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Your Ultimate Guide To Coconut Oil: Benefits,Types & Uses



I don’t know about you but for a long time I was under the false impression that all saturated fats are bad for my health. I thought it can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and all sorts of nasty stuff. Coconut oil, with its 90% saturated fat, was definitely off the menu then.Then it changed.

A couple  of years ago I realised that perhaps I was wrong. That not only are naturally occurring,  unhydrogenated fats are ok, but they can also heal and help to prevent many illnesses and diseases. Now I kick myself for missing out on all those ‘newly’ discovered benefits of a formerly evil coconut oil for the last 30 years of my life.

Yes, coconut oil is the new wunderkind of the dietary world – ‘the miracle oil’ – and as its popularity grows, so do the questions about its types, uses, storage and applications. It’s a staple in paleo cooking but there are many more uses of coconut oil the kitchen. That’s why I wanted to create a useful reference guide. To answer common questions about the coconut oil and to give you new ideas on how to use this fantastic ingredient.

Benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil has many reported benefits. It is associated with specific positive health effects and can act as an aid in certain body functions. I’ve read through dozens of articles and blog posts and collated the following list of known and claimed benefits. Some claims are based on preliminary research and studies, so I encourage you to read more on the topics in your spare time. Based on what’s been studied and reported, coconut oil can assist with the following:

  • Boosts metabolism & aids with weight loss.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Improves heart health & reduces health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Supports immune system.
  • It’s anti-fungal, antiviral & antibacterial.
  • Promotes healing & tissue repair.
  • Improves digestion & nutrient absorption.
  • Enhances physical performance.
  • Hydrates and protects the skin, improves skin tone and prevents wrinkles and skin aging.
  • Reduces psoriasis, eczema symptoms.
  • Improves hair and scalp condition.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • It’s a quick energy source and controls sugar cravings.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
  • Reduces epileptic seizures.
  • Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
  • And much more.

More about health and nutritional benefits of coconut oil in this article

How does it work?

Have you ever heard of the lauric acid? It’s a compound with amazing health promoting properties. It contains antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral properties that boost the immune system. Coconut oil fat is nearly 50% lauric acid, which is converted by the body into monolaurin and makes coconut oil effective in treating many bacterial and fungal infections such as candida, athlete’s foot, measles, influenza, and hep C. Another source of monolaurin is human breast milk – go figure!

Another reason coconut oil has so many benefits is because unlike most other fats and oils, it is comprised of  medium-chain fatty acids, (MCFA’s). These smaller fat molecules are metabolised in the liver and immediately absorbed and converted into energy, kind of like glucose but without the insulin spike.  Other fats and oils are made up of long chain fatty acids, or long-chain triglycerides, which are larger molecules that are difficult for your body to break down and are mainly stored as fat. The MCFA’s in coconut oil actually boost your metabolism and help your body to use fat for energy. This can lead to weight loss, Type 2 diabetes risk reduction, increase in energy, accelerated healing and improved immunity.  When it comes to your skin, coconut oil is very hydrating and keeps skin’s connective tissues strong, which prevents sagging and wrinkles.

Types of coconut oil

Refined coconut oil

  • Made from dried coconut, also known as copra; the standard end product made from dried kernel (meat) is RBD oil, which stands for refined, bleached and deodorised. The reason the oil has to undergo this process is that the dried copra is not fit for consumption and the oil needs to undergo processes to filter our impurities and to make it more stable; it’s a pretty common way to mass-produce coconut oil.
  • Because it’s refined it’s fairly tasteless and doesn’t smell like coconut; it can withstand higher cooking temperatures before it reaches its smoke point; great for deep-frying foods without the flavour of coconut.
  • It’s not as great as the virgin, completely raw coconut oil but still has the same beneficial medium chain fatty acids; from what I read, it’s very close in its nutritional value to virgin coconut oil so it’s more about the extraction method and what chemicals have been applied.
  • Most of the coconut oils available in grocery stores and vitamin stores are refined unless they specifically state otherwise; not all refined oils are created equal so try to get good quality, non-hydrogenated (yep, even coconut oil can be hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated but mainly in tropical, Asian countries), and refined using natural, chemical free process like steam or diatomaceous earth.
  • Refined oil is great if you’re on the budget as it’s usually cheaper. It’s also good for things which require lots of oil like deep-frying, using it as a bath oil or in soaps, or using it as a body moisturiser.

