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Are you interested in the health benefits that coconut oil can add to your life?
If so, you’re not alone. It’s all the rage in the U.S. and abroad right now.
But there's a lot of information about coconut oil out there, and some of it is contradictory.
So where can someone who is “new” to the scene learn more about coconut oil? In a BestReviews shopping guide, of course!
We consulted experts, pored over data, and analyzed customer reviews to bring you all the information you need.
The product matrix at the top of the page will show you our top coconut oil picks.
But before you make a purchase, we recommend reading on to find out more about coconut oil and how to select the right kind for your needs.
Until recently, coconut oil wasn’t that popular in the U.S. These days, however, you’ll find a coconut oil devotee just about anywhere you look. So what’s all the fuss about? Does coconut oil live up to its hype?
Let's begin by looking at some of the many uses of coconut oil:
Coconut oil can be used for various types of cooking, such as sautéing and roasting.
If you want a great vegan substitute for butter, you can use coconut oil in your baked goods.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life through drama-free, healthy eating. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking and counseling, she works with individuals, food companies, healthcare companies, and the media to help make delicious, nourishing food approachable and enjoyable.
Coconut oil serves as an excellent moisturizer for dry skin.
Rubbing a bit of coconut oil onto the ends of wet hair can improve its overall condition and help beat splits.
Coconut oil can be used to remove makeup. It’s especially good for delicate areas like the eyes.
Samantha Attard, nutrition PhD, is a consultant, coach, yoga instructor, and founder of Happy Healthy Human. Through her business, Samantha provides personalized health solutions to individuals and groups of all sizes. She also has a line of health snacks that to help individuals all over the country eat with intention. Her research has been featured in the British Medical Journal, Diabetologia, and Journal of Hypertension, among others.
Oil pulling is one of the more interesting uses for coconut oil. We spoke to Samantha Attard, nutrition Ph.D. and founder of Happy Healthy Human, to learn more.
According to Samantha, swishing ¼ of a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 15 minutes can help remove stains and promote healthy teeth and gums.
Samantha reminds us to expel the coconut oil into the garbage when finished so as not to clog the sink.
When you finish an oil pulling session, spit the coconut oil into the garbage so you don’t clog the sink.
Most people want to know if coconut oil is really good for you — or if it's just a fad. As with most things, it's a case of “everything in moderation.”
We spoke to Samantha Attard and registered dietitian Jessica Cording to find out more.
Jessica tells us that consuming adequate amounts of dietary fat, from coconut oil or other sources, can affect your overall wellness. That’s because fat plays a vital role in cell structure and signaling.
“Many people are afraid to eat fat,” says Jessica. “But in addition to helping the body function efficiently, fat also boosts satiety to aid in weight management. Fat slows digestion, so we feel full longer.”
When shopping for coconut oil, you may see both white kernel and whole kernel varieties for sale. Little difference exists between the two in terms of price or quality, but whole kernel coconut oil does have a slightly nuttier flavor.
In other words, fat is good for you. But too much could still be bad for you.
Jessica goes on to say that, because the majority of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, it's important not to eat too much. "The American Heart Association still recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 5% or 6% of your daily calorie intake. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 120 calories and 13 or 14 grams of saturated fat per day."
Samantha explains that the level of saturated fat in coconut oil isn’t exactly what it seems, though. “The fat in coconut oil comes from medium-chained triglycerides, which are processed differently in your body than other saturated fats and are actually healthy for you.”
So your primary takeaway is this: consumed in moderation, coconut oil is good for you. We recommend ingesting no more than one tablespoon per day — and less than that if you're getting saturated fat anywhere else in your diet.
A tablespoon of coconut oil has 120 calories. When you consume coconut oil, make sure the amount you ingest fits within your daily calorie and fat/saturated fat intake.
Keep these considerations in mind when deciding which type of coconut oil to buy:
Some coconut oil is sold for cooking purposes and some for cosmetic use.
Food grade coconut oil can be used for cosmetic purposes. In fact, we recommend this, as food grade coconut oil is produced to a higher standard.
Never cook with coconut oil that's labeled "cosmetic grade."
