Is it good to put coconut oil in smoothies?

Quick Answer

Coconut oil can be a healthy addition to smoothies in moderation. It provides MCTs, which are a readily available energy source for the body and brain. Coconut oil may also help increase HDL cholesterol and promote weight loss. However, it is high in saturated fat and calories, so intake should be limited to 1-2 tablespoons per day. Overdoing coconut oil could lead to weight gain and negatively impact cholesterol levels. Ultimately, adding a small amount of coconut oil to smoothies occasionally can be fine for most people. But other fats like avocado may be healthier daily choices.

Nutrition Profile of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is 100% fat, providing 117 calories and 13 grams of fat per tablespoon (15 ml) (1).

Here is a breakdown of the types of fats found in one tablespoon of coconut oil:

  • Saturated fat: 12 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 0.8 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.2 grams

The predominant type is saturated fat, which makes up over 90% of coconut oil’s fat content. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are shorter types of saturated fats that are metabolized differently than most other fats.

Potential Benefits of Coconut Oil in Smoothies

Here are some of the ways that adding a bit of coconut oil to smoothies may be beneficial:

Provides MCTs

The MCTs in coconut oil are unique in that they can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and liver for use as energy (2). The body does not need to break them down like other types of fats.

This makes MCTs a rapidly available energy source. They may also boost metabolism compared to longer-chain fats (3).

Promotes Satiety

Some research suggests that MCTs may promote feelings of fullness. In one study, men who consumed MCT oil at breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch compared to those given olive oil (4).

The satiety effect of coconut oil in smoothies may help prevent overeating later in the day.

Potential Cognitive Benefits

MCTs can be used by the brain for energy and may even benefit brain function.

One study found MCT supplementation improved cognition in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (5).

More research is needed, but adding coconut oil to smoothies could provide a brain boost.

May Increase HDL Cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol. It helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the body.

Some studies show that consuming coconut oil can raise HDL levels more than unsaturated oils like olive oil (6, 7).

Increasing HDL may lower heart disease risk. More research is needed on coconut oil and cholesterol.

Possible Weight Loss Aid

The MCTs in coconut oil may increase energy expenditure compared to other fats and help promote fat burning (8).

Some, but not all, studies suggest that coconut oil could boost metabolism and encourage modest fat loss when replaced with other fats (9, 10).

Any potential weight loss benefits are likely small, but replacing some other oils with a bit of coconut oil may aid weight loss for some people.

Potential Downsides of Coconut Oil in Smoothies

Despite some potential advantages, regularly adding large amounts of coconut oil to smoothies may have downsides:

High in Saturated Fat

Too much saturated fat can negatively impact blood cholesterol levels and heart health.

While coconut oil may increase HDL, it also appears to raise LDL cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol (7).

Intake of coconut oil and other saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of total calories (11). Consuming large quantities could have negative effects.

High Calorie Density

With nearly 120 calories per tablespoon, coconut oil is very high in calories relative to its volume. Overdoing it without reducing other calorie sources can lead to weight gain over time.

Replacing other oils with a bit of coconut oil likely won’t lead to excessive calorie intake. But adding multiple tablespoons on top of your usual intake could be problematic.

Lacks Essential Fatty Acids

Coconut oil is low in polyunsaturated fats, including essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3s.

These fatty acids are called essential because the body cannot produce them. We must obtain them from food sources.

While coconut oil provides benefits, relying on it at the expense of other more balanced fat sources may not be ideal.

Not Superior to Other Plant Oils

Many people tout coconut oil as a superfood and near panacea. However, its benefits are often exaggerated or misrepresented.

No evidence suggests coconut oil is any healthier than olive oil or other plant-based oils when consumed in moderation (12).

Other oils like olive, avocado, and flaxseed may be preferable choices for regular use in smoothies. They provide a better balance of different fatty acids.

How Much Coconut Oil Should You Use in Smoothies?

There is no official recommendation for how much coconut oil to consume each day.

However, most health organizations suggest limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total daily calories (11).

One tablespoon of coconut oil provides 12 grams of saturated fat, which is 60% of the recommended upper limit for someone eating a 2000 calorie diet.

To stay under 10% of calories from saturated fat, most people should limit coconut oil in smoothies to about 1-2 tablespoons daily at most.