Unrefined coconut oil

  • Usually labelled as ‘virgin’ or ‘extra-virgin’, this coconut oil is made from the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut using mechanical means without the addition of any chemicals; depending on the extraction method, the flavour can be mild to very intense (more heat exposure during extraction, more coconut flavour in the oil).
  • Good raw, unrefined, virgin coconut oil should have a very mild coconut flavour and scent.
  • The difference between ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin’ is, well, pretty much none existent as far as I’ve researched, it’s more of a marketing trick to get you to pay more.
  • Virgin, unrefined oil is more superior to refined coconut oil.

Buying coconut oil

There are many brands and types of coconut oil and they vary in price depending on the source, production method, packaging and the marketing team. Super expensive doesn’t always mean the best, although it does often indicate the quality of ingredients and the purity. I always recommend to try a few brands and to find out as much as you can about the manufacturing process. Personally I really like Niulife coconut oil because the guy who started the company actually invented the natural expelling method they still use today and they are a fair trade and family owned business who make good products. However there are many great brands out there and regardless of where you are, here are a few things to look out for:

1) Colour – white colour when it’s solid and colourless when liquid, any discolouration might mean contamination and inferior quality.
2) Aroma and flavour – virgin, unrefined coconut oil should smell and taste like coconut but should not be overpowering and strong, if it smells roasted or smokey it means it’s been exposed to a lot of heat and it might not retain as many nutrients; and if it’s odourless and neutral tasting then it’s most likely refined and treated.
3) Price – the coconut oil in most stores can get quite pricey and doesn’t always mean superior product. It’s always a good idea to buy in bulk as the oil is stable and will last for at least 12 months. You can try a few different brands and make sure you like the smell and taste before you commit to buying a big batch. You can also share the shipping costs with friends and family and save even more money.

Storing coconut oil

Coconut oil can be stored out of the fridge, away from direct sunlight, for up to two years. It will stay liquid in temperatures above 25C (75F) and will turn into butter and solid texture in lower temperatures or if refrigerated. If the oil is solid and you need to use it in a liquid form, apply low level heat and it will transform very quickly.

How to use coconut oil?

There are hundreds of ways you can use coconut oil – in cooking, as part of your skincare routine, as part of flu and cold treatment, or to rub on cuts and bruises. I’ve put together a few examples of how you can use it.

As far as how much coconut oil you should consume,  most recommend 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil for adults per day to achieve optimal results. It would be less for kids and those of you starting out with coconut oil or saturated fats in general. If you’ve been following a low fat diet and only now decided to transition to a higher fat intake, I would recommend to gradually build up the consumption of fat to avoid the initial diarrhoea you might experience along the way.

Coconut oil as food

  • I use coconut oil in cooking as it’s very heat-stable. I fry and deep-fry in it, rub it on my roast meats, stir-fries and sauces. It’s really good for Asian cooking as its flavour is very complimentary.
  • It is a solid most of the time at room temperature or when refrigerated and is therefore a great substitute for butter or margarine and can be used for dips, spreads, in baking and desserts. Use 1 to 1 ratio when substituting other oils or butter for coconut oil. I use it in my grain-free granola recipe, cherry ripe chocolate truffles, or when pan frying my meatballs.
  • It can even be used to make mayonnaise, I would used a good quality refined coconut oil for that.
  • Add a couple of teaspoons to smoothies, juices, tea or coffee.
  • Refrigerate it and eat as is by scrapping some with a teaspoon. The taste is slightly sweet and subtle, it really is quite nice and doesn’t have that oily texture you might expect, more like white chocolate.
  • Mix some coconut oil with cacao & honey for a quick energy boost before a workout.

