4 Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Was this helpful?
3
  • spoonful of coconut oil on jar

    Coconut oil has become increasingly popular as a “healthy” cooking oil, and there are many claims of other health benefits. But while it’s plant-based, coconut oil is entirely fat, and about 90% saturated fat, which is not the kind that’s good for you. Coconut oil may be a better choice than butter, but it’s on par with beef fat and palm oil regarding raising total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

    Some have touted coconut oil’s benefits for its medium-chain fatty acids, which raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, but that’s a different kind of coconut oil than you can purchase at the store. Instead, coconut oil has mostly long-chain fatty acids, which aren’t good for you. On the bright side, coconut oil benefits hair and skin as a moisturizer. Get the facts about the healthiest ways to use coconut oil.

  • 1
    Coconut oil is a great skin moisturizer.
    Scrub with sugar and coconut flakes

    Because of its high fat content, coconut oil is effective at hydrating your skin and may soothe eczema and irritated skin. To give your skin a drink, rub a small amount of coconut oil into your skin, or use it as a lip moisturizer. To slough off dead skin cells, mix a little coconut oil with sugar or sea salt and massage gently on your skin as an exfoliator. Keep in mind that coconut oil could irritate acne-prone skin, so you may want to skip using it on your face to get the best skin benefits of coconut oil.

  • 2
    Coconut oil will tame frizz.
    Daily Life

    If you have dry, frizzy hair, coconut oil may help you get more luscious locks. Coconut oil benefits for hair include moisturizing to repair damage, combating dandruff, increasing shine, and smoothing out frizz. To moisturize dry hair, add a little bit of coconut oil to the hair shaft and leave it in for a few minutes, or even overnight, and then wash it out. Be sure not to overdo it—stick to just a tablespoon or two. Remember, coconut oil is entirely fat, and too much could leave your hair looking greasy.

  • 3
    Use coconut oil for a cleaner mouth.
    Man Rinsing And Gargling With Water In Glass

    Coconut oil can be used for “oil pulling”—a method of cleansing the mouth of bacteria and preventing (though not treating) cavities. The “pulling” part of the method refers to oil being pulled in between teeth by swishing it around the mouth. To try oil pulling, choose cold pressed or unrefined coconut oil for the greatest benefit. Swish about a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 20 minutes to thoroughly clean your mouth. Then brush your teeth as usual. If you can’t tolerate 20 minutes of swishing, try 10 or less, which is still beneficial.

  • 4
    Coconut oil is a vegan-friendly cooking fat—in moderation.
    Making Granola at Home: Woman Adding Coconut Oil into a Bowl With Rolled Oats and Spices

    While it is full of saturated fat, eating coconut oil in moderation isn’t likely to be harmful. As a plant-based fat, coconut oil has an edge on animal fats such as butter or lard. It doesn’t break down in high heat, and it can help your pie crusts turn out flaky and delicious. If you prefer coconut oil in your cooking, choose virgin coconut oil that hasn’t been partially hydrogenated, a process that creates trans fats, which should be avoided. And when possible, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated cooking oils for heart health.

Was this helpful?
3
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 19
View All Food, Nutrition and Diet Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Shanbhag VK. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene - A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016 Jun 6;7(1):106-109. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/
  2. Coconut oil. Nutritionvalue.org. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Coconut_oil_nutritional_value.html?size=1+tablespoon+%3D+14+g
  3. Coconut Oil. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/
  4. How To Improve Your Health and Beauty With Coconut Oil. Penn Medicine. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2017/january/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil
  5. Wallace TC. Health Effects of Coconut Oil-A Narrative Review of Current Evidence. J Am Coll Nutr. 2019 Feb;38(2):97-107. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30395784/
  6. Ask a Dietitian: Is Coconut Oil Good for Me? Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital. https://www.brighamandwomensfaulkner.org/programs-and-services/nutrition/articles/coconut-oil
  7. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892314/
  8. Coconut oil for weight loss: Does it work? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/coconut-oil-and-weight-loss/art-20450177