Consuming much more than that on a regular basis is not necessary and could potentially have negative effects for certain people.

It’s also best to use coconut oil sparingly or avoid it if you have high LDL cholesterol or heart disease risk factors. In those cases, other plant oils are likely healthier choices.

Healthier Oils for Smoothies

For those looking to limit saturated fat intake or add a variety of beneficial fats, here are some healthier oils to use in smoothies:

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has a mild flavor and is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It also contains lutein, an antioxidant that supports eye health (13).

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. However, it should not be heated, so it’s best to add it after blending smoothies.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil adds a nice nutty flavor. It also provides a generous amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant form of omega-3s.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols and monounsaturated fat. Its grassy flavor pairs nicely with green smoothies.

Hempseed Oil

Hempseed oil contains omega-3s, omega-6s, and vitamin E. It has a mild, nutty taste that blends well in smoothies.

Should You Use Coconut Oil in Smoothies for Weight Loss?

Some people add coconut oil to smoothies in hopes it will help them lose weight.

As mentioned earlier, coconut oil may increase metabolism and promote satiety compared to other fats. Replacing some other oils with coconut oil could aid weight loss.

However, any potential benefits are likely very small. Significant weight loss requires an overall calorie deficit, which coconut oil alone cannot provide.

For example, replacing 1 tablespoon of olive oil (119 calories) with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (117 calories) would only reduce smoothie calories by 2 calories. This minor difference won’t lead to substantial weight loss.

While a small amount may help, coconut oil is not a magic weight loss bullet. Focusing on overall calorie intake and eating whole, nutritious foods is most important for shedding pounds.

Coconut Oil Smoothie Recipes

Coconut oil can be added to just about any smoothie. It mixes well with both fruit- and green veggie-based smoothies.

Here are a few healthy smoothie recipes that use coconut oil:

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

– 1 cup coconut water
– 1 cup frozen mango chunks
– 1 frozen banana
– 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
– 1 tbsp coconut oil
– 1 tbsp lime juice

Green Protein Smoothie

– 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1/4 cup rolled oats
– 2 tbsp almond butter
– 1 scoop protein powder
– 1 tbsp coconut oil

Berry Smoothie Bowl

– 1 cup frozen mixed berries
– 1 frozen banana
– 1/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
– 1 tbsp coconut oil
– Toppings: granola, chia seeds, sliced bananas

Should You Use Refined or Unrefined Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil comes in two main forms:

Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil goes through more extensive processing and filtration. This results in a neutral-flavored and odorless oil.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Unrefined or virgin coconut oil is purer and extracted with less processing. It retains a light coconut flavor and aroma.

Either type can be used in smoothies. Refined coconut oil adds fat without affecting the flavor. Unrefined provides a light coconut taste that may complement fruit smoothies.

Unrefined coconut oil may also retain more nutrients. But both types still provide the same MCTs and essential fatty acids.

Coconut Oil Smoothie Preparation Tips

Here are some tips for properly preparing smoothies with coconut oil:

– Use refrigerated oil – Coconut oil is solid below 76°F (25°C). Measure out chilled oil so it blends smoothly into the liquid.

– Add after blending – Blending heated coconut oil can cause separation. Mix other ingredients first before blending in the oil.

– Use a high-speed blender – Blenders like Vitamix provide enough power to fully emulsify coconut oil into smoothies.

– Start with small amounts – Add just 1 tsp-1 tbsp coconut oil at first. Slowly increase to desired amount based on taste preferences.

– Store properly – Leftover smoothies with coconut oil need refrigeration. The oil will solidify and separate if left at room temperature too long.

The Bottom Line

Coconut oil can be a healthy addition to smoothies when used in moderation, providing 1-2 tablespoons per day.

The MCTs in coconut oil may boost energy, satiety, cognition, HDL cholesterol, and metabolism compared to other fats.

However, coconut oil is high in saturated fat and calories, so intake shouldn’t be excessive. Other plant oils like olive and avocado can be used daily instead.

For most people, adding a bit of coconut oil to smoothies occasionally is fine. But overdoing it and making it a staple ingredient may not be ideal from a health standpoint.

As with any diet change, moderation and variety are key principles to follow for optimal nutrition.

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