For you skin & hair

  • Use it as a face or body moisturiser. Many women use it to improve and to prevent the appearance of stretch marks.
  • Use it as a massage oil or bath oil, we add 4-5 tablespoons to a hot tub and your skin is wonderfully soft and moist after.
  • Use coconut oil to make natural homemade soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and even a bug repellent.
  • Rub it into dry hair and wrap with a towel for a couple of hours before washing with shampoo.
  • Use a little on your hair to remove the fizz.
  • Helps to heal skin after a sunburn. Make sure to apply coconut oil after the initial heat burning sensation is gone.
  • Believe it or not but rubbing some coconut oil on skin will also protect it from the sun, it has SPF4.
  • Can be used as a naturally antibacterial skin cream, an after shave lotion, and to improve appearance of cellulite.
  • Mix with salt or sugar for a great skin exfoliator or to rub the dead skin off your feet.
  • Use as a safe baby lotion.
  • Use on your hands after doing the dishes to avoid dry skin.
  • Use on cuticles to help nails grow and rub into elboes to help with dry elbows.

Other uses

  • It can be used as natural treatment to get rid of head lice. Full instructions here.
  • Rub a little on wounds and cuts to promote healing and avoid infection.
  • Given its antifungal properties, the oil can be used on feet to fight athlete’s foot or tor fungus.
  • Use to season cast iron skillets and frying pans
  • Applied externally, it can help pets struggling with skin issues.
  • You can make a homemade vapour rub by mixing half a cup of coconut oil with a few drops of eucalyptus and rosemary oils to rub on the chest and throat.
  • Coconut oil can even be used as a sexual lubricant, although it can damage latex condoms.
  • Some have used topically to kill yeast or yeast infections.
  • Rub on cold sores to speed healing and prevent bacteria from growing.

How do you use coconut oil and what type do you mostly use? Leave a comment below or on Facebook to get the conversation going and don’t forget to share this post with your friends.

  1. Hi, the coconut oil I have says “pure” instead of raw or virgin. Would pure be considered the same as virgin? Also, when you say it should smell and taste like coconut, do you mean it should taste and smell like the actual fruit, or like the industrial coconut smell and taste you would find in shredded coconut or coconut shampoos and body washes? Thanks.

  2. Hi, I have read through your article but I have a question. Is there any type/kind of coconut oil (beside the refined and unrefined kind) to be used for skin care/hair or cooking purposes? Can I use the coconut oil (in solid form) found in cooking section in supermarket for skin care? As so far I didn’t see any coconut oil in skin care section. Thanks

    1. Yes, I buy the solid coconut oil from the cooking section (choose raw/virgin) and I have on jar in the kitchen and one in the bathroom, which I use on my body and to add to the bath. Just melt some in your hands and rub it in, smells divide and moisturises so well.

  3. Hi, is there any different kind of coconut oil to be used for skin care/hair and cooking purposes? As so far I can only find coconut oil in the cooking section in supermarket and didn’t find any in the skin care section. If yes, how to choose. Thanks.

  4. Hi, so I’m curious to know if coconut oil in a jar and then cooking coconut oil in a bottle are the same thing? At least for the food part, like if it calls for the jar kind in a recipe can I just use the cooking coconut oil? I would believe it to be the same thing

    1. I would check what kind of coconut oil it is in a bottle. It should be solidified at room temperature. If it’s liquid at room temperature that I would say it’s been processed and possibly mixed with something else. Check ingredients.

    1. I liquify my virgin coconut oil and pour it on my ice cream! (and it’s extra delectable on my coconut gelato!) It hardens quickly on anything cold, and it gets crunchy like it’s been chocolate dipped! No guilt when eating this on my frozen desserts! You must try IT

    1. Virgin/raw coconut oil will be liquid when it’s warm and solid when it’s below a certain temperature. I think you might refer to the liquid oil you can get in beauty stores, which I am not sure is pure coconut oil and it might be mixed with something else to keep liquid the whole time. I buy mine from groceries section and use it for both cooking and as a moisturiser. Hope that helps.