Unrefined coconut oil is generally labeled "virgin" or "extra virgin." This is coconut oil in its most natural form. It has a noticeable coconut smell and flavor, so you wouldn't want to use it in all recipes.
Refined coconut oil is cheaper and may offer fewer health benefits, but it is great for skin and hair care
When purchasing coconut oil, it's wise to have an idea of how much you want to buy. You can find everything from petite 11-ounce jars to huge, one-gallon behemoths.
While smaller containers might be cheaper to buy, their larger counterparts generally cost less per ounce.
However, if this is your first time buying coconut oil and you're not sure if you're going to like it, it might be a good idea to start small.
The fat in coconut oil helps promote efficient metabolism. It also supports healthy skin, hair, and nails.
The price of coconut oil varies wildly and depends, in part, on the quantity you buy. As such, it's wise to look at cost per ounce rather than the cost per container.
We've seen coconut oil that costs as much as $1 per ounce and as little as $0.15 per ounce.
Refined coconut oil tends cost significantly less than virgin and extra virgin coconut oil. The cheapest unrefined coconut oil price we found in our research was $0.35 per ounce when bought in bulk.
If you don't want to buy a giant container, however, expect to pay somewhere between $0.50 and $0.60 per ounce.
As a rule, larger containers of coconut oil cost less per ounce and are, therefore, a better value for your money.
Jessica recommends that consumers don’t go “overboard” on any one type of oil, including coconut oil, as this could cause you to miss out on the benefits found in other oils.
Coconut oil liquefies at roughly 76°F. If your home grows hotter than that temperature, you can expect to have runny coconut oil on your hands.
Looking for a healthy chocolate coating for ice cream, frozen yogurt, or fruit? Melt coconut oil and mix it with cocoa powder and your favorite sweetener. When chilled, it hardens and forms a chocolate-like texture.
Jessica says: “Research has shown that the types of saturated fats found in coconut oil are metabolized differently from other saturated fatty acids because of their different structure. They are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) as opposed to the more common long chain triglycerides. MCTs have been shown to convert to ketones in the GI tract — and ketones have been studied for their therapeutic use in brain disorders.
To make homemade nut or seed butter, pour melted coconut oil into the food processor along with peanuts/almonds/sunflower seeds. It will make the mixture smoother and provide a more uniform texture when it hardens.
Some people believe that all fat is bad for you. The truth is, good fats play an essential role in the functioning of a healthy body.
Q. Does coconut oil have a strong flavor?
A. Refined coconut oil has been processed to remove the coconut flavor and scent. If you want a neutral-tasting cooking oil, this is the way to go. However, it's worth noting that the process of refining coconut oil may cause it to lose some of its health benefits.
Unrefined coconut oil (aka virgin or extra virgin coconut oil) generally has quite a powerful flavor and scent, so it's not ideal for all cooking applications. That said, it’s possible to purchase unrefined, deodorized coconut oil if you shop around. This oil has usually been steamed to remove the scent and flavor, yet the health-boosting properties remain untouched.
Q. Can coconut oil help with any health conditions?
A. Jessica believes that coconut oil could benefit certain health conditions because it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are turned into ketones by the liver. "Ketones have been studied for their therapeutic use in brain disorders," she states. "A ketogenic diet has been used for a long time as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy. More recently, ketones have been studied for their role in managing conditions such Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and other neurological conditions."
However, she goes on to clarify that not enough research has yet been performed to qualify coconut oil as a miracle food. "As a dietitian, I do support use of coconut oil in moderation for its potential health benefits and versatility in cooking. But I still recommend keeping portions realistic and incorporating other forms of dietary fat in order to support your individual nutrient needs.”
Q. My coconut oil has turned to liquid. Is this normal?
A. Unless you live in a warm climate, your coconut oil will usually be solid at room temperature. However, if it turns to liquid, fear not; that just means it’s hot out! Many people prefer to deal with liquid coconut anyway, but if you want yours to stay solid, keep it refrigerated on hot days.
BestReviews contributor Sam Attard is a nutrition Ph.D. and the founder of Happy Healthy Human. To learn more about Sam and her work, click here.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.