Coconut oil does not contain any carbohydrates. It is composed almost entirely of fat, mostly saturated fat.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts. It is used frequently in cooking, especially for frying and baking. Coconut oil is high in certain saturated fats. It contains over 90% saturated fats, with lauric acid making up around half of the total fatty acid content.
Types of Fats in Coconut Oil
There are four main types of fats found in coconut oil:
Coconut oil contains over 90% saturated fats. The main saturated fats are:
- Lauric acid – around 50%
- Myristic acid – around 20%
- Palmitic acid – around 10%
- Caprylic acid – around 10%
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature.
Coconut oil contains around 6% monounsaturated fats, mainly oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature but start to solidify when chilled.
Coconut oil contains around 2% polyunsaturated fats, including small amounts of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). Polyunsaturated fats are liquid both at room temperature and when chilled.
Coconut oil does not contain any trans fats.
Macronutrients in Coconut Oil
The three major macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Here is the macronutrient breakdown for one tablespoon (13.6g) of coconut oil (1):
As shown in the table, coconut oil provides no carbohydrates or protein – it is almost entirely composed of fat.
Specifically, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 14 grams of total fat, with 13 grams coming from saturated fat.
Why Coconut Oil Contains no Carbohydrates
Coconut oil goes through extensive processing to extract the oil from the coconut meat. This processing removes any carbohydrates, leaving pure fat.
Here’s an overview of how coconut oil is processed:
1. Coconut meat is dried
Coconuts are husked and the hard inner shell is removed to access the white coconut meat inside. This coconut meat contains carbohydrates in the form of fiber and sugars.
Before oil can be extracted, this meat is dried out. Drying removes most of the moisture and causes the carbohydrates to concentrate.
2. Coconut meat is pressed
The dried coconut meat is pressed to squeeze out the fat-rich coconut oil. This pressed meat left over after extracting the oil is referred to as copra.
Pressing efficiently separates the fatty oil from the carbohydrate-containing copra. The oil starts to seep out at this stage.
3. Coconut oil is separated and purified
The pressed coconut meat mixture is then separated into coconut oil and residual copra.
The raw coconut oil goes through various filtration and purification processes. This removes any remaining carbohydrates or protein material, leaving pure coconut oil.
As a result of this extensive extraction and purification process, the final coconut oil contains zero grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Does Coconut Oil Have Calories?
Despite not containing any carbohydrates, coconut oil is very high in calories.
Given that nearly all of the calories in coconut oil come from fat, one tablespoon contains 117 calories (1).
– Butter contains 102 calories per tablespoon
– Olive oil contains 119 calories per tablespoon
– Vegetable oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon
So coconut oil has a similar calorie count per serving as other common fats and oils.
Even though it is low in carbohydrates, the high saturated fat content of coconut oil means it is very concentrated in calories.
Coconut Oil and Ketogenic Diets
The extremely low carbohydrate content of coconut oil makes it suitable for ketogenic diets.
Ketogenic or “keto” diets restrict carbohydrate intake to induce ketosis, a state where the body burns fat for fuel. They typically limit carbs to 50 grams or less per day (2).
On keto diets, coconut oil can be used liberally to add flavor to meals or to cook food without adding any carbohydrates.
It provides a concentrated source of calories from fat without disrupting ketosis.
Here are some ways coconut oil is commonly used on a keto diet:
- Frying eggs, meat or vegetables
- Greasing pans
- Fat bombs or keto desserts
- Coffee creamer
- In homemade mayonnaise or dressings
However, keto dieters should still limit their intake of coconut oil because of its high calorie and saturated fat content. Consuming large amounts may cause unwanted weight gain or negatively impact metabolic health.
Should You consume Coconut Oil?
Here are some key points to keep in mind about coconut oil:
- It does not contain any carbohydrates or protein. The majority of calories come from saturated fat.
- Has a high smoke point, making it suitable for high heat cooking.
- Has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may benefit dental health.
- Is very low in omega-6 fatty acids.
- Provides a good plant-based source of saturated fat.
- It is very high in saturated fat. Too much may negatively impact blood lipids.
- High calorie density due to fat content.
- Most health organizations recommend limiting intake of saturated fat.
- Refined coconut oil may be processed with heat/chemicals.
- Sustainability and environmental concerns with mass production.
In moderation, including coconut oil in an otherwise healthy diet is unlikely to cause harm. Replacing some saturated fat intake with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats may provide better metabolic effects.
As with any food, coconut oil should be used in balance within a varied diet and active lifestyle.
Coconut oil contains no carbohydrates. It provides over 90% of calories from saturated fat.
Through the process of drying, pressing and purifying coconut meat, the carbohydrates are completely removed. This leaves pure fat extracted in the form of coconut oil.
Despite having no carbs, coconut oil is high in calories. There are 117 calories in just one tablespoon.
The lack of carbs makes coconut oil suitable for keto diets. However, calories and saturated fat intake still needs to be moderated.
While coconut oil is fine in moderation, it may be best to limit intake due to its high saturated fat content. Consuming large amounts could potentially impact blood lipids or cholesterol levels.
At the end of the day, coconut oil is void of carbs but is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. It should be used sensibly as part of a healthy and balanced nutrition plan.
1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/
2. Paoli, A. (2014). Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe?. International journal of environmental research and public health, 11(2), 2092–2107. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110202092