    1. Hi Lori,

      If your toe is seriously infected, I would see a doctor. I would say stronger antiseptics/disinfectants would work better in this situation. I would only use coconut oil if you had nothing else on hand or if you’re using together with the stronger stuff.Bandaging is normally done to prevent further re-infection, however leaving it to air dry will speed up the healing. That’s my rather unqualified personal opinion.


      1. Lori leaving a wound to “air” is not good. Use a light layer of antibiotic ointment is better. Using light layer of coconut cream may help too.

  5. I’m trying some for an itchy skin problem. I swallowed a few teaspoons and nearly went the technicolour yawn, so directly to the problem areas for me from now on. Refined is ok for this?

  6. Also, if refined oil has been processed, does that mean that there are extra chemicals in the oil?
    I added a teaspoon to my dogs food tonight- hoping it may help with his skin allergies- he loved it!- so the unrefined is great for him, and will hopefully have a good outcome. So he can stick to the unrefined.

    1. Refined oil is coconut oil that’s treated with high heat. It doesn’t necessarily have extra chemicals. Of course, every producer might have a different refining process so best to check with the product owners if you’re not sure.

  7. Hi, I want to start trying this for the health benefits. But I hate coconut! I can taste it in anything it is in, when other people don’t, or the don’t realise untill iv pointed it out. So I would like to know, which tote is best for no scent/taste? I brought a jar at a health food shop today and asked their advice on this, and stupidly took their advice blindly! When I read the jar when I got home, it says on the front label
    Virgin, cold pressed, rich coconut aroma and flavour!
    Also organic unrefined.
    Does the refined types have less taste/smell? And if they do, will they still give me the health benefits? Or is it just not worth it?

    1. Yes, the refined type have less coconut smell/taste. It’s still a good type of fat with nutritional benefits but just a little less than unrefined. I often use refined for cooking savoury food and unrefined for treats or just to have as a teaspoon.

  8. Can you use the same type / form of coconut oil as a beauty product and as a food?? I bought a jar of it for use as a beauty product, skin cream, but can I also cook with that same one??

  9. Amazing post! The guide you have shared was amazing. Coconut oil is one of the easiest and safest ways to be healthy. It is always difficult to identify which coconut oil brand I should prefer. Your blog is really helpful for me to understand what’s good for me. Thanks for sharing this post.

  10. Hi.My mum suffers with Arthirisis in hand and legs.A friend did mention Coconut Oil.I am not sure though.
    She is 68 yrs.Please advise further.Which one and how do u take this. I am partly employed and have a tight Budget.Thank you fot all of the rest of the info.I am qiite amazed by the benefits and uses on Coconut Oil.

  11. I’m a coconut oil newbie. Don’t like the taste much, it feels like coconut flavoured lard in my mouth BUT I want to see if it works so I’m persevering! Have just had 2 teaspoons in a beaker of milk with a little hot water in there to liquify the oil. It wasn’t bad… I’ll try some of the other great suggestions here though – thank you

  12. Thanks for all your hard work! Also for your diplomatic responses to criticism. Good job and much appreciated.

  13. Hello, I love the enthusiasm on eating tasty food whilst looking out for your health! However, as a dietitian, I would never recommend coconut oil over unsaturated oils for health reasons. Yes, if you like the taste there’s no worries incorporating some into a healthy diet, but very sparingly, and as a treat.
    I would definitely recommend unsaturated oils like olive and canola over coconut oil because, it is so important to make sure we keep our saturated fat intake to a minimum and also, they’re cheaper!

    1. Hi Sarah, I mean absolutely no disrespect but have you read the latest research into saturated fats? “Saturated fat is bad” is a really old-school view and the myth is finally getting put to bed. Canola oil is terrible, it’s high in Omega-6 fatty acids which are highly pro-inflammatory and oxidise easily, making it an unsuitable oil for cooking really. Olive oil is great but so is butter and coconut oil. I can send you a few links and articles that you might find interesting :) Irena

    1. I’ve actually never stumbled across that site. I’ve gone through about 30 websites and multiple resources collecting all of the latest information about coconut oil and then wrote my post. When you search for coconut oil online, there are another 100 websites covering this ingredient in a similar manner. To imply that I have somehow stolen content from someone else is simply rude.

