager: Tropical Oils

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243 Comments on "Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil"

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John Sifferman
7 years 4 months ago

We use coconut oil mostly for sauteing vegetables, but my wife also makes some natural skin products that contain coconut oil.

Katie
Katie
7 years 4 months ago

This is my go-to oil for cooking anything on the stove over medium heat. I’ve also used it in baking once or twice. A friend of mine even uses it instead of butter on toast.

Alvaro
3 years 8 months ago

Why over medium heat?

BenUCSB
BenUCSB
7 years 4 months ago

I use it to cook eggs every morning. It’s good to blend into homemade nut butters and gives shakes a creamy taste without adding sugar. Also, when I’m craving fat and don’t want to eat fats with carbohydrates (i.e. almond butter), I’ll take a scoop straight. Nutiva makes a good organic, extra virgin coconut oil and they sell it by the gallon.

Parley
Parley
7 years 4 months ago

I’ve been taking coconut oil every day for about four months now, and one of the first effects I noticed was mood stabilization… people also started asking me if I was doing something “different”, because my skin was looking really good. I also apply it topically most nights before bed.

For cooking, it’s particularly great for fish.

Cat
Cat
4 years 11 months ago

How much do you take everyday. Do you take only coconut oil or do you take a combination of coconut oil and coconut milk?

Thanks for you reply!

Pam Wellwarth
1 year 3 months ago

How do you take the coconut oil? I have tried swallowing it but feel nauseous at the thought of so much oil in my body. I know that’s crazy but… I am looking for a way to take it which does not involve swallowing it. I do cook with it. It most definitely works!

Hairy Krishna
Hairy Krishna
9 months 3 hours ago

You can swallow it easily, you just have to emulsify it first. I can take very large amounts of coconut oil by emulsifying it with sunflower lecithin in a blender. First, melt it gently, then mix in a small amount of lecithin, then blend it with lukewarm water. It tastes like milk–even more so if you add whey protein.

Jane Reinberg - Holistic Nutritionist

I also use it in my sauteed veggies and as a butter replacement. And it’s wonderful for massages! 🙂

CHEESESLAVE
7 years 4 months ago
While I use virgin coconut oil raw, on my skin, and for baking and light sauteing, I have been using expeller-pressed coconut oil for frying. It’s flavorless so you don’t get that coconut flavor that competes with the flavor of the food. I have used expeller-pressed coconut oil for fried chicken (with yogurt and sprouted flour), French fries, fried banana chips, and homemade tortilla chips (made from homemade masa from organic corn I soaked myself). It’s also great for popping popcorn. Everything I have made has come out delicious! I’m going to try making all kinds of other things like… Read more »
Steve
Steve
7 years 1 month ago

I used coconut oil on my skin for several months, thinking it was superior to chemical laden lotions. At first it worked great, but over time my natural oils must have slowed down, because my skin became like an alligator’s. I quit using it, and after several weeks, my skin recouped it’s natural look. I’ve since read articles on oil causing skin to dry out.

Nancy
Nancy
3 years 3 months ago

It did the same thing to me as well. I used VCO on my skin, it became super dry and I could not figure out why. So I did some research and seen that I was not going crazy, that it was indeed the organic virgin coconut oil that was drying me out so bad! Be ware! It works good at first.

Joey
Joey
2 years 2 months ago

Moderation is the key. . . It never dried my skin out but then again I don’t use it often on my skin… I don’t always like to apply it because I don’t like such oily skin but I will do it sometimes to help my skin stay nice then I don’t apply anymore for at least another month or so.. works perfect my skin stays shinny for a while after that. Now if I am spending time in the sun a lot then I might start putting stuff on my skin more regularly.

Claudia Fey
1 year 25 days ago

Thanks very much for the tips on Expeller-pressed coconut oil. I didn’t know about it and I will inquire more before I use it in cooking.

Sally
Sally
7 years 4 months ago

I love brussels sprouts that have been coated with coconut oil, dusted with curry powder, and then roasted. Yum!