    1. There have been no credentialed human studies published on the health benefit of coconut oil on humans, especially with respect to Dementia and Alzeimer’s that I am aware of. Most claims are hearsay and not based on any controlled and documented studies on humans.
      If you have some that you can share, I would love to see them and will include them in my lectures on oils and fats if they are properly controlled and documented studies from a respected nutrition research institute.

  14. Hi thank you for this very informative blog. I am doing a research on coconut oil and this surely helped. I just want to ask whether you could share with me your sources of the general information such as the types of coconut oil? I will cite your blog as a reference but if you could point me please to the main source – like a book or a journal, that would be wonderful. Thank you!

  15. Hi, I recently just purchased the spectrum brand coconut oil, it says it mechanically (expeller) pressed naturally refined organic coconut oil, it this type ok to consume by the spoonful? And is there any difference besides smell and taste between this and an unrefined type?

  16. I have been using coconut oil since following the paleo diet for about a month now. I oil pull in my mouth in the morning, have it with coffee and ghee in the morning, put in on my face, hands, arms, and nails, etc. each day. I also use it for all of my cooking now. I love it, and it is indeed a tasty addition to broiled and baked fish and meat dishes, stir fry, scrambled eggs in the morning, etc.

    My only concerns are there are 120 calories in each tablespoon, and although I have lost weight on the paleo diet, I am concerned about how many calories I might be taking in — also, I have skin eruptions on my arms and back since using coconut oil — I read I might still be detoxing but I am not sure. I would appreciate any comments. Thank you.

    1. Hi Michele,

      First of all, I am not a doctor so this more of a personal comments based on what I’ve experienced and read. I personally don’t like to focus on calories too much but what I know about coconut oil in general is that when you introduce it to your diet, you should do it a little bit at a time. I also think it’s probably not a great idea to use it as your only oil. I like to encourage people to cook and use a variety of oils to get the benefit of different nutrients – I use macadamia oil, ghee, avocado oil and butter and of course coconut oil as well. Every person has completely different body composition, goals and reactions to different foods so it’s not practical to prescribe one-fits-all approach. I would ease on the coconut oil a little bit – maybe remove it from you coffee since you already cook with it and stop using it on your skin for a few days to see if perhaps you might have a topical reaction to it. You body might be telling you – “TOO MUCH COCONUT OIL coming from everywhere all of a sudden”. So dial it back a little, that’d be my advice.

      In general, very high fat intake is fine if your carb intake is quite low. If you still like lots of fruit, bananas and starchy vegetables, use a little less fat. That’s my rule of thumb.


    2. Thank you for replying, Irena and I think you are right. I had to chuckle at your advice “You body might be telling you – “TOO MUCH COCONUT OIL coming from everywhere all of a sudden” – It is true, all at once, I gave up wheat, dairy, and was using coconut oil for the first time in my life — all over the place! — although I feel great, I will definitely take your advice to dial back a little on the coconut oil. Thanks again for your comment and advice — I love your site and will definitely be ordering your book.

  17. I’ve only just started using coconut oil at home, so thanks for the info about the different types of oils. I’ve used the oil to make my own Ice Magic topping, and I use it in my homemade baby wipes with a bit of tea tree and lavender oil, water and and a dash of my daughters regular baby wash and baby oil, she hasn’t gotten a single rash since switching to homemade. I’m also looking forward to making chocolate crackles and a ‘block of chocolate’ with the oil too.

  18. I don’t really like the taste. My question is will I get the same results, eating it with low fat yogurt and still using one table spoon 3 times a day in the yogurt?

  19. Great summary on the benefits of coconut oil. Yes it is good news that coconut oil is starting to gain recognition as being a good healthy fat instead of being promoted as a bad fat – then again it was not all that long ago when low fat diets were the thing and all fat irrespective of the type of fat was promoted as being bad for you.

    1. From what I have read, the answer is yes as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Also, lots of Omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, seafood) and chia seeds/flaxseeds, green leafy vegetables, free-range eggs, grass fed meat instead of grain fed meat. I hope this helps.