I also put coconut oil in my hair about once a week for a deep conditioning treatment.

firstlunchthenwar
firstlunchthenwar
7 years 4 months ago

Anyone know a decent coconut oil available in the UK?

Patricia
Patricia
6 years 2 months ago

I get mine from ebay certified organic COCONOIL. Its the best price I have found it so far.

Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later

firstlunchthenwar – you can buy it in Holland and Barrett in the UK. £11.99 for 16oz.

We use coconut oil for all our frying. We use creamed coconut or coconut cream in our curries to create a creamy texture. We eat fresh coconut for dessert sometimes. I even put coconut oil on my vegetables instead of butter.

In short? We use it at every opportunity we get!

Rodney
Rodney
7 years 4 months ago

I love it on nearly frozen berries with a little cinnamon and a couple tablespoons of kefir (or yogurt). It goes on as a liquid and hardens into a thin shell that is a little crunchy and delicious!

gilliebean
7 years 4 months ago

I found a homemade chocolate recipe that calls for coconut oil! I started making it a few weeks ago and love it!

madMUHHH
7 years 4 months ago
Great! About a week ago, I bought coconut oil for the very first time and I’m still experimenting what works with it and what doesn’t. If anyone got some experiences to share here, I’d be happy to hear about that. I think I’m still not using enough of it most of the time though. It wasn’t that cheap, but then again, even if I’m using a little more for frying etc. it shouldn’t change that much, it’s not that I’m eating it like I’d eat yogurt or anything. @Parley: When you say you take it every day, yo you meantaking… Read more »
Eddie
Eddie
7 years 4 months ago

Tblspn of CO + tspn of cocoa + sprinkle of xylitol + a few minutes in the freezer = nice “fudge” treat.
Enjoy !

Greg at Live Fit
7 years 4 months ago

We have generally avoided coconut oil because of the saturated fat, but my wife loves coconut milk. It may be interesting to look for some coconut flour though. Never tried cooking with that. Thanks for the info!

Jane
Jane
7 years 4 months ago

haven’t used coconut oil but i think i’m going to be ordering some and trying it asap! my pantry, refrigerator, and whole kitchen look so different these days… i LOVE it.. its so.. so.. soo, whats the word? PRIMAL!

Jason Turnage
Jason Turnage
7 years 4 months ago
I make a shake just about every morning. Not paleo/primal, but it’s become my morning staple. 8oz milk, 1 med. banana (or half a large), 1 scoop (30ish g) of chocolate protein powder, 1 heaping scoop of peanut butter (used almond butter a few times but it didn’t cut it for taste, for me pb goes better with the chocolate & banana), and about 1 big spoonful of coconut oil, ice and blend. Wanted just a little more ‘better’ fat than the PB alone was giving the shake and the coc. oil does the trick and adds a nice little… Read more »
Alex
Alex
7 years 4 months ago

The Wilderness Family Naturals has no coconut flavor – which apparently is true for all expeller-pressed (?). Sometimes you want the taste…sometimes you don’t!

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 4 months ago

It reminds me of those old SNL commercials: its a floor polish! its a dessert topping! I can’t wait to try that frozen berry treat, thanks Rodney. & thanks to Sally, I’m gonna have another way to prepare Brussel spouts (can’t get enough of ’em).

Something I tried the other night: ahi tuni “dredged” in fresh ground black pepper and sesame seeds. Pan-sear in coconut oil on hot skillet.

Marci
Marci
7 years 4 months ago

I love coconut oil but do find that it flavors the food I cook slightly. It’s great if you are going for a tropical flavor or curry. And it’s great in desserts- esp of the raw variety.

Emily
7 years 4 months ago

I love coconut oil! I use it in all of my baking, as well as on toast and in stir-fry. I also combine it with sea salt, essential oils, and a little olive oil for a body scrub. Plus it’s delicious in greek yogurt if you happen to buy non-fat.

Emily from Healthy Eating, Naturally

Debra
Debra
6 years 7 months ago

I bought organic virgin coconut oil, and when I tasted it, it tasted like rancid coconut candy. Is that the way it is supposed to taste? I melted some in my coffee and that wasn’t that bad tasting. It says it expires in 2012 and I bought it at Vitamin Cottage.

Amy
5 years 9 months ago

I bought a jar of organic at my commissary, and it tastes DELICIOUS, I keep sweeping a spoon over the top of it and eating it plain (just a little taste, less than 1/4 tsp) when I want something sweet! Not rancid at all, so maybe you got a bad jar. It kind of melts in your mouth. Can’t wait to try some of the recipes here!

SueAnne
SueAnne
7 years 4 months ago

My local co-op sells Coconut Butter that is to die for. Made by Artisana. I eat it by the spoon, or rather by the fork full, since in Seattle room temperature makes it too hard to scoop with a spoon most of the year.
It is a blend of the meat and the oil of the coconut. Check out their website:
http://www.superorganicfoods.com/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=95&gclid=COHazbbwm5oCFRYiagodLwLJ-A

John
John
7 years 4 months ago

I use coconut oil in my coffee, love it. Also as a general cooking oil. I can’t resist eating it out of the jar too. The Nutiva brand is what I use.

Dana
Dana
2 years 6 months ago
I’ve found something interesting with stove-top cooking (sauteeing, I guess) and protein. If I use a long-chain fat, it has that nice non-stick or at least stick-less effect that I would expect from cooking fat. If I cook protein with MCT fats, though, like coconut oil, I run into problems. It’s like the protein soaks it up and starts sticking almost right away. I’m finding I’d rather cook with a cooking *fat* than a cooking oil because the solid fats (solid at most non-cooking temperatures) tend to be long-chain and behave a lot better. I have found similar with baking.… Read more »
Asli A.
1 year 25 days ago

This is interesting. Something I will test. I cook for my child and my family but I am also a baker and I shall experiment on what you said about sticking.

Cooking with Kids
7 years 4 months ago

Not only to I cook with coconut oil and eat it but it makes a great massage oil (melts in your hand) and is great at preventing sunburn.

So eat it, play with it and wear it too! What other food is that diverse?

Belinda

Dana
Dana
2 years 6 months ago
FYI for anyone who comes after since this comment was from 5 years ago: If you go Paleo or Primal, you may find that your *diet* prevents sunburn. My personal n=1: keeping my carbs low (to a reasonable level for me that permits fat loss) and eating enough animal fat and tropical fat means I can sit out for longer and not do much more than turn light pink. I’m brunette with brown eyes, if that helps, though when I was younger I’d burn a lot faster. And if I let the carbs creep back into my diet now, even… Read more »
Parley
Parley
7 years 4 months ago

madMUHHH-

I generally buy two tubs at a time, and keep one in the kitchen for cooking and eating (just a spoonful, straight, every morning when I get up. I’ve seen some sites recommending 2-3 spoonfuls a day).

The second tub I keep under the bathroom sink, and use some on my face/neck most nights before bed, and in my hair before bed once or twice a week.

David
David
7 years 4 months ago

I sometimes mix coconut oil half and half with butter. That way I get the good MCTs, but also the rich, buttery taste. Not that coconut oil has a bad flavor, but it’s just nice to change things up once in awhile without totally sacrificing one or the other.

sri
sri
7 years 4 months ago

In my country sri lanka, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut meat and coconut water is used everyday for everymeal, coconut oil is the only oil used for cooking in rural parts of the country, and the oil is always homemade from fresh cocnuts, the people in these parts are incredibly healthy and fit, while people in cities use ‘western’ vegetable oil and they have high rates of obesity and diabetes, there are other factors of cause but coconut oil has amazing properties

Ellen
Ellen
7 years 4 months ago

Greg at Live Fit: Don’t avoid saturated fat! It’s good for you and is what humans have eaten for thousands of years.

Tara
7 years 4 months ago

I use it to cook, yum!

I use it like lotion after a shower. Melted it and added a couple drops of essential oil.