    2. Re: MS. Have you heard of Teri Wahls? She used diet to combat her fast progressing MS. Going from being fully reclined in a wheelchair to riding a bike within 5 months! She now has a foundation.

  20. I’m lucky enough to be a Hawaii girl and I make pineapple jam every year. The best tasting breakfast/snack you could ever have is pina colada toast, coconut oil (in place of butter) and pineapple jam. So good!

  21. Paleo Recipe: gluten, soy, dairy and preservative free. You can make a basic salad with onions, tomato and cucumber and serve
    it with the slowly roasted chicken. Preparing food guides, graphs and reference point bedding.

  22. I finally found coconut oil in our local supermarket (in Kenya!). I came straight to your site for some recipes, and found this great write up – thank you for sharing!

    One minor suggestion, you mention earlier that it’s antibacterial, anti fungal and anti viral, but perhaps add ‘in treating many bacterial, fungal AND VIRAL infections’ to the statement below, as the last three infections you mention are all viruses

    Coconut oil fat is nearly 50% lauric acid, which is converted by the body into monolaurin and makes coconut oil effective in treating many bacterial and fungal infections such as candida, athlete’s foot, measles, influenza, and hep C.”

  23. This is one of the most informative articles I’ve read online in a really long time. Thanks for taking the time to pull all of this information together in one place. I literally had NO idea that coconut oil could be useful for bacterial and fungal infections.

  24. Great article! But one thing….

    What about the benefits of MCT oil? I think they follow (and even supercharge) a lot of your guidelines outlined above.

    1. Absolutely, it’s very good for you but maybe I will cover it in the next article :) I got a bottle delivered the other day, still trying to come with different ways to use it.

  25. Amazing research on the benefits of coconut oil.. I belong to Kerala a small state in India where traditionally we use coconut oil for cooking. The name of the state Kerala is also derived from the name coconut(in malayalam language of kerala , kera is coconut). Coconut is one of the main agriculture of kerala. But now a days big propaganda is going on that coconut oil contains lots of saturated fats and it raises your cholesterol levels and finally leads to heart attack. So people in my place are shifting to other refined oils instead of coconut oil. Your article should be an eye opener to the people who talk against coconut oil.

  26. Great article….I was in the same camp as you about how coconut oil was bad for you without doing much research. Having a Thai green curry was a bit of a guilty pleasure. But based on this article I plan to get some oil and use it in my cooking more often. When I was a kid, they used to recommend using copra as a binding agent when making coco pops bars but I found the taste horrible.

  27. Love this article, Irena! We’ve started adding coconut oil to our post-workout smoothies, and I’ve certainly noticed the difference in my skin. It adds a delicious, subtle flavour and adding it to a smoothie is a simple way to introduce it to your diet. I like cooking with it for Asian foods, too. Goes great with scallops, or green beans. Yum.

  28. I really enjoyed your article, since I am a coconut oil enthusiast too! I am using it for cooking and baking as well as for my hair as a conditioner and anti-dandruff treatment (excellent), as skin lotion, massage oil, sunscreen/tan (got to be careful of sun exposure though), cuticle massage before painting my nails. :))) It is good for everything!!

  29. Thanks for all the info. Have recently started using coconut oil in my cooking I help with weight loss and I don’t notice the difference! It’s hot so many good point about it, I will never go back to olive oil!

    1. Hi, I have heard that coconut oil is very good for helping lower cholesterol – or rather boosting the HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol. Is this true as I don;t see this mentioned in any of your benefits? In past years, those with cholesterol problems have been told to avoid coconut oil. I am interested to know. Thanks.

        1. The UQ article doesn’t offer new research on coconut oil, it just states Coconut oil has saturated fat – which is not news. Is saturated fat bad for your health – well the evidence is mixed. If you remove saturated fat then you replace it with something else and there is no evidence this is simply more healthy.

          See Astrup A, Dyerberg J, Elwood P, et al. (April 2011). “The role of reducing intakes of saturated fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: where does the evidence stand in 2010?”. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 93 (4): 684–8. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.004622. PMID 21270379

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