I put it on scrapes, cuts and such. I have noticed a much faster heal time when I use the coconut oil. It is also antimicrobial so it protects against infection.

Patty Hankins
Patty Hankins
4 years 1 month ago

Tara,

To get a wonderful easy to apply texture for coconut oil used as lotion, just beat it with your electric mixer. It gets fluffy and is perfect to scoop up and moisturize your skin.

Kaeli
Kaeli
4 years 7 days ago

That sounds great, Patty! Thanks!

Kaeli
Kaeli
4 years 7 days ago

Thanks Tara! I will try it for scrapes and cuts. I’ve been thinking about using essential oils.

Kat
7 years 4 months ago

Coconut oil was a godsend to my overly bruised skin (from too much running, which I’ve since quit thanks to this website), and it’s a great base for salad dressings. One of the things I’ve heard about it is that a teaspoon of VCO five minutes before every meal will help the food get digested easily, although the claim hasn’t been proven. Can anyone attest craziness? Because, I mean… gulping oil, that’s just nasty.

Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 4 months ago

I’m with Methuselah, dump a load of that creamed coconut into my curries. The mix of hot chillies and cool coconut has only one disadvantage, it generates a strong demand for 85% chocolate.

Shall have to try the oil on its own, it’s now on my list for next week’s shop.

Kaeli
Kaeli
4 years 7 days ago

Ha ha ha! My favorite snack is a whole grain waffle with coconut oil and dark chocolate peanut butter.

samantha
samantha
7 years 4 months ago

what is the difference between coconut oil and creamed coconut? i have seen both. the creamed stuff seems to come in a hard block and the only ingredients listed is coconut. so what’s the difference?

Dana
Dana
2 years 6 months ago

Coconut oil: the coconut fat by itself, pressed from the meat.

Creamed coconut: the coconut meat processed into a creamy texture.

Alex
Alex
7 years 4 months ago

Creamed coconut is like coconut milk in paste form (without all the water); it contains whole coconut meat. Coconut oil is just the oil from coconuts, separated from the fiber, water, etc. Virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconut, rather than dried coconut. Traditional Filipino VCO is made by allowing the liquid expressed from the fresh coconuts to ferment, which separates the fat from everything else. The other method used to make VCO is a centrifuge. Personally, I like the centrifuged VCO from Wilderness Family Naturals.

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[…] Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil […]

darya
7 years 4 months ago

Ha ha, I use coconut oil in my hair. I tried to cook some tempeh in it once and it burned, so I haven’t tried again.

CatCreek
CatCreek
7 years 4 months ago

I keep one tub in the kitchen and use it for cooking when butter or olive oil wouldn’t be the best choice — any frying, soups, bread, whatever.

I keep another next to the bed. It is the most wonderful body lotion!

sarena
7 years 4 months ago

Just got a 5 gal tub (I think) from Mountain Rose. its awesome and I have been using it for a long time now, coc oil that is!!

diabetesnotes
7 years 4 months ago

coconut tree….is very amazing plant, we can take much benefits….for keeping our healthy

Holly
7 years 4 months ago
I use 1 part coconut oil, 1 part butter to all the foods I cook on the stove. If someone in our family has a cut, bruise, burn or skin irritation of any kind – I put coconut oil on it. If it’s really bad I put some calendula oil and tea tree oil in a cup with coconut oil and whip it together. That mixture heals pretty much anything in a short amount of time. Before we go out for extended periods of time I have everyone slather on some coconut oil and then we put on natural sunblock… Read more »
Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 4 months ago

Memo to anyone trying to buy it and failing to find it, it isn;t in a bottle with the other oils as it’s pretty solid at room temperature and comes in a jar or tub (DUH!)

I was going to do the chicken thing listed above but mother decided it would have too many nuts, so I compromised and stir fried the chicken with streaky bacon coloured peppers garlic and ginger root in some coconut oil, first impressions are it has quite a high cooking temperature and didn’t taste of coconut.

Jonas Cronfeld
7 years 4 months ago

I prefer the fresh coconuts here in Thailand.. drink the milk and eat the flesh. Yummi.

Sylvia
Sylvia
7 years 4 months ago

I just purchased some coconut oil and noticed the it had expired last month, should I throw it away?

Sai.
Sai.
7 years 2 months ago

You can say if it has spoilt from the smell. Natural coconut oil leaves a very unpleasant rancid smell if it has gone bad. If it smells just fine, you may continue to use it. Regular user of CO oil.

trackback

[…] we covered the many nutritional benefits of coconut oil, so I wanted to follow it up with a delicious recipe featuring this tasty fat. I tried this […]

Eat Smart Age Smart
7 years 4 months ago

Another yummy chicken recipe. I love chickens. It’s delicious and easy to prepare. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Joel
Joel
7 years 4 months ago

How do you use this instead of creamer for tea or coffee? I tried and the oil just rose to the top, making just about every sip pure oil…and I don’t love the taste straight. Am I missing something here?

alex
alex
7 years 3 months ago

Hi,

I recently saw organic coconut oil in a jar that was totally liquid and clear at room temperature – I shunned it because it was £10 for 500g!

I ended up buying a non organic jar from an Indian store for £1.59 for 500g. But this was solid and white at room temperature.

can anyone explain the why one was clear/liquid and the other was opaque/solid?

Tommy Williams
7 years 3 months ago

Alex: virgin coconut oil changes from a solid to a clear liquid right around a warm room temperature (it’s about 77 or 78 degrees F if my memory serves). So it’s possible that it was just warmer in one store than the other.

trackback

[…] but there are difficult moments we’ve all faced. Things like having to explain the jar of coconut oil and greasy spoon we keep at our office desks, or facing the strange looks we get when doing lunges […]

Jenny
Jenny
7 years 3 months ago

Another good source for both virgin and expeller/pressed coconut oil is Tropical Traditions; they also carry coconut cream concentrate and many other products they make from coconut oil. The owner’s wife is from the Phillipines and they use only coconuts grown by the local small farmers. Mary Enig, Phd, lipid expert suggests 3-4 tablespoons daily which contains the same amount of lauric acid as mother’s breast milk – it’s what keeps new babies from getting sick. And saturated fat is what your brain, heart and other organs use for energy. You need it!

trackback

[…] Challenge Resources 10 Steps to “Primalize” Your Pantry – Mark’s Daily Apple Smart Fuel: Coconut Oil – What are you cooking […]

Dream
7 years 2 months ago

On Virgin vs Extra Virgin- I have noticed a significant taste difference. The extra virgin CC oil tasting much more “coconutty” than the virgin (both being organic).

Diane
Diane
7 years 2 months ago

Mark, I am really surprised that you reported the supposed medical benefits of coconut oil. Most of your stuff is well researched and documented, but the coconut oil supposed benefits have never been proven scientifically.

There is a lot of crap on the internet and in magazines, and the rave reviews of coconut oil are crap. Just like the supposed benefits of acai berries.

Pure junk science.

Rachael
Rachael
6 years 4 months ago

Have you actually tried VCO and are speaking from from experience? Or are you believing what you read?

If you haven’t ACTUALLY TRIED IT, I dare you to try Virgin Coconut Oil for 21 days and see what happens. You may be surprised. Go ahead, I dare ya!

If you HAVE actually tried it and nothing at all happened of value or worth from a health persprective, then I extend my humblest apology for my post and ask for you forgiveness.

Tracey
6 years 3 months ago
Actually, there are some really good studies out there on the lauric acid that comprises about 57%, on average, of coconut oil. The first one I saw was done by the CDC, and then one by Stanford; both at least 5 years ago now. And one in Japan. Their results all agreed: It kills 29 classes of enveloped viruses by destroying their protein envelope, leaving what passes for the nucleus of the virus unprotected so the body’s defenses can more easily take it down. It does nearly the same thing to gram negative and positive bacteria both, and to many… Read